BC Social Studies Lesson Plans

Environmental Racism in Canada

Soc.Just. 12


Environmental Racism in Canada

Big Idea

Social justice issues are interconnected.

Essential Question

How is pollution linked to inequality?

Learning Standards Content

Students are expected to know the following:

  • social injustices in Canada and the world affecting individuals, groups, and society
  • governmental and non-governmental organizations in issues of social justice and injustice

Curricular Competencies

Students are expected to be able to do the following:

  • determine and assess the long- and short-term causes and consequences, and the intended and unintended consequences, of an event, legislative and judicial decision, development, policy, or movement (cause and consequence)

Core Competencies

I can communicate ways that the social justice issues of environment, poverty, and race are interconnected.

I can analyse relevant sections of the CCRF, UNDRIP, and CEPA in the context of environmental racism.

I can explain the causes and consequences of environmental racism in Canada today.

First People's Principles of Learning

Learning involves recognizing the consequences of one’s actions.
  • Explain that Environmental Racism is defined as the intentional neglect of a community, the alleged need for a receptacle/disposal for pollutants in a certain area, a lack of institutional power, and low land values of people of colour.
  • Show the video Environmental Racism is the new Jim Crow by the Atlantic, 2017 (1min). Alternatively show the TedXHarlem video, Environmental Justice: Peggy Shepard (7min)
  • State that according to a 2009 study by the United Nations, First Nations homes are 90 times more likely to be without safe drinking water than other Canadian homes. As of January 2015, drinking water advisories were in effect in 126 First Nation communities across Canada, some of those have been in place for over 20 years.
  • Have students use a Brainstorm strategy to list possible reasons that drinking water advisories exist in so many First Nations communities in Canada.
  • Using a Jigsaw strategy, divide the class into five expert groups. Each group has a corresponding Case Study to read and comprehension questions to answer.
  • When they have completed their case study, form mixed groups with at least one student from each group.
  • Give time for these new mixed groups to teach each other their case studies, and to fill in the group chart.
  • These mixed groups then must answer the questions at the bottom of the group chart Mixed Group Discussion Questions and decide if each case study should qualify as environmental racism, and which laws have been violated.

Written Reflection: What are the causes and consequences of lack of access to clean water for many First Nations in Canada today? To what extent is this environment racism?

  • Show the documentary “There’s Something in the Water” , 2020 (available on Netflix, 1hr 13min)

Canada. 2019. “Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 and related documents.”


Canada. 2020. “Constitution Act, 1982, Charter of Rights and Freedoms.” Justice Laws Website 


Canada. 2020. “Constitution Act, 1982, Equalization and Regional Disparities (Part III, section 36(1).c).” Justice Laws Website


Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, General Comment 15, The Right to Water (Twenty-ninth session, 2003), U.N. Doc. E/C.12/2002/11 (2002), reprinted in Compilation of General Comments and General Recommendations Adopted by Human Rights Treaty Bodies, U.N. Doc. HRI/GEN/1/Rev.6 at 105 (2003). 2020. Global Health and Human Rights Database.



Canada. 2020. “Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act (S.C. 2013, c. 21).” Justice Laws Website.



United Nations. 2008. United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”



United Nations General Assembly. 2010, “Resolution 64/292 the Human Right to Water and Sanitation.”


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Last Reviewed

March 01, 2023

Produced by JES

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