Ecojustice Blog – Special Update Posted on January 18, 2018 (updated: May 9, 2018)

UPDATE: Stand up for your right to breathe clean air

Ecojustice lawyer Kaitlyn MitchellKaitlyn MitchellEcojustice Alumni
Photo by Avery Zingel
Ada Lockridge

UPDATE: On April 26, 2018, the Ministry published a final version of its cumulative effects policy. Unfortunately, the Ministry failed to correct the significant flaws from its draft policy, which we — and more than 2,000 people like you — pointed out in January. There is some good news: your actions helped convince the Ministry to commit to a review of this policy within 2 years. During that review, we expect the Ministry to consider expanding its policy to existing facilities and a broader range of contaminants in communities across Ontario. We’re committed to working to make sure that happens. 

But for now, the bottom line is: the final policy won’t protect Ontarians who live near multiple major industrial polluters against an obvious threat to their health, and it won’t ensure that all Ontarians receive equitable protection from industrial air pollution. The existing policy does not protect the right of all Ontarians to breathe clean air.  We are extremely disappointed that the Ministry has, once again, failed to take action to protect the most vulnerable members of our society from the threats posed by industrial air pollution.

For close to a decade, the Ecojustice team has worked with Aamjiwnaang community members to convince the Ontario government to introduce a cumulative effects policy to address the air pollution crisis in Chemical Valley. After countless meetings, dozens of letters, and two lawsuits, the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change finally released a draft policy in November 2017.

Unfortunately, it is a huge disappointment. In its current form, it will not result in any on-the-ground change in Aamjiwnaang. This is partly because the current draft only applies to a few contaminants, and ignores important pollutants like sulphur dioxide.

Ontario needs to get this one right. For too long, it has turned its back on the people of Aamjiwnaang and ignored obvious threats to the health of Ontarians living near multiple major industrial polluters.

An effective cumulative effects framework will ensure all Ontarians receive equitable protection from industrial air pollution under the law, improve transparency, and promote respect for the human right to a healthy environment. To achieve these goals, the government must update its air quality standards so they are science-based. It must also strengthen its draft policy to:

  • establish clear and binding timelines for the addition of other pollutants;
  • ensure the policy is expanded to include all Ontario communities, with priority being placed upon other communities with significant levels of industrial air pollution; and
  • mandate a proactive approach to ensure air quality improves, rather than worsens

We’ll be submitting our feedback to government officials. But they need to hear from you too.

You have until Feb. 7 to demand Ontario respect all Ontarians’ right to clean air and improve its draft cumulative effects policy. Please send your message to government today.

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