Ecojustice Blog – Healthy communities Posted on March 4, 2014 (updated: March 4, 2014)

Suncor challenging lawsuit to protect Ontario families from air pollution in Chemical Valley

Ecojustice is in a Toronto courtroom this morning because Canadians have a right to a healthy environment, including the right to breathe clean air.

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.

The health and well being of every Canadian depends on the health of the environment. If we allow our environment — our land, water and air — to erode or be poisoned by toxic substances, our health will suffer. A healthy environment is the plank upon which Canadians pile all the rights and freedoms we enjoy. Protecting our natural environment is a duty, one that every Canadian shares.

Today we’re defending 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. Turning crude into other substances is a dirty process that releases harmful pollutants in the air that families in Aamjiwnaang, and Sarnia, rely on.

Last 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.

Air pollution is a threat to every Canadian, not just Ron and Ada and everyone who lives near Sarnia. Pollution loiters by our playgrounds and seeps into our homes, where it disrupts our most basic need: breathing clean air. We pay the price with extra trips to the doctor’s office to treat more cases of asthma, certain cancers and a host of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases associated with air pollution.

We believe that Ontario must consider the cumulative impacts of pollution before approving more toxic emissions in Sarnia. Ron and Ada’s lawsuit, filed in November 2010, alleges that government’s ongoing approval of pollution in Sarnia is a violation of their basic human rights.

Over the next three days, we’ll be fighting two separate motions filed by the government and Suncor that seek to exclude most of the evidence we introduced in April 2011, and one by Suncor to dismiss the case. We’re also asking the court to protect Ron and Ada from having to pay any costs to Suncor or Ontario if they lose this case.

Preventing pollutants from entering our bodies through the air we breathe would improve the health of Canadians. We want to reduce the already high level of pollutants faced by Aamjiwnaang residents and improve air quality for all Canadians.

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