Aamjiwnaang vs. Chemical Valley: An Act of Environmental Racism influencing Conflict

by dsprad1 on November 25, 2016 - 9:09pm

Environmental racism plays a major role in todays modernizing society, one that is not benefitting many minority groups. Particularly the African American population is affected and traditionally the Native American Population in Canada especially. Environmental racism is a form of discrimination where populations of low-income or minority groups are forced to live within close proximity to environmentally hazardous corporations. In the case of environmental racism, the majority of families or individuals are not only of lower economic status, but also of colour or a minority back ground. In this instance, the article that I found titled ‘First Nations lead protest against pollution in Ontario’s Chemical Valley’, focusses on the Native Americans living in the Aamjiwnaang First Nation near Sarnia Ontario.


Aamjiwnaang First Nation is a reserve that is populated by approximately 1000 ojibway natives. These individuals are affected by what is called Chemical Valley. Chemical Valley, Sarnia’s main economic driver is a petrochemical zone that spans approximately 25km and has over 60 industries producing products such as gasoline, oil, rubber, ethanol, and others. Environmental racism plays a major role in the lives of those who live near to the area. Due to such a low income of the first nations, as well as their ethnic background, and the lack of government funding and government studies, those living on Aamjiwnaang First Nation are left stranded. Residual affects of Chemical Valley have been known to cause cancer, asthma, growth development issues and others in humans. There have been cases where in animals, such as fish, multiple heads, tails, or eyes have been identified in the nearby St. Clair River which is adjacent to both Chemical Valley and Aamjiwnaang First Nation.


Together, all of the principles affecting those who live in the area have created conflict amongst multiple parties. The Aamjiwnaang First Nation has been fighting the government as well as industries to allow for independent and contracted studies into how living so close to industries producing some of the most toxic pollutants can and will affect the population in the near and far future. No regulations have been discussed between the First Nation and the Canadian Government or industries in the area such as Lanxess, Suncor, Shell, and Nova Chemicals. Value Conflict plays a major role in the case of Chemical Valley and Aamjiwnanng First Nation as the government and industries here have conflicting views as to the operations of these industries in comparison to that of the First Nation and its chief. One example of value conflict is the balance between environment and jobs. According to the industries, they are following the guidelines set out by the government, however those within the First Nations have a different opinion based on the new industries entering the marketplace as well as the amount of pollutants that have been identified in the air through private, unfunded personal testing. The idea of the industries already invested in the area and the idea that more industries will be entering the marketplace is a totally different ideology of that of the people in both Sarnia and Aamjiwnaang First Nation. Many jobs are being created, and creating jobs is something that the government and industry like to do even though there may be epic consequence.   


Dinshaw, Fran. (2015, September 7). ‘First Nations lead protest against pollution in Ontario's Chemical Valley’. The National Observer. Retrieved From http://www.nationalobserver.com/2015/09/07/news/first-nations-lead-protest-against-pollution-ontarios-chemical-valley


Hey Devan,

Environmental racism is not something that I was ever really aware until now. You did a great job informing readers what this concept is and how it is so negatively affected people based on the colour of their skin. It seems almost outrageous that targeting a group based on their race and putting them in harms way is something that is actually happening around us today. Your example about Sarnia is very eye opening. Due to this group being such a minority their voice is being suppressed, and it's sad to me that they were chosen to be exposed to such detrimental health effects. Your post just validates how prominent of an issue racism still is. It's even an issue when it comes to the environment! Everyone should have clean air, clean water and beautiful surroundings to enjoy. I hope that this group in Sarnia can fight against the higher powers so that they can continue living their lives without the worry that a plant will be placed right in their backyard.