We’re helping our client Ada Lockridge to take the Ontario government to court for dragging its feet on completing a long-promised review of how it regulates air pollution.

By any standard, eight years is a long time. For communities living with some of the most polluted air in Canada, that much time is an eternity.

In 2009, in response to a request Ecojustice helped Ada Lockridge and Ron Plain make, the Ontario government promised to review how it regulates industrial emissions in communities like Aamjiwnaang First Nation.

Ada lives on the Aamjiwnaang First Nation reserve, located within Sarnia, just across from the American border. The area, also known as Chemical Valley, is surrounded by a dense cluster of major industrial facilities and more than 40 per cent of Canada’s chemical industry, prompting concerns about how heavy emissions are affecting the health of local residents.

There is no end in sight to how many facilities might be approved for operation in Chemical Valley. That’s because the Ontario government currently regulates air pollution on a facility-by-facility basis, rather than considering the cumulative effects all the facilities in an area will have on the surrounding environment and community health.

Why is Ecojustice involved?

For Ada, this review isn’t an academic exercise. She believes a healthy environment, including air that is safe to breathe, is a basic human right. So do we.

Ecojustice has worked with Ada for many years to make sure the Ontario government takes action to improve the way it regulates pollution. We believe that having to wait eight years for the government to complete its review is both unreasonable and unlawful.

Two separate Environmental Commissioners, who act as independent environmental watchdogs in Ontario, have recognized that the Ministry’s delay in completing its review is unreasonable. Every day, people in Sarnia, Ontario and on Aamjiwnaang First Nation breathe in polluted air. Every day the government delays reviewing its regulatory process, is another day that Ontarians are living under outdated environmental regulations and exposed to harmful levels of air pollution.

What would a win mean?

A successful outcome in this case would be a court ruling confirming that the Ontario government’s eight-year delay was unlawful, and that it must conduct reviews requested under the Ontario Environmental Bill of Rights in a timely manner.