Environmental health inequity can be understood as the inadequate, unresponsive, and/or discriminatory policies that result in the concentration of multiple environmental risks, as well as inadequate access to environmental benefits among disadvantaged Canadian communities. As a result of insufficient and often unfair policies across multiple sectors (such as environmental management, urban planning and public health) many disadvantaged or vulnerable communities bear far greater environmental health burdens (such as poor air quality) and at the same time lack access to environmental benefits (such as health-supporting housing and public spaces). These deficiencies often create and reinforce health disparities.
In general, there are four Canadian population sub-groups that tend to bear a greater environmental health burden. These are:
1) Resource-dependent communities that reside in close proximity to a predominant industry (such as agriculture, forestry, oil and gas or mining);
2) Aboriginal communities, both on and off reserve;
3) Low-income and ethno-racial communities typically in urban settings; and,
4) Biologically vulnerable populations such as children, pregnant women and older adults.