For immediate release
TORONTO – Families in Sarnia, Ont., shouldn’t be threatened by unsafe amounts of industrial pollution, according to a lawsuit brought against the Ontario government by two members of the Aamjiwnaang First Nation. Suncor Energy, one of the oil companies responsible for Sarnia’s pollution and named in the lawsuit, is trying to have the case dismissed.
Ecojustice lawyers are in a Toronto court today to defend Ron Plain and Ada Lockridge’s right to challenge a decision by Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment to permit pollution in Sarnia’s notorious industrial area, widely known as Chemical Valley. About 800 people live in Aamjiwnaang, making them neighbours with major industrial facilities that refine crude oil into plastics, rubber, gasoline and more. In the fall, the World Health Organization released a study that showed the people of Sarnia inhale some of the most polluted air in all of Canada.
“Ontario’s government has a responsibility to protect the air that Aamjiwnaang and Sarnia families are breathing,” said Justin Duncan, staff lawyer at Ecojustice. “Allowing Suncor to add more pollution in a place that already has the worst air quality in Canada is why we’re in court. This is about protecting Canadians’ right to be healthy and safe from the harm caused by cumulative pollution.”
Ecojustice lawyers will be arguing that Ontario must consider the cumulative impacts of pollution before approving more toxic emissions. Lawyers for Suncor and the Ontario government have filed several motions, including two to strike most of the evidence Ecojustice introduced in April 2011, and one by Suncor to strike the entire case.
“What I fear most is how this cumulative pollution will affect me and my family,” said Ada Lockridge, who has lived in the Sarnia area for 49 years. “Worse, when the sirens sound, I don’t know where it’s coming from or what it could be doing to our health. We need the government to step in and protect us.”
In November 2010, Ron and Ada filed a lawsuit against Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment over its decision to approve pollution at the Suncor refinery in Sarnia. The application for judicial review alleges that the ministry’s ongoing approval of pollution – including cancer-causing benzene and other chemicals known to affect respiratory or cardiovascular health – is a violation of Ada and Ron’s rights under sections 7 and 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Ecojustice has put forward a motion to protect Ron and Ada from having to pay any adverse costs to Suncor and Ontario if they lose this case.
Justice Alison Harvison Young will hear arguments on all of these motions, including Suncor’s motion to have the case dismissed, on Jan. 31, Feb. 1 and 2. The hearing is being held in courtroom No. 9 at 130 Queen Street West, Osgoode Hall, and begins at 10 a.m. each morning.
Ecojustice is the country’s leading charitable organization dedicated to using the law to defend Canadians’ right to a healthy environment.
For more information or to book an interview with Ecojustice, Ron Plain or Ada Lockridge, contact:
Pierre Hamilton, Communications Associate | Ecojustice
416.368.7533 ext. 526
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