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Ontario’s environmental watchdog keeps an eye on Sarnia

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Troy Shantz

The Aamjiwnaang First Nation is home to the only kindergarten in Canada with a display flag that notifies students and families when the air is safe to breathe, says Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner.

“This is one example of a historical, shameful problem and it’s high time for us to fix it,” Dianne Saxe said.

As Ontario’s environmental watchdog, Saxe wrote extensively about Sarnia in her annual report one year ago. She accused the provincial government of turning a blind eye for too long to pollution problems at Aamjiwnaang and other Indigenous communities.

Dianne Saxe is the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario.
Submitted Photo

“It was very discouraging to see that the province let four decades go by without updating sulphur dioxide regulations,” she told The Journal.

“In the meantime, there was no adequate monitoring and no health study for the people in Aamjiwnaang.”

Saxe is coming to Sarnia on Oct. 3 to join the next Green Drinks roundtable discussion. She wants to continue the conversation about the “disproportionate pollution” faced by Indigenous communities in the province and discuss the state of climate change.

Sarnia and Aamjiwnaang have a unique relationship with local industry, with a concentration of petrochemical plants that’s “unparalleled” anywhere in Ontario.

Saxe acknowledged the long tradition of industry and it high-earning workers providing the backbone of the local economy.

“What we know is, increasingly, businesses don’t have to choose between clean air for their workers and their neighbours, and have jobs,” she said.

“There is the technology to do both.”


Saxe said she’s encouraged to see a plant-based bio-industry taking root in Sarnia and an extensive investment by Nova and others in cleaner technology.

“There is investment going on in Sarnia to provide cleaner workplaces, safer for the workers and safer for the neighbours,” she said.

“And that’s the kind of improvement we all want to see.”

Saxe will also discuss key points in the commission’s new climate change report.



WHAT: Green Drinks Sarnia: Meet Ontario Environmental Commissioner Dianne Saxe

WHEN: Wednesday, Oct. 3, 7 p.m.

WHERE: 100 Christina St. N., Sarnia

INFO: Free to attend



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