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Essay On Environmental Racism

Environmental racism is the social injustice represented by the disproportionately large number of health and environmental risks cast upon peoples of color in the communities in which they live. On a national scale, nothing illustrates Canada’s startling environmental inequities more clearly than the lack of access to clean drinking water in First Nations Communities. First Nations homes are 90 times more likely to be without safe drinking water than other Canadian homes.

This lack of access to clean water not only highlights a dangerous health risk to First Nations communities, it is also a denial of First Nations’ access to cultural and social practices involving water; in effect, this neglect by the government of British Columbia is a clear example of environmental racism. This paper will firstly examine the connection British Columbia’s First Nations have to water (physical and metaphysical); then, examine how uneven access to clean water in British Columbia’s First Nations communities is substantial evidence of environmental racism.

Finally, and more substantially, this paper will argue that by denying First Nation communities access to clean, safe water, the government is also creating harmful impacts on First Nations culture, social and political practices. Annotated Bibliography Borrows, J. (1997). “Living Between Water and Rocks: First Nations, Environmental Planning and Democracy”. The University of Toronto Law Journal. 47(4): 417-468. This legal analysis uses a case study to illustrate that North American democracies have inherent barriers inhibiting Indigenous participation in environmental decision-making.

The author argues for stronger Aboriginal participation in environmental planning and management in Canada and takes issue with the federalist structure which minimizes First Nations opportunities to participate in governance. Existing institutions enable the exploitation of the environment for the economic gain of the few, based on the mythology that humans are separate from and masters of the natural environment.

In contrast, the author points to an important role in environmental governance for Indigenous peoples as representatives of societies which have at times successfully developed organizational structures which promoted and maintained harmony with nature. Blackstock, M. (2001). “Water: A First Nations’ spiritual and ecological perspective”. B. C. Journal of Ecosystems and Management. 1(1): 2-14. The author applies ethnographic methods to document First Nations concerns and perspectives about water.

It explores First Nations’ ecological and spiritual perspectives on freshwater and compares their Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) to Western science’s ecological perspective on water. For various Indigenous, water symbolizes the whole of creation and connects all other living things. First Nations have cultural and spiritual connections to their waters, it is a living being with a spirit. This relationship brings out the values regarding the appropriate and good usage of water.

Whereas, according to Western perspective, Water is not alive; it is matter which interacts with flora and fauna in the ecosystem. Contrasting these two modes of thought generates several questions for Western science and educational institutions. Centre for Aboriginal Health Research (CAHR). (2012). Crisis on Tap: Seeking Solutions for Safe Water for Indigenous Peoples. University of Victoria: Victoria, British Columbia http:// cahr. uvic. ca/programsresearch/publications/ The Centre for Aboriginal Health Research has produced a book bringing together materials from its program of research n safe drinking water.

It contains information on knowledge translation, introduction to issues of safe drinking water from provincial, national, and international contexts, papers written by conference presenters, and a report on the Indigenous Water Ways workshop series of summer 2010. This publication is a useful starting point for students and community members interested in this topic, as well as for university-based researchers desirous of learning more about Aboriginal peoples’ perspectives on safe drinking water.

First Nations Regional Longitudinal Health Survey (RHS). 2005). First Nations Regional Longitudinal Health Survey (RHS) 2002/03: Results for Adults, Youth, and Children Living in First Nations Communities. First Nations Health Centre: Ottawa, Canada. This large-scale survey data collection project governed, implemented, analyzed, and published by First Nations in Canada, represents a tremendous leap forward in Aboriginal health research. The RHS is based on traditional First Nations interpretations of health and well-being, as evinced by the broad range of indicators measured.

The focus is on topics such as community wellness, demographics, language & culture, etc. More importantly, the RHS also includes a chapter on housing and living conditions which includes data on First Nation perceptions of drinking water quality in their communities. One third of respondents considered their water unsafe to drink, though most individuals who draw their own water from a surface source consider their water safe. National Aboriginal Health Organization. (2002). Drinking Water Safety in Aboriginal Communities in Canada. Brief. Available http://www. naho. ca/ englishpub_ environmental. php.

This report discusses the state of drinking water in First Nations communities and the relationship First Nations have with the federal government, including the various ministries and departments that play a role in the provision of safe drinking water to First Nations on reserve. It highlights that not all Aboriginal communities have access to federal funds, naming Metis and Innu communities suffering from poor water quality. The report also highlights challenges in the data on Aboriginal peoples’ access to safe drinking water and water and sewage systems, including issues with the definition of community water system’.

Swain, H. , Louttit, S. , Hrudey, S. (2006). Report of the Expert Panel on Safe Drinking Water for First Nations. Ottawa: Indian and Northern Affairs Canada As part of the federal process for developing water quality regulations for First Nations reserves, an expert panel was formed which traveled the country consulting with First Nations. Volume one of the multi-volume report outlines what the panel recorded during their consultation. From the perspective of First Nations, the obstacle to safe drinking water is resources (financial, capital, human), not regulations – many fear that their needs will not be met by regulation alone.

There was also concern that existing processes for procurement of funds do not maximize efficiency and efficacy, and that ‘economic leakage’ limits the amount of funding that ultimately reaches communities. The expert panel proposed three basic framework options for proceeding with drinking water regulations: creating new federal legislation, reference to existing provincial statutes, or founding the framework upon the customary law of First Nations.

It should be noted that the option the federal government ultimately decided to pursue was the option found by the panel to be the least acceptable to First Nations, creating a new regime based on provincial statutes. Conclusion In conclusion, this paper has taken on an approach of addressing the ongoing struggles of Aboriginal peoples as foundational in understanding environmental racism. The lack of access to clean water in First Nations communities is nothing less of a human rights violation and a warning sign of the lack of nvironmental justice. Evidently, environmental racism found in the marginalized communities is a due to continuous lack of action from the government, at both the provincial and federal level.

This type of negligence and ignorance towards indigenous people causes health impacts as well as loss of culture amongst the community. To sum up, the lack of water rights for British Columbia’s First Nations communities elevates not only human rights issue but more importantly issue that has consequences towards culture and identity.

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