Search for Resources

Environmental Racism in Canada

Secondary

Description

In this lesson, students will consider the connection between pollution and inequality in Canada and around the world.

Introduction:  After discussing the definition of ‘environmental racism’, students watch a video and review recent reports that examine the problem of contaminated drinking water and consider reasons why it is so prevalent in First Nations communities in Canada.

Learning Activity: Using a Jigsaw strategy students examine and share findings from 5 significant case studies describing pollution effecting first nations communities.  Based on this analysis and their interpretation of the relevant sections of existing legislation, declarations, charters and protections (provided)  students then decide whether or not each case is an example of environmental racism.

Culminating Activity: Students complete a written reflection describing the causes and consequences of lack of access to clean water for First Nations communities in Canada and to what extent it meets the definition of environmental racism.

The lesson includes all the documents and other materials students will require as well as resource material for teachers.

General Assessment

What skills does this resource explicitly teach?

  • Oral and written communication
  • Critical thinking and analysis
  • Working cooperatively

Strengths

The lesson addresses an important issue in Canada (and elsewhere)

The topic and the learning tools provided are current, engaging and relevant

The lesson can support learning in a number of curriculum areas and emphasizes several core learning competencies

All the materials necessary to complete the activities are included

Recommendation of how and where to use it

The lesson will be of interest to teachers looking to provide students with an interdisciplinary examination of an important Canadian social justice issue.  It's systems thinking approach to environmental racism supports curriculum outcomes in social studies, science, geography, world issues, and citizenship at the secondary level. 

Relevant Curriculum Units

The following tool will allow you to explore the relevant curriculum matches for this resource. To start, select a province listed below.

  • Step 1Select a province
  • Alberta
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 9
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Issues for Canadians: Governance and Rights
  • British Columbia
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 10
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Social Studies 10 -Canada and the World: 1914 to the Present: Historical and contemporary injustices challenge the narrative and identity of Canada as an inclusive, multicultural society
    • Grade 11
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Environmental Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Environmental Science 11: Human practices affect the sustainability of ecosystems
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Explorations in Social Studies 11: Indigenous peoples are reclaiming mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being despite the continuing effects of colonialism
    • Grade 12
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Environmental Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Environmental Science 12: Human actions affect the quality of water and its ability to sustain life.
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • B.C. First Peoples: The impact of contact and colonialism continues to affect the political, social, and economic lives of B.C. First Peoples
        • Contemporary Indigenous Studies: Reconciliation requires all colonial societies to work together to foster healing and address injustices
        • Social Justice: The causes of social injustice are complex and have lasting impacts on society
  • Manitoba
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 10
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Geography
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Geographic Issues of the 21st Century: Urban Places
    • Grade 12
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Geography
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • World Geography: A Human Perspective - Industrialization and Urbanization
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Citizenship and Sustainability:Area of Inquiry: Indigenous Peoples
        • Global Issues
  • New Brunswick
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 9
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Canadian Identities: Social Responsibility
    • Grade 10
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Civics 10: Human Rights
    • Grade 12
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Environmental Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Advanced Environmental Science 120:Introduction to the human sphere
      • Geography
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Canadian Geography 120:A Geographic Perspective on a Current Canadian Issue
  • Newfoundland & Labrador
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 10
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Geography
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Canadian Geography 1202: Human Population Issues in Canadian Geography
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Social Studies 1201: Power, Citizenship, and Change
    • Grade 12
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Environmental Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Environmental Science 3205: Water Use & the Environment
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Social Studies 3201: Human-Environment Interaction
  • Northwest Territories
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 9
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Issues for Canadians: Governance and Rights
  • Nova Scotia
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 12
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Environmental Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • AP Environmental Science: Land and Water
  • Nunavut
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 9
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Issues for Canadians: Governance and Rights
  • Ontario
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 9
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Geography
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Issues in Canadian Geography (Academic): Liveable Communities
    • Grade 11
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Environmental Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Environmental Science (Univ/College Prep.) Human Health and the Environment
        • Environmental Science (Workplace Prep.) Human Health and the Environment
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Equity, Diversity, and Social Justice (Workplace Pre.) Equity, Social Justice, and Change
    • Grade 12
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Geography
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • World Issues: A Geographic Analysis (College Prep.):Changing Societies
        • World Issues: A Geographic Analysis (Univ. Prep.): Social Change and the Quality of Life
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Challenge and Change in Society (Univ. Prep.) Global Social Challenges
        • Equity and Social Justice: From Theory to Practice (Univ./College Prep.) Addressing Equity and Social Justice Issues
  • Prince Edward Island
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 9
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Interdependence: Atlantic Canada in the Global Community: Human Rights in the Global Community
    • Grade 12
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Environmental Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Environmental Science 621A: Environmental Challenges and Successes
  • Quebec
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 9
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • The Contemporary World: Environment
    • Grade 11
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Contemporary World: Environment
  • Saskatchewan
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 11
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Social Studiees 20:World Issues - Environment
        • Social Studies 20: World Issues -Human Rights
  • Yukon Territory
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 10
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Social Studies 10 -Canada and the World: 1914 to the Present: Historical and contemporary injustices challenge the narrative and identity of Canada as an inclusive, multicultural society
    • Grade 11
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Environmental Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Environmental Science 11: Human practices affect the sustainability of ecosystems
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Explorations in Social Studies 11: Indigenous peoples are reclaiming mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being despite the continuing effects of colonialism
    • Grade 12
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Environmental Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Environmental Science 12: Human actions affect the quality of water and its ability to sustain life.
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • B.C. First Peoples: The impact of contact and colonialism continues to affect the political, social, and economic lives of B.C. First Peoples
        • Contemporary Indigenous Studies: Reconciliation requires all colonial societies to work together to foster healing and address injustices
        • Social Justice: The causes of social injustice are complex and have lasting impacts on society

