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No opportunity to say no: a case study of procedural environmental injustice in Canada

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While a number of studies have shown that blacks, Hispanics and the poor are disproportionately exposed to pollution hazards, particularly in the United States, there are much fewer that focus on the processes contributing to environmental injustices. This paper contributes to the environmental justice literature by exploring local environmental conflict over a pollution hazard (municipal solid waste) to further decipher the process(es) that may perpetuate environmental injustices. Through a Canadian qualitative case study involving in-depth interviews with residents, we emphasize important deficits in, and experiences of, public participation throughout the environmental assessment process. We do this by recounting the experiences of black residents from a small rural community near two landfills in Eastern Canada. We find that there are subtle processes – linked primarily to public participation – that create and sustain environmental injustices by ultimately denying residents the opportunity to say “no” to unwanted developments. This case highlights both the process of injustice as well as the experience of injustice. The procedural culprits contribute to the production and reproduction of environmental injustice, demonstrating that environmental injustice is not simply a result of exposure to pollution; environmental injustice is a result of a number of long established practices, which in order to be remedied, techniques must be tailored to be inclusive of an affected population.
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Keywords: Canada; environmental equity; perception; pollution; procedural environmental justice

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Geography, The University of Western Ontario, London, ON N6A 5C2, Canada

Publication date: June 1, 2013

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