Ron Plain and Ada Lockridge: A Landmark Lawsuit in Sarnia
A landmark lawsuit launched by two members of the Aamjiwnaang First Nation aims to establish that Canadians do have constitutional rights to clean air, clean water, and a healthy environment. That’s the topic of a new Green Interview, just released.
“We are not asking for money. What we’re asking for is cumulative effects be considered in every decision,” says Ron Plain, who along with Ada Lockridge launched a Charter challenge that should finally get its day in court this year.
Plain and Lockridge are members of the Aamjiwnaang First Nation, a native community in the heart of Ontario’s notorious “Chemical Valley” near Sarnia, Ontario. In a newly released Green Interview, Plain and Lockridge speak candidly about their court case and their community. Factories in the area emit more air pollution than the provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, or New Brunswick. With the worst air in Canada, Aamjiwnaang residents suffer from health problems including high levels of cancer, asthma, and miscarried pregnancies. They also have an alarmingly low number of baby boys being born: since the early 1990s, the number of boys born dropped from a normal ratio of roughly half of all births to about one-third. Researchers suspect the change may be caused by exposure to chemicals that have disrupted people’s reproductive systems.
These health problems and the expansion of toxic industries near Aamjiwnaang led Plain and Lockridge to launch a lawsuit arguing the Ontario government is violating their Charter rights to equality and to life, liberty, and security of the person. Aided by the environmental law organization Ecojustice, Plain and Lockridge aim to establish that Canadians have a right to a healthy environment—a right that has never before been a meaningful part of Canadian law.
For Lockridge, this lawsuit is about fundamental rights: “To breathe clean air, to feel safe in our own home, and to be treated equally as anybody else. It’s about future generations: the animals, the food that we eat, everything.”