41 How Current and Proposed Environmental Governance Structures Can Contribute to Environmental Sustainability and Justice in Chemical Valley

Justina H.K. Mang


As the most polluted region in Canada, Chemical Valley’s history is riddled with centuries-old imposing, yet formative, decisions involving controversial land sales and surrenders of First Nations land. The process of colonization and nation-building has laid the foundation for industry to encroach on Aamjiwnaang First Nation (AFN) traditional lands, and continues to have devastating impacts on inhabitants’ quality of life and on the environment. Despite being a wealthy, liberal, progressive, and environmentally conscious nation, Canada does not currently recognize in law the right to a healthy and ecologically-balanced environment. While the Supreme Court of Canada’s Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act (GGPPA) ruling has legitimized the newly-established regulatory framework for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, through the Output-Based Pricing System (OBPS), to address adverse climate change outcomes impacting the nation, GHGs are but one of several types of pollutants that cumulatively threaten the health, lives, and culture of the AFN living in Chemical Valley. Though the effects of criteria air contaminants and toxic pollutants on human health and the environment are not regulated with the same type of scrutiny as GHGs, strong arguments and evidence indicate that perhaps they should constitute an equivalent matter of national concern and scope. The GGPPA ruling (and the governance structure that embeds it), together with incorporating a right to a healthy environment in law, have the ability to address key governance gaps underpinning environmental injustice and environmental unsustainability, and thereby can make meaningful progress for the AFN and other such populations impacted by intense industrial emissions. With the recent ruling and the long-awaited proposed amendments to Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) with Bill C-28, the opportunity to capitalize on finally translating important environmental justice and sustainability dimensions, indicators, and concepts into environmental governance regulatory mechanisms, is unprecedented.