Lesson Plan: Environmental Racism
Have students discuss their views on racism. Ask: What is racism? What defines a racist? Can a person (or organization) be racist in action without seeing him/itself as racist? Can people cause bad things to happen to minorities without an act of racism occurring? Have students keep notes for later use.
Outline the Opportunity
Students will go to Mercury
Rising: The Poisoning of Grassy Narrows on the CBC Digital Archives website,
and view and listen to the clips "A clear and present danger", "'Are Indians
slowly dying?'", "Ontario admits: 'We have a problem'", and "Still ill".
They will develop an argument to either support or refute the contention that the Ontario government participated in "environmental racism" and create a definition of the term "environmental racism." They will express their arguments in the form of a persuasive essay: they will outline a position, explain the points supporting that position, and conclude with a summary of the argument.
Revisit and Reflect
Students will present their arguments in class and develop a class chart outlining the points both supporting and refuting the claim of "environmental racism." Referring to the chart points, they will work to come to a consensus regarding the claim, deciding what percentage of blame to apportion to the government and what percentage to apportion to the Grassy Narrows community.
Students can position themselves as a Grassy Narrows community member who is experiencing the effects of mercury poisoning. They will write a letter from that point of view to the Ontario government expressing their situation and pain and outlining the kind of compensation they think would be satisfactory.