Themes Addressed

Human Health & Environment (2)

  • Environmental Contaminants & Health Hazards
  • Quality of Life

Human Rights (2)

  • Environmental Racism/Justice
  • Social Justice

Waste Management (1)

  • Hazardous Waste

Water (2)

  • Water Quality
  • Water Use

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Good

The reliance on actual case studies and current data gathered from a variety of sources, allows students to take informed positions.

Consideration of Alternative Perspectives:
  • Satisfactory: absence of bias towards any one point of view
  • Good: students consider different points of view regarding issues, problems discussed
  • Very good: based on the consideration of different views, students form opinions and  take an informed position
Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions Good

The lesson does a good job illustrating how social justice, the environment, poverty and racism are interconnected.

Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions:

Effectively addresses the environmental, economic and social dimensions of the issue(s) being explored.

  • Satisfactory: resource supports the examination of  these dimensions
  • Good:  resource explicitly examines the interplay of these dimensions
  • Very Good:  a systems-thinking approach is encouraged to examine these three dimensions
Respects Complexity Very Good

The case studies do a very good job in revealing the complexity of environmental racism and the challenges in addressing it.

Respects Complexity:

The complexity of the problems/issues being discussed is respected.

Acting on Learning Poor/Not considered

This criterion is not directly addressed.

Acting on Learning:

Learning moves from understanding  issues  to working towards positive change — in personal lifestyle, in school, in the community,  or for the planet

  • Satisfactory: action opportunities are included as extensions 
  • Good: action opportunities are core components of the resource
  • Very Good: action opportunities for students are well supported and intended to result in observable, positive change
Values Education Good

The discussion questions provided to guide the jigsaw activities provide information but promote discussion and reflection as well.  

Values Education:

Students are explicitly provided with opportunities to identify, clarify and express their own beliefs/values.

Empathy & Respect for Humans Poor/Not considered

The lesson successfully illustrates for students the connection between inequality and pollution.  Students are made painfully aware of the legacy of harm to environment, health and livelihoods that first nations and other groups of people have been made to endure.

Empathy & Respect for Humans: Empathy and respect are fostered for diverse groups of humans (including different genders, ethnic groups, sexual preferences, etc.).
Personal Affinity with Earth Good

The devastating ecosystem impacts from mining, deforestation, petrochemical and other industrial pollution are made clear for students to consider.

Personal Affinity with Earth:

Encourages a personal affinity with -the natural world.  

  • Satisfactory: connection is made to the natural world
  • Good: fosters appreciation/concern for the natural world
  • Very Good: fosters stewardship though practical and respectful experiences out-of-doors 
Locally-Focused Learning Good

The Canadian focus of the lesson and geographical range of case studies it provides help make the lesson highly relevant to the learners.

Locally-Focused Learning:

Includes learning experiences that take advantage of issues/elements within the local community. 

  • Satisfactory: learning is made relevant to the lives of the learners
  • Good: learning is made relevant and has a local focus
  • Very Good: learning is made relevant, local and takes place ‘outside’ , in the community 
Past, Present & Future Good

The case studies effectively illustrate the long standing nature of the environmental and social destruction taking place in first nations communities.  Based on actions taken to date, the future vision presented for resolution and solutions to these problems is mixed.

Past, Present & Future: Promotes an understanding of the past, a sense of the present, and a positive vision for the future.

Pedagogical Approaches

Principle Rating Explanation
Open-Ended Instruction Very Good

The resource is structured to allow students to reach their own conclusions when identifying cases of environmental racism. Current, factual information is provided in the form of case studies along with a structured opportunity for analysis and exchange of perspectives amongst classmates.

Open-Ended Instruction :

Lessons are structured so that multiple/complex answers are possible; students are not steered toward one 'right' answer.

Integrated Learning Good

The lesson design and content support outcomes in a range of subjects including environmental science, social studies/social justice and geography.

Integrated Learning:

Learning brings together content and skills  from more than one  subject area

  • Satisfactory: content from a number of different  subject areas is readily identifiable
  • Good:  resource is appropriate for use in more than one subject area
  • Very Good:  the lines between subjects are blurred 
Inquiry Learning Satisfactory

The core questions are provided along with the case studies to be used by the students to arrive at their answers.

Inquiry Learning:

Learning is directed by questions, problems, or challenges that students work to address.   

  • Satisfactory: Students are provided with questions/problems to solve and some direction on how to arrive at solutions.
  • Good: students, assisted by the teacher clarify the question(s) to ask and the process to follow to arrive at solutions.  Sometimes referred to as Guided Inquiry
  • Very Good:  students generate the questions and assume much of the responsibility for how to solve them.  . Sometimes referred to as self-directed learning.

 

Differentiated Instruction Poor/Not considered

The students access and analyze information through a number of sources including video, printed materials and discussion. The cooperative learning elements within the jigsaw design has the potential to provide peer support for learners of all abilities.

Differentiated Instruction:

Activities address a range of student learning styles, abilities and readiness.

  • Satisfactory:  includes a variety of instructional approaches
  • Good: addresses  the needs of visual, auditory &  kinesthetic learners
  • Very Good: also includes strategies for learners with difficulties
Experiential Learning Poor/Not considered

The learning activities are not experiential.

Experiential Learning:

Authentic learning experiences are provided

  • Satisfactory: learning takes place through ‘hands-on’ experience or simulation
  • Good: learning involves direct experience in a ‘real world context’
  • Very good: learning involves ‘real world experiences’ taking place’ beyond the school walls.
Cooperative Learning Good

The jigsaw approach taken is well designed and supported.

Cooperative Learning:

Group and cooperative learning strategies are a priority.

  • Satisfactory:  students work in groups
  • Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught and practiced
  • Very Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught, practiced and assessed
Assessment & Evaluation Good

The discussion questions and recording charts that support the jigsaw activity provide opportunities for assessing student learning.

Assessment & Evaluation: Tools are provided that help students and teachers to capture formative and summative information about students' learning and performance. These tools may include reflection questions, checklists, rubrics, etc.
Peer Teaching Satisfactory

The expert and mixed group formats within the learning activity support the goals of peer teaching.

Peer Teaching:

Provides opportunities for students to actively present their knowledge and skills to peers and/or act as teachers and mentors.

  • Satisfactory: incidental teaching that arises from cooperative learning, presentations, etc.
  • Good or Very Good: an opportunity is intentionally created to empower students to teach other students/community members. The audience is somehow reliant on the students' teaching (students are not simply ‘presenting')
Case Studies Very Good

The case studies provided in the lesson are current, highly relevant and a definite strength of the lesson design.

Case Studies:

Relevant case studies are included.  Case studies are thorough descriptions of real events from real situations that students use to explore  concepts in an authentic context.

Locus of Control Poor/Not considered

This criterion is not addressed..

Locus of Control: Meaningful opportunities are provided for students to choose elements of program content, the medium in which they wish to work, and/or to go deeper into a chosen issue.