Aamjiwnaang First Nation resident taking Province to court
A sign for the Aamjiwnaang First Nation Resource Centre is located across the road from NOVA Chemicals in Sarnia, Ont., on April 21, 2007. A new study has shed light on the health problems facing a First Nations community living near one of Canada's most industrialized areas. (Craig Glover / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
A resident of the Aamjiwnaang First Nation, which is surrounded by industrial facilities near Sarnia, is taking the provincial government to court to demand it complete an air quality review promised eight years ago.
Ada Lockridge first secured a commitment in 2009 from the Ministry of the Environment to review how air pollution is regulated where there are multiple emitters.
The ministry only considers the emissions of one particular facility when issuing approvals and orders, not any cumulative effects from various facilities.
The Environmental Bill of Rights sets out a legal duty for the ministry to complete a review like the one promised to Lockridge "within a reasonable time."
Eight years is not reasonable, Lockridge argues. "I don't know if they're waiting for me to die or what, but I'm still here and I haven't given up yet," the 54-year-old said.
Lockridge submitted the 2009 application to protect all Ontario communities with significant sources of industrial air emissions, but also to protect herself, her daughter, and her community, her lawyer Kaitlyn Mitchell writes in the application for judicial review.
"The closest industrial sources of air contaminants to Aamjiwnaang are adjacent to the reserve and across the street from important community institutions," the application says.
Aamjiwnaang residents have long complained of high rates of asthma, headaches, learning and behavioural problems in children, and miscarriages.
A 2005 study of Aamjiwnaang birth records found that baby girls outnumbered boys by a two-to-one ratio. Tests performed years later by a McGill University professor suggested a possible link to pollution when he found that mothers and children were being exposed to higher-than-average levels of harmful hormone-blocking pollutants.
Three years ago, after Ontario's environmental commissioner raised the issue of the then five years delayed review, Environment Minister Glen Murray said he would look into it immediately.
The ministry now says its review will be complete and made public this fall. In a statement it noted that data from the local air monitoring station indicates that contaminants have decreased over the period.