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Climate justice: join Aamjiwnaang’s fight against Chemical Valley

Valerie Lannon

July 19, 2017

“Stand with the community of Aamjiwnaang First Nation in their fight against environmental racism in Canada’s toxic Chemical Valley.” So begins the call from the Aamjiwnaang and Sarnia Against Pipelines group to invite everyone to the annual toxic tour held on Aamjiwnaang First Nation (AFN) territory, near Sarnia aka Chemical Valley. 

This year the Water Gathering and Toxic Tour will be held August 18-20, at Maawn Doosh Gumig (1972 Virgil Avenue). The two-day event will feature workshops on Chemical Valley and resistance, as well as a tour past the many chemical plants and oil refineries in the area. As the invitation goes on to say “The goal of this event is to unify everyone to protect and keep water clean and sacred.”

Chemical colonialism

Chemical Valley produces 40 per cent of Canada’s petro-chemicals, and includes more than 60 industrial facilities that completely surround AFN. While the settler village of Blue Water was relocated a generation ago due to concerns about chemical exposure, Chemical Valley continues to expand and poison Aamjiwnaang—unleashing daily doses of environmental racism.

Massive refineries loom over the community baseball field and basketball court, and encase the community cemetery. In 2015, the area's plants emitted more than 55,000 tonnes of air pollution, according to environmental group Ecojustice.

As if that weren’t bad enough, Enbridge’s Line 9 pipeline begins in Sarnia (on its way to Montreal) and in 2014 Enbridge received National Energy Board approval to begin transporting tar sands bitumen in that pipeline.

Aside from dealing with the stench emanating from the chemical facilities, community members have faced seriously negative impacts on their health. As reported in The Star, AFN received international attention in the mid-2000s after a study found it had abnormally low rates for male births. The study’s authors said the community’s proximity to industrial plants was a potential factor contributing to the skewed birth ratios. Members of the community have also reported other health concerns such as asthma and miscarriages.


None of the companies (including major multinationals Dow Chemcial, Suncor and Imperial Oil) have taken any responsibility, so sisters Vanessa and Beze Gray have raised their own funds to test the Nation’s water for chemicals. Along with other community members, the sisters have conducted speaking tours and organized petitions and rallies around southwestern Ontario to raise awareness of the injustice and to encourage solidarity. This helps build the climate justice movement against Line 9, tar sands and the ongoing destruction caused by the chemical and oil plants.

Recently, community member Ada Lockridge launched a lawsuit against Ontario’s environment minister for failing to review its regulations on industrial air pollution, despite a promise it made in 2009 to do so. The court action asks that the province be ordered to immediately complete the review.

The government only looks at the emissions of each individual facility, rather than the cumulative impact all nearby plants have on the local air quality. There have been no comprehensive studies carried out to properly assess the health effects of Chemical Valley’s industrial plants on nearby communities.

Lockridge told The Star, “They promised they would do this. It’s time to move on it. The government, they have even said they don’t even understand cumulative effects. What makes me so angry is why do you keep allowing more and more if you don’t understand what’s already here?”

Regulations on cumulative air pollution would benefit not just the Aamjiwnaang First Nation, Lockridge said, but the workers and residents of similar communities across Ontario with heavy concentrations of industry. “It’s about everyone’s right to clean air to feel safe in their own home,” she said.

For more information about the Water Gathering and Toxic Tour, and to register, visit:

To book a spot on the Toronto bus, please use this Eventbrite page.  Suggested donation of $10 - $50. The pick-up in Toronto will be the north-west corner of Bloor and Christie. Pick-up time is 8am, 20th arriving back around 10pm on the same day.


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