Ecojustice Blog – Healthy communities Posted on December 17, 2013 (updated: December 17, 2013)

Read our latest update on the Chemical Valley Charter Challenge

As you may know, our long-time clients Ada Lockridge and Ron Plain have been awaiting justice for more than three years now.

Ada and Ron are challenging a decision to permit more air pollution in their community, Aamjiwnaang First Nation, which is located in the heart of Sarnia’s Chemical Valley. We launched a case on their behalf in October 2010 — Read more about the Chemical Valley Charter Challenge — seeking to overturn an order issued by Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment to allow Suncor to ramp up operations at part of its refinery.

A Chemical Valley PrimerChemical Valley is a notorious industrial section of Sarnia, Ont., which is home to about 40 per cent of Canada’s petrochemical industry. Facilities in Chemical Valley refine crude oil into plastics, rubber, gasoline and more.
Turning crude into other substances can be a dirty process that releases harmful pollutants into the air. In 2011, the World Health Organization said that the people of Sarnia breathe some of the most polluted air in all of Canada.

The wheels of justice turn slowly
We have been involved in multiple procedural skirmishes involving evidence since we filed this lawsuit in 2010. Here is a recap of the latest one.

This May, Ontario and Suncor submitted their evidence, which was approximately 7,000 pages combined.

As the decision we are challenging was made privately, this was the first time Ada and Ron and the Ecojustice legal team were able to see what Suncor had provided to the Ministry and what was considered by the Ministry in making its decision. We quickly assessed these materials in June and decided it was critical to respond to some of it.

Filing the reply
Our amazing staff and experts (many of them volunteers) turned around reply affidavits in five short weeks.

In order to file these reply affidavits, we needed the Court’s permission. In September, we appeared in front of Madam Justice Harvison Young, the same judge who has handled previous motions for this case.

Madam Justice Harvison Young released her judgment on Nov. 12. It was a good one for Ron and Ada. We were granted permission to file about 85 per cent of the reply evidence we wanted to file, which related to environmental health, cumulative pollution, health impacts of living in Chemical Valley and the vulnerability of people living on reserves, among other things.

Sketching out what’s next
We expect that we will soon enter the cross-examination period. Lawyers for Ecojustice, Suncor and the Ontario government will question each other’s witnesses about evidence filed with the Court.

That should wrap up in several months. Then we will file written arguments. Once that is done, we can request that a hearing date be set. We expect a hearing will take place in late 2014 assuming no additional motions are brought.

As you can tell, the gears of justice can grind slowly. But thanks to your support, we continue our work to ensure Ada and Ron’s legal fight continues.

The work you’re supporting is about protecting families from industrial air pollution. That’s what Ada and Ron want for their community. I’m proud to be helping them seek justice so that, hopefully, their community can breathe a little bit easier in the future.

Build the case for a better earth

Thanks to the support of people like you, Ecojustice goes to court to protect what we value most — the air, land and water that sustains all life. Make your gift today and support bold litigation for a brighter environmental future.

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