Sarnia has never been known as a hotbed of environmentalism but a dedicated group of individuals at the Aamjiwnaang First Nation is changing all that.
A three-day symposium later this month headlined by a slate of heavy-hitter scientists is the latest success from the band's environment and health committee.
The topic is pollution and its impact on human health. Aamjiwnaang, the world has learned from international news services, is located near a complex of industrial operations that researchers believe might be connected in some way to a skewed birth ratio among reserve children.
Another study initiated by the band in collaboration with the Occupational Health Clinic for Ontario Workers is looking at rates of asthma, developmental problems, cancers and miscarriages.
For some reason, many non-native residents seem to regard this as an issue specific to the reserve.
It is not. Within 35 kilometres of downtown Sarnia there are 46 refineries and chemical manufacturing plants on the Canadian side of the St. Clair River, and 16 more industrial facilities on the U.S. side.
Air and water pollution heeds no cultural, municipal, or even international boundaries. We're all in this together.
The symposium at the Holiday Inn from March 25-27 is bringing together scientists, environmental advocates and community activists.
"We want to discuss the evidence that's already out there and talk about environmental justice and social change," said Aamjiwnaang environmental officer Sharilyn Johnston.
Those in attendance will hear the latest research and share ideas about community empowerment. A distinguished speaker list, including former Manitoba premier Howard Pauley, is drawing national media attention.
This is an impressive forum on an important topic. Kudos to Aamjiwnaang organizers for pulling it off.