Aamjiwnaang First Nation (“Chemical Valley”)

Author: Acacia Markov
Editor: Christina Di Carlo
Fact Checked: Jordan Kilgour

“Chemical Valley” refers to the region located at the southernmost tip of Lake Huron on the border of Ontario and Michigan, encompassing Sarnia and the Aamjiwnaang First Nation (1). Approximately 40% of Canada’s chemical industry is located within 25 kilometers of this area, housing 62 industrial facilities leading to it being considered one of the most polluted regions in what is currently Canada (1). Importantly, nearly half of these facilities are within 5 kilometers of the Aamjiwnaang First Nation (1); a community of approximately 2400 Chippewa (Ojibwe) Indigenous peoples (2). The Aamjiwnaang First Nation is exposed to disproportionately high levels of pollution, with significant evidence of health impacts in the community daily. In 2005 alone, 5.7-million kg of “Toxic Air Pollutants'' were released in Chemical Valley, including substances tied to cancer, reproductive issues, and developmental disorders (1). A 2005 study of live births between 1984-2003 in the Aamjiwnaang First Nation reported a significant decrease in the number of boys born compared to girls (3). An Aamjiwnaang Body Mapping and Health Survey of 411 people in 2004-2005 found that 39% of women in the community have experienced a miscarrage (1). The same study found that respiratory issues are also prevalent, where 40% of band members require an inhaler and the childhood asthma rate is 14% higher than in surrounding Lambton County (1). A 2007 community survey indicated that Chemical Valley has a significant impact on cultural life for the Aamjiwnaang First Nation, with hunting, fishing, medicine gathering, and ceremonial activities negatively affected by dangerous air and water quality (1, 4). The Aamjiwnaang First Nation founded an environmental committee in 2002 that has pushed for action to address the environmental injustices imparted on their community (5). The Sarnia Area Environmental Health Project was launched 18 years later in 2020, with findings expected for 2021-22 (6).

References
  1. Macdonald E, Rang S. Exposing Canada’s Chemical Valley: An Investigation of Cumulative Air Pollution Emissions in the Sarnia, Ontario Area [Internet]. Toronto: Ecojustice; 2007 [cited 2021 May 18]. 32 p. Available from: https://www.ecojustice.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/2007-Exposing-Canadas-Chemial-Valley.pdf

  2. Aamjiwnaang [Internet]. Sarnia. About Us [cited 2021 May 20]; [less than 1 screen]. Available from: https://www.aamjiwnaang.ca/about-us/

  3. Mackenzie C, Lockridge A, Keith M. Declining Sex Ratio in a First Nation Community. Environ Health Perspect [Internet]. 2005 Oct [cited 2021 May 18]; 113(10):1295-1298. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1281269/

  4. Luginaah I, Smith K, Lockridge A. Surrounded by Chemical Valley and ‘living in a bubble’: the case of the Aamjiwnaang First Nation, Ontario. J Environ Plan Manag [Internet]. 2010 Spring [cited 2021 May 20];53(3):353-370. Available from: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09640561003613104

  5. McGuire P. I Left My Lungs in Aamjiwnaang. Vice [Internet]. 2013 Aug 7 [cited 2021 May 20]; News. Available from: https://www.vice.com/en/article/7b7z7g/i-left-my-lungs-in-aamjiwnaang-000300-v20n8

  6. Graf C. New study in Aamjiwnaang finds residents may face higher health risks caused by toxic substance in air [Internet]. 2020 Jan 13 [cited 2021 May 20]; Anishnabek, Health, News: [about 2 screens]. Available from: https://anishinabeknews.ca/2020/01/13/new-study-in-aamjiwnaang-finds-residents-may-face-higher-health-risks-caused-by-toxic-substance-in-air/


Additional Resource


  1. The official website of the Aamjiwnaang First Nation: https://www.aamjiwnaang.ca