Aamjiwnaang is a small First Nations community located on the shores of
the St. Clair River in
Being situated within the city limits of
Ontario provides Aamjiwnaang, and its members, many unique opportunities,
economic development and employment to name a couple. Bordered on three sides by
Canada’s largest petrochemical refining concentration (40% of Canada’s
Petrochemical refineries), Aamjiwnaang also has a disproportionate amount of
pollution related to illnesses and side effects.
The Aamjiwnaang Environment Committee began in 2002 in response to the
announcement of Suncor’s new Ethanol Plant location, on our borders. The
committee met to discuss all methods of stopping the further encroachment on our
The community stood cautiously behind the Committee. The likelihood of
this small group of people stopping a multi-million dollar facility was
improbable at best. The Chief and Council of the First Nation also waded
The initial first steps were to form sub-committees that would
concentrate on areas such as the legal aspects of the proposed new site (Ontario
Municipal Board policies and guidelines were not applicable as a First Nation is
considered as Federal Lands). The Canadian Courts and legal structures have
allowed the provinces to pick and choose which provincial laws are applicable
and which are not when it pertains to First Nations.
As a result of these initial steps, associations and relationships were
formed with prominent organizations and people within the environmental and
worker health disciplines. These relationships helped to obtain funding for
studies and tests on sediment and food and game. They also helped with the First
Nation understanding a previous study, sanctioned by the First Nation, which
noted levels of heavy metals far exceeding the provincial standards.
The efforts to stop the encroachment was brought to a boil by the Suncor
to use a private road, owned by Aamjiwnaang, to transport heavy equipment
and staff for a planned shutdown of the plant.
Members of the committee successfully blocked the road for 6 weeks to
prevent this from happening. A secondary success of the blockade had Suncor
alter the planned location of the plant to their second option, miles from
Council and community members celebrated the news. The committee however, now
knew of the concentrations of metals and other pollutants affecting Aamjiwnaang
members. They did not disband as was thought they would. Instead they moved into
different areas, attracting national and international exposure. Today, the
Aamjiwnaang Environment Committee and its members have received a level of
integrity and peer equality with the “experts” of the environmental movement.