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Data Colonialism in Canada's Chemical Valley: Aamjiwnaang First Nation and the Failure of the Pollution Notification System

This report is about the relationship between the petrochemical industry in Ontario’s Chemical Valley and Aamjiwnaang First Nation. Central to this relationship is pollution: the spills, flares, air releases and how those events are communicated to the community. 

Communication about pollutants is regulated by provincial and federal governments, which actually provide limited oversight, allowing Shell, ExxonMobil, and other petrochemical polluters to form their own industry associations that determine what information is provided to the community and when. 

A notification system to alert those in the Valley to any spills, releases, or accidents has been designed by the industry associations to obscure the environmental violence they are responsible for. Since 2004, community members affected by this violence — those from Aamjiwnaang First Nation — have collected data on the notifications that reveals how companies purposefully try to hide their harmful activities and bad faith practices.

Aamjiwnaang First Nation is most directly affected by the infrastructure of colonial entitlement that allows government and industry to pollute in Chemical Valley, but data misinformation is a global project headed by some of the biggest multinational oil companies in the world. While better data will not end pollution, fossil fuel capitalism, or colonialism, environmental evidence and community expertise can be used to imagine better ways to collect, manage, and govern pollution data.

This Special Report describes the permission-to-pollute system in Chemical Valley, explains how industry manipulates data, