By: Drew Simpson
On Feb. 26, the Green is not White environmental racism workshop took place at the Hamilton Public Library’s Wentworth room. The free, open-to all workshop, garnered intrigue from attendees interested in learning about environmental racism.
Presenters sat on a raised platform and the room was filled with chart easel pads, activist posters and resources. The Green is Not White workshop, which is organized by Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces in partnership with the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, Environment Hamilton and the Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion started its seven-hour agenda with a land acknowledgement, icebreakers and then laid down foundational knowledge.
Environmental racism is originally defined by Prof. Benjamin Chavis as the racial discrimination and unequal enforcement of environmental policies. The types of environmental racism have expanded since this 1987 definition and currently encompass air pollution, clean water, climate migration, extreme weather, food production, gentrification and toxins in the community and workplace.
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The crust of the issue is that ethnic minorities are disproportionately exposed to environmental hazards. Black and Indigenous populations are most affected by environmental racism, yet this makes it no less of a collective issue. Local case studies were highlighted to drive this message close to home.
For example, most of Hamilton’s waste facilities are clustered just north of and within residential areas. This includes a proposed electronic waste processing facility, which can cause lead and mercury exposure, and an existing chemical wastes facility that is known for chemical explosions causing evacuations and serious injury. Loads of biosolids have been trucked through neighbourhoods posing disease risks from pathogens, concerns of terrible odours and ammonia use for steam filtering.
Studies show that Hamilton neighbourhoods with single-parent families and low education are the most exposed to air pollution. Since these neighbourhoods have fewer resources and are systematically marginalized, they are targeted by acts of environmental racism. The hashtag #EnvRacismCBTUACW continually discusses case studies across Canada.
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Along with the extensive examples of Canadians and Hamiltonians living in dire conditions due to environmental racism, as well as the government’s oversight of this issue, various Hamilton organizations have taken it upon themselves to drive change.
This workshop was the third part of a four-phase action research initiative on environmental racism by ACW, which develops tools to better the environmental conditions of jobs and the workplace and CBTU, a coalition that breaks the silence on African-Canadians’ labour issues. While this third stage involves community engagement, the fourth and final stage involves a joint report and video that will be housed on both the ACW and CBTU websites.
The slogan “Green is Not White” highlights that green jobs and environmentally safe conditions should not be reserved for white people. People of colour are most likely to work and live in dire conditions, and therefore deserve economic justice and access to clean water and land.
By: Andrew Mrozowski
From a very young age, Annette Paiement felt connected to the land she played on. It was this connection that would eventually lead her on a road to Hamilton, then on a solo drive to Northern Winnipeg and back home to share her experiences through the Where the Soul is Never Frozen exhibit.
“As a kid, I would leave the house first thing in the morning and wouldn’t come home until dusk… I loved to play in the forest, but always had a really strong connection to the water,” said Paiement.
Paiement grew up just west of Toronto and while nature was her calling, she pursued a degree in sculpture installation at the Ontario College of Arts and Design. On the side, she would take pictures and use them to influence whatever medium she was working with at the time.
She later moved to Hamilton in the early 2000s and became very involved with the arts and culture scene that the city had to offer, so much so that she hung up her camera as she started to pursue other opportunities.
“When I came to Hamilton, I really needed to reconnect to an environment that could allow me access to greenspace and water. It was for my peace of mind. I felt as if my soul yearned to be here,” said Paiement.
Paiement also found serenity hundreds of kilometers away in Northern Winnipeg, a place she has been travelling to for nearly twenty years.
“Every time I go, it is always about healing and through that time, I’ve been welcomed into the communities [in Sagkeeng, First Nation] and gratefully so. I’ve been fortunate enough to be invited to participate in a number of different sacred ceremonies,” explained Paiement.
Following the passing of her mother and grandmother in 2016, Paiement went through a difficult time coming to terms with loss.
“At this particular time in my life, I helped to launch the Cotton Factory launch and didn’t take any time off. The Elders [in Sagkeeng, First Nation] invited me to [a climate change] summit, and I had just gotten my drivers license so I said I’d go. Without any intention of returning to Ontario I packed whatever I could fit into my Fiat and left,” explained Paiement.
Upon her arrival, she realized that the Elders cancelled the summit but invited her to stay with them.
While participating in various meetings and ceremonies with the Manitoba government and the Elders, Paiement would take time to drive around by herself in -50℃ weather. She would pick destinations and drove out to take pictures.
“There was just something about it that made me feel like I was suspended in this altered [reality]. The prairies are something so different. The expansion of the sky, the horizon and all of it flat and frozen? It’s something I can’t even express in words,” said Paiement.
It was only when the artist returned to Ontario that she decided to turn her photographs into an exhibit for all to experience. Where the Soul is Never Frozen is comprised of approximately ten photographs from Paiement’s journey.
“I see them more as a way to speak about a feeling or a land-based spiritual practice and an appreciation for nature,” explained Paiement.
Paiement utilized photography to capture, communicate and take viewers along with her on a healing journey through the frozen prairies. Each work of art has an energy that it gives off, easily transporting the viewer to Northern Winnipeg.
