Canadian Environmental Health Atlas

Understanding Our Environment is Key to Promoting Health and Preventing Disease

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Research to Support Action

Research to Support Action

Observations made by Draper and Mitchell a decade ago remain true today: “In Canada, relatively little policy discussion explicitly linked to environmental justice has occurred ... political and private sector leaders in Canada generally have not taken strong positions related to environmental justice issues” (p.96). 1 Clearly, action on the policy level is still needed to reduce inequitable exposure to environmental hazards in Canada.

Recent work is diverse and adds strength to the environmental justice movement in Canada. For example, some researchers have begun to look at the ‘process’ side of environmental justice, focusing on the public’s participation in the planning and siting of noxious facilities and land uses.2 Others have begun to incorporate multimedia for new dimensions and insights into environmental justice from the community’s perspective.3 And finally, Masuda et al.4 review recent Canadian experiences in environmental justice to argue for more health policy and promotion.

In Canada, public health action supported by environmental justice research is needed in many Aboriginal communities, where living and environmental conditions are often unacceptable and below the standard enjoyed by most Canadians. For instance in 2005 the people of the Kashechewan First Nation in northern Ontario faced an outbreak of E. coli in their drinking water supply. Despite having a new water treatment facility built in 1998, the community had been under a boil-water advisory for 2 years. The situation worsened with the E. coli outbreak and the evacuation and relocation of 800 community members for an extended period. Subsequently, physical and psychosocial health effects were observed in community members, confirming the need for more research and intervention to reduce such health-harming environmental justice inequalities.

  • 1. Draper D, Mitchell B. Environmental justice considerations in Canada. Can Geogr 2001;45:93-98.
  • 2. Gibson-Wood H, Wakefield S. “Participation”, White Privilege and Environmental Justice: Understanding Environmentalism Among Hispanics in Toronto. Antipode 2012;45(3):641-662.
  • 3. Teelucksingh C, Masuda JR. Urban environmental justice through the camera: understanding the politics of space and the right to the city. Local Environment 2014;19(3):300-317.
  • 4. Masuda JR, Poland B, Baxter J. Reaching for environmental health justice: Canadian experiences for a comprehensive research, policy and advocacy agenda in health promotion. Health Promotion International 2010;24(4):453-463.