On March 10 Vanessa Gray an organizer with Aamjiwnaang and Sarnia Against Pipelines was a keynote speaker at OPIRGs AGM held at the Gathering Space of the Trent University. She talked about elevated levels of poverty, environmental hazards, and disenfranchisement of the members of her community. Her ongoing campaign strives to raise awareness about the Indigenous perspective on energy in Canada and rethinking extraction of resources in ways that take into account the wellbeing of people and ecosystems. What we can do is to try and protect our health, our lives and our families and try and document the harm that is done to us”, Gray said adding that what needs to happen in the future is to dismantle each and every one of the refineries that operate within the radius of the lands traditionally inhabited by her community.
The contamination of the land, air, and water of Aamjiwnaang has a severe and negative impact on the health and way of life of community members as well as local habitat. Vanessa provided statistics about how community suffers abnormally high levels of asthma and rare cancers attributed in large part to the environmental hazards emanating from the nearby oil refineries. Chemical Valley companies, such as Suncor Energy, Shell Canada and Imperial Oil, are within walking distance from Aamjiwnaang’s homes Vanessa Gray blamed the Canadian government for the many deaths in her community due to cancer and the toxins.
Line 9 originally built in 1975 to carry natural gas; recently, this pipeline has been repurposed to carry corrosive, toxic, diluted bitumen from the tar sands, across Ontario passes within 50km of 18 different First Nation communities and impacts the watersheds of several more. The pipeline begins in Sarnia, near Vanessa’s community of Aamjiwnaang. This region is also called Canada’s Chemical Valley. It is called Chemical Valley due to having the highest concentration of petrochemical plants in Canada.