As Paiement’s art hangs on the Member’s Gallery walls of Centre for Print and Media Arts, she hopes that it’s legacy has a lasting effect on Hamiltonians and encourages others to connect with the land around them.
“It is my hope that people will say ‘let’s try hiking this weekend’ and they will take out their cameras and fall in love with nature. Hopefully they will say ‘why don’t I do this all the time?’,” said Paiement.
Where the Soul is Never Frozen is on display at Centre for Print and Media Arts at 173 James Street North until Feb. 2, 2019.
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By: Lina Assi & Yara Shoufani
Each year, Israeli Apartheid Week takes place across more than 150 universities and cities. IAW aims to raise awareness about Israel’s ongoing settler-colonial project and apartheid policies over the Palestinian people.
IAW’s goal is to tell the world of the Palestinian struggle, one which is so often erased in mainstream media. Apartheid is a system of racial segregation. In Israel, this includes military control over the West Bank, two distinct identification systems, separate roads for Israelis and Palestinians and military checkpoints which only Palestinians are subjected to. These restrictions on movement have impeded access to health and education. Palestinian houses are demolished for “Israeli only” settlements, and an apartheid wall — eight times the size of the Berlin Wall — separates Palestinians not only from Israelis, from the world and from one another. Israel’s system of settler-colonialism and apartheid has dismantled Palestine into fragmented pieces of land, destroying the Palestinian economy and social structures.
Israeli Apartheid Week brings the occupation onto campus, so to speak. It aims to show students that there is no Israeli-Palestinian “conflict” because the word implies that the two sides are equal. There is instead an occupied and an occupier; an illegal, inhumane, brutal, military occupation.
There is no Israeli-Palestinian “conflict” because the word implies that the two sides are equal.
On March 15 at 6:30 p.m. we are hosting Eran Efrati and Maya Wind for a free lecture. Eran is an ex-Israeli soldier, and Maya is an Israeli peace activist whose refusal to join the military led to her imprisonment in Israel. We hope the stories of Eran and Maya will show McMaster students that Israel’s occupation is not only being resisted against by Palestinians, but by small groups within Israeli society as well.
We will also be recreating apartheid on the BSB lawn through displays of the apartheid wall, settlements, roads, prisons and even the blockaded Gaza Strip. We hope this display will show students that there is no such thing as neutrality in the face of injustice.
Both Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights and McMaster Muslims for Peace and Justice will be tabling in MUSC to talk to students about Israel and Palestinian resistance movements, such as Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. This educational week is one that is endorsed by many Hamilton movements and student clubs, including Independent Jewish Voices, McMaster Muslim Students Association, McMaster Womanists, McMaster Indigenous Student Community Alliance, United in Colour, Hamilton Coalition to Stop the War, CUPE 3906, Young Communist League and McMaster Middle Eastern Student Society.
The diversity of these clubs reminds us that Israeli Apartheid Week is about more than the relationship between Israelis and Palestinians. It’s part of a movement of students who stand for peace and justice, and against colonization, occupation, racism and violence.
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By: Mindy Chapman
I believe that the Palestinian people have the right to self-determination. I also believe that the Jewish people have the right to self-determination. As a Jewish woman living in diaspora, I feel a deep connection to my historic homeland, Israel. During my one visit there, I experienced the magic of Jerusalem and of praying in the same places my people have been praying for thousands of years. I experienced the intense feelings of belonging, homecoming and spiritual and religious freedom. During my lifetime in Canada, I’ve experienced the yearning and longing, not just for the people of Israel, but for the physical land, soil and trees as well. These powerful feelings affirm not only my own connection to the land, but my understanding of the connection that Palestinian people feel to the land as well. I recognize the existence of another group of people that might feel the exact same way that I do.
Sustainable, long lasting peace is an attainable goal. However, it will only be achieved through coexistence, mutual respect and shared understanding. Learning to love one another as human beings, and to understand and respect one another’s stories and perspectives, is the first step to living side by side and amongst one another in peace.
I have often been told that it is wrong to divide the world into simplified categories like “us” and “them.” I’ve learned that there is an “us” and “them.” There are Jews and Muslims, Arabs and Israelis, who seek to further the divide between us, and there are those who strive to build a better future for the children of Israel and Palestine.
In Israel, efforts that strive to create a shared society from the top down, as well as the bottom up, are well underway. Government initiatives that require the teaching of Arabic in Jewish schools are helping create broad societal changes by providing Israeli children with the tools to communicate effectively with their Palestinian counterparts. Organizations such as Hand in Hand and PeacePlayers are making real changes on the community level. Both organizations run programming that connect Israeli and Palestinian youth through a shared experience. Hand in Hand does this through multicultural schooling and PeacePlayers through after school recreation activities.
There is an “us” and “them.” There are Jews and Muslims, Arabs and Israelis, who seek to further the divide between us, and there are those who strive to build a better future.
In order to promote these incredible initiatives and advocate for the building of a shared community, Israel on Campus is running our first Coexistence Week. By bringing attention to the organizations that are creating positive change in Israeli society, we hope to encourage the innovation and support for similar initiatives. We can no longer allow hateful rhetoric and closed-mindedness to further the divide between us. It is time to work together, learn from one another and build the shared society we want to live in: founded on diversity and coexistence, abounding with peace.