Racial Minorities & Climate Change

At a local scale

Arctic and Subarctic Indigenous Peoples:

Here in Canada, it is the arctic and subarctic that are most affected by climate change. This has changed the Inuit peoples’ relationship with the land profoundly. The melting of sea ice and permafrost, rise of ocean levels, increased acidification, erosion, and extreme weather all impact the Inuit peoples’ abilities to harvest, travel, reside and recreate on their homelands. Being cut off from traditional activities has also left many suffering with their mental health, and feeling like they’ve lost a part of their identity.

These changes in the natural environment have had severe impacts on local infrastructure, threatening the stability of homes, and public infrastructure, such as buildings and roadways.

This amplifies the social inequalities that these communities are already facing. 

For example, in Tuktoyaktuk, a coastal hamlet in the north of the  Northwest territories, sea ice is melting at exponential rates. This is causing the ocean levels to rise, eroding the coast. This coastal erosion is posing threats to homes and other buildings near the water.

Boil-Water Advisories

We can see in Canadian policy that environmental racism against indigenous communities is persistent. For example, the lack of action to ensure that there is access to clean water for all indigenous communities is exceptionally apparent. There are over 100 different cases of boil-water advisories that have been persistent for decades across Canada, most notably might be Shoal Lake 40, as they have been under a boil-water advisory since 1977 and are currently awaiting completion of their new water treatment plant that is projected to be finished in December 2020 (Canada Has 1838 Drinking-Water Advisories – ProQuest; “Drinking Water Advisories|Measures the Number of Communities under Drinking Water Advisories”). While water advisories impact many communities across Canada, indigenous communities are disproportionately affected due to the minimal attention and lack of systemic change. 

While the government has made changes to eliminate some of the many boil-water advisories across Canada, the national risk score of the water quality (1-10 with 10 being the most dangerous) still remains high and nearly unchanged. And just because an Indigenous community doesn’t have a boil-water advisory in effect, doesn’t mean that they have good healthy water either (Gerster & Hessey, Why some First Nations still don’t have clean drinking water — despite Trudeau’s promise, 2019).

Black Communities and Climate Change:

In Canada, the Black community, in particular, is greatly threatened by climate change in terms of both its environmental and political implications. Historically speaking, individuals of African descent were herded into communities that possessed inherent disadvantages — they were established in areas without proper infrastructure. These disparities mean a lack of sufficient economic and political resources to effectively shield the communities from severe natural disasters as well as their abysmal results.

Additionally, numerous communities border forests. Dry spells brought on by climate change would not only result in decreased productivity, but could end in devastating forest fires. 

For example, Black Nova Scotian municipalities such as North Preston and Cherry Brook border forests. They simply do not have the tools to prevent mass economic casualties resulting from climate change, nor do they have the means to constructively heal their communities after the fact. 

At a Global Scale

In general, the world’s poorest communities live on more fragile land, meaning that their homes are more vulnerable to the consequences of more extreme weather patterns, rising sea levels and other natural events caused by climate change. When their livelihoods are destroyed, this pushes them even further into poverty. 

More intense weather also creates climate refugees, those who are without a home in their own countries and are very vulnerable. 

Studies in the United States have said that low-income communities are more likely to be in close proximity to a hazardous waste site and exposed to higher levels of pollution. 

And because of a lack of resources, these communities have a harder time rebuilding their communities after a natural disaster or storm.

Bibliography:

The Problem with Bill 1

How this bill targets Indigenous peoples and minorities of Alberta

“Essential infrastructure”, according to Bill 1 includes pipelines, oil sites, provincial highways, railways and many more. 

Many of the “essential infrastructure” areas listed are already private property, industry or government owned facilities; meaning many of these areas are already illegal to trespass and protest on (including hydro developments, power plants, oil sands, etc.) Listing these already known areas in the bill helps to bury the new information. 

Listing railways as “essential infrastructure” is a response to the solidarity protests nationwide that involved railroad blockades in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs refusing consent to the Coastal GasLink pipeline. 

The blockades were non-violent and were only aiming to shut down Canada, in order to have their voices heard. However, these blockades across Alberta, specifically in Edmonton, were an ‘inconvenience’ to the UCP government because they couldn’t continue with the pipeline and business as usual. 

In order to ensure the pipeline can be built (without consent) on Wet’suwet’en territory with less protests, the UCP government has simply decided to claim railways as “essential infrastructure” under Bill 1 to enforce consequences like arresting without a warrant. 

Bill 1 states:

“The land on which essential infrastructure is located, and any land used in connection with the essential infrastructure, is deemed to be part of the essential infrastructure.”

Which means:

1. The government can deem what they want to be essential infrastructure 

2. The land the government wants to use for essential infrastructure for pipelines they can deem to be illegal to gather and protest on. Even if it is within indigenous territory.

Bill 1 prohibitions are:

(1) No person shall, without lawful right, justification or excuse, wilfully enter on any essential infrastructure.

(2) No person shall, without lawful right, justification or excuse, wilfully damage or destroy any essential infrastructure.

(3) No person shall, without lawful right, justification or excuse, wilfully obstruct, interrupt or interfere with the construction, maintenance, use or operation of any essential infrastructure in a manner that renders the essential infrastructure dangerous, useless, inoperative or ineffective.

These prohibitions basically explain that you cannot trespass onto essential infrastructure and private property and damage it- which is already illegal. So once again they are trying to hide the deeper meaning with already common knowledge. However, with the new definition of essential infrastructure it means now more places (including railways) are prohibited from being used in protests. And Indigenous land can be deemed “essential infrastructure” kicking people off their land, and making it illegal to enter their own land.

These prohibitions basically explain that you cannot trespass onto essential infrastructure and private property and damage it- which is already illegal. So once again they are trying to hide the deeper meaning with already common knowledge. With the new definition of essential infrastructure, it means now more places (including sidewalks) are prohibited from being gathered on and therefore used in protests. And Indigenous land can be deemed “essential infrastructure” kicking people off their land, and making it illegal to enter and use their own land.   

Offenses, penalties and arrests:

A first offence can result in a fine of $1000 and up to 

$10 000 or can result in an imprisonment for up to 6 months, or both. 

“A peace officer may arrest, without warrant, any person the

peace officer finds on essential infrastructure

This means:

Not only can you be fined and arrested for peacefully protesting on or near whatever the UCP determines to be essential infrastructure, but a large fine that many underprivileged people cannot afford to pay will be given. This once again demonstrates how this bill is intended to target Indigenous people.

This bill is a scare tactic meant to keep Indigenous people silent and afraid, making the government’s invasion into their land easier. 

Bill 1 infringes on the rights and freedoms of Canadians and is unconstitutional. The government wants to silence Indigenous peoples making it harder for them to defend their land and practice their rights to peacefully protest and voice their concerns. 

The UCP government is concerned with building this pipeline to fuel a dying oil & gas run economy through exploiting Indigenous people and their land and instilling fear. Does this sound like a government for the people?

Anti-Racist Activism From Home

Write to your elected officials

They are representing you, it’s their responsibility to listen to you. 

Talk to people in your own circle

Some of your family members and other acquaintances might be racist, try your best to explain the consequences of their actions to them. On the other hand, some people close to you may have very useful information for you in regards to how you can help end police brutality and racism. However, remember that is not the responsibility of black people to educate you.

Sign petitions

There’s a link for a few: https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co/#petitions

Donate

If you don’t have the financial means, there are videos on YouTube that are created with the purpose of generating lots of ad-sense to donate to non-profit organizations working on the Black Lives Matter movement. If you search up something along the line of “Black Lives Matter Fundraiser” you’ll be sure to find one. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bCgLa25fDHM&feature=emb_title

Read up!

  • Be sure to read literature from a variety of authors. If you’re only reading books by straight, white men, you aren’t well read. And, when buying books, try to purchase from a local bookstore, to help support small businesses in Calgary.  
  • Remember, despite your best efforts, you will not be able to learn everything right now. Make a list of what you want to learn in the future so you can continue to educate yourself
  • – Support the Black-owned and local businesses.  @gonaduraj on Instagram has a post with a list of Black-owned restaurants here in Calgary. There’s plenty more too! 
    • https://blkgrn.com/ This is a link to BLK + GRN which is “an all-natural marketplace by all Black artisans who create quality natural Black-owned toxic-free products.”

Share education resources and petitions on social media. 

You can start by sharing the resources we have provided in this post!

Be open to learning and changing your opinion. 

Be okay with making mistakes, just make an effort to recognize them and learn from them.

Write to your elected officials to repeal Bill 1

Bill 1 is a direct threat at the Wet’suwet’en people, Indigenous peoples and all those who choose to exercise their right to protest. This bill makes it illegal for anyone to protest on “essential infrastructure” which has broad definitions. While this bill was directed to suppress the protests against the Coastal GasLink pipeline, it could be used to suppress other protests for other issues.

We encourage everyone to write to their elected officials and ask them to repeal this bill. Provided below is an email template which you can change and add on to.

You can contact your elected officials using the following emails/links.

Template:

To whom it may concern,

Hello, my name is [insert name here], and I am a resident of [city/province]. I am contacting you today as I am deeply concerned to hear about Alberta’s Bill 1 that is soon to reach royal assent.

The critical infrastructure described in the bill is vague to the extent in which Albertans’ rights of assembly and freedom of expression could be compromised. Furthermore, it is clear to many Albertans that this bill places Aboriginal communities in the province, who already have few avenues to effectively express their interests, at a greater disadvantage. The heavy fines and threats of incarceration stated in the bill will discourage many from assembling.

Most importantly, this bill goes against section 2C of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. All peoples of Canada should remain to have the right and freedom to protest as long as they are not directly harming others, especially in the current time of civil unrest. I would highly appreciate it if [politican’s name], as [political title (i.e., the mayor of Calgary, the conservative leader of Canada, etc.], intervened to ensure Canadian freedoms are not violated. 

This letter is written without prejudice,

[insert name here]