Labour activists raising environmental justice issues in Canada’s climate change policy

ourtimes cover-Chris JawaraThe featured article in the Winter 2018 issue of Our Times is  “A Green Economy for All” , which describes the action-research project Environmental Racism: The Impact of Climate Change on Racialized Canadian Communities: An Environmental Justice Perspective.   The ultimate goal: to equip Black trade unionists and racialized activists in Canada with the tools they need to influence the public policy debate over climate change, to ensure that the new green economy does not look the same as the old white economy.   With important inspiration from the Idle No More movement and the Indigenous experience in Canada, the project began with research into what has already been written about environmental racism in Canada, along with  a participatory social media campaign using the Twitter hashtag #EnvRacismCBTUACW,  to solicit more information about lived experience.  The project has now reached its second phase, designing and facilitating workshops to develop activism around the issue.  The first of these workshops  was presented to the Elementary Teachers of Toronto (ETT) in December 2017.  Facilitation questions, case studies and workshop information will be made publicly available, with the goal of engaging other social and political activists, as well as the labour movement.

The Environmental Racism: The Impact of Climate Change on Racialized Canadian Communities  project was launched in 2017 by the Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change (ACW) project at York University,  in collaboration with Coalition of Black Trade Unionists , and is being led by Chris Wilson, Ontario Regional Coordinator for the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) and  PSAC Ontario union negotiator Jawara Gairey.

“A Green Economy for All”  also mentions the work of the Toronto Environmental Alliance , which produced a map of toxic concentrations in the city in 2005, and the forthcoming book  There’s Something in the Water: Environmental Racism in Indigenous and Black Communities,  which highlights the grassroots resistance against environmental racism in Nova Scotia, and is written by Ingrid Waldron, an associate professor at Dalhousie University  and  Director of the Environmental Noxiousness, Racial Inequities & Community Health Project (The ENRICH Project).


President Obama’s Landmark Executive Actions to Cut Coal Plant Emissions and Protect Oceans

For details about the June regulatory initiatives in the United States, go to: Clean Power Plan Proposed Rule at the Environmental Protection Agency website at and for commentary, see `Taking Page from Health Care Act, Obama Climate Plan relies on States“ in the New York Times (June 2) at The Pembina Institute highlights the growing gap between Canadian and U.S. climate leadership at; The Natural Resources Defence Council discusses the possible impacts on jobs at and . Regarding the U.S. Executive Order on June 17th to expand protection of the oceans, see the White House press release at , and “Pew Applauds Obama Administration`s New Focus on Illegal Fishing” at or “ Obama to Expand Marine Reserves and Crack Down on Seafood Black Market“ at The Guardian (June 17) at

Presidential Executive Order Follows Up on U.S. Climate Action Plan

On November 1, U.S. President Obama signed an Executive Order to implement the goals announced in his Climate Action Plan. The Executive Order establishes an inter-agency Council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, chaired by the White House and including more than 25 agencies, to develop, coordinate, and implement priority Federal actions related to climate preparedness. It will supervise a new Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, to be composed of state, local, and tribal leaders, who will advise on how the Federal Government can respond at the community level. In an initiative that Canadians can only dream of, the Executive Order also instructs Federal agencies “to work together and with information users to develop new climate preparedness tools and information that state, local, and private-sector leaders need to make smart decisions.  In keeping with the President’s Open Data initiative, agencies will also make extensive Federal climate data accessible to the public through an easy-to-use online portal.”

Read the full Executive Order at:, or the Fact Sheet at:

Obama Announces a Climate Action Plan – and EPA Announces New Limits for Coal and Gas-Fired Power Plants

On June 25, U.S. President Obama laid out a comprehensive plan to reduce greenhouse gas pollution, prepare for the impacts of climate change, and lead global efforts to fight it. He based his arguments on moral, health, and economic grounds, and emphasized his personal commitment by announcing steps that he could authorize, without Congressional approval. Read the plan at: The first major step in this plan came on September 20, when the Environmental Protection Agency proposed limits on carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal- and gas-fired power plants. The rules are not likely to be finalized until Fall of 2014 and will face aggressive opposition from the U.S. coal industry.

See the New York Times article at:  and also “Challenges Await Plan to reduce Emissions” at: