By CATHY DOBSON
Concern about pollution and its impact on local health has
prompted the Aamjiwnaang First Nation to enlist the help of
world-renowned scientists for an upcoming symposium.
“The studies so far have just raised more questions,” said Ada
Lockridge, chairperson of the Aamjiwnaang’s environment and health
“We have a lot of questions we want answered and we want to find out what we can do to protect our community.”
The impact of industrial toxins is not limited to the First Nation reserve adjacent to Chemical Valley, Lockridge added.
“What about south Sarnia, Corunna, or Froomfield? People there
are having the same experience and we think they’ll want to hear from
these scientists too.”
Researchers who have studied the imbalance in gender ratios on
the reserve will be among the speakers at a three-day symposium
starting March 25.
Health Canada is helping to fund the event, which has attracted
registrants from across North America. A webcast is planned to let
people all over the world hear what the experts say, said Sharilyn
Johnston, Aamjiwnaang’s environmental officer.
“We want to discuss the evidence that’s already out there and talk about environmental justice and social change.
do we move forward to protect our community? The information is
alarming and we need to know what to do with it,” Johnston said.
When the symposium wraps up March 27 organizers hope to have an action plan, she said.
Representatives from the federal and provincial government,
environmental groups such as WATCH, Friends of the St. Clair and
Ecojustice, and local politicians and national media are registered.
Howard Pauley, a former premier of Manitoba, will speak about environmental health and how his province took action.
“I think we’ll draw a lot of attention with all these well-known scientists coming to speak,” Johnston said.
A controversial report this week from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had added fuel to the fire.
That federal report was written at the request of the
International Joint Commission, which represents both Canada and the
U.S. In it, the center warns that more than nine million people living
in 26 “areas of concern” may face elevated health risks from exposure
to dioxin, PCBs, pesticides, lead, mercury and other hazardous
Lockridge and Johnston said the community wants action.
“Industry can do better. It can spend money to fix this stuff, put in scrubbers, repair flanges and valves.
“And the Ministry of the Environment can be far more proactive,”
Lockridge said. “We need to know if we’re getting sick by playing in
our rivers, our creeks, breathing the smells in the air and eating the
“We need to be heard.”
Panelists appearing at the symposium include:
Dr. Theo Colborn, University of Florida, an environmental
health analyst known for her studies on endocrine disruption chemicals;
Dr. Pete Myers, doctor of internal medicine from Canton Michigan who has studied sex ratio data;
Dr. Devra Davis, author of the Secret History of the War on
Cancer and head of the Center for Environmental Oncology in Pittsburgh;
Dr. Ted Schettler, Boston Medical Center, who studies risks to reproductive health;
Dr. Shanna Swan, epidemiologist from the University of Rochester’s School of Medicine; and
Dr. Michael Gilbertson, Canadian biologist who has written extensively about toxins in the Great Lakes.The event takes place at the Holiday Inn in Point Edward. For more information or to register, call 519-332-6770