has launched a lawsuit on behalf of Aamjiwnaaang First Nation
members, Ron Plain and Ada Lockridge, alleging that the cumulative
effects of government approved pollution in Sarnia's Chemical
Valley amounts to a violation of their human rights under sections
7 and 15 of theCanadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The
case is an application for judicial review, attempting to strike
down Ministry of the Environment action that allowed Suncor to
increase production (and presumably emissions) from its refinery in
Chemical Valley. Suncor had been required to limit production at
the facility by a Provincial Officer's Order, which was revoked
in April without consultation with the First Nation. Ecojustice
argues that this action failed to take into account the cumulative
effects of all Chemical Valley pollution on the people who live
downwind, and their particular stake in local emissions. It is
essentially a demand for environmental justice for the
disadvantaged, a concept that has grown dramatically in strength in
the US in the last few years, and which is a major focus of the
Lisa Jackson, current head of the US EPA.
Ontario's current system of authorizing air and water
pollution was never designed to manage cumulative and synergistic
impacts, and does not do it well. The entire concept of cumulative
effects raises difficult scientific, regulatory and legal issues
that no Canadian jurisdiction has really come to terms with, and
which still will be troublesome under the new approvals regime
adopted last week. Nor have we developed any concept of
environmental justice. The Ecojustice lawsuit may trigger an
important and long overdue review of this challenging area. In
addition, it may influence the province's struggle to develop a
coherent response to First Nations demands for consultation and
accommodation on a wide variety of environmental issues, including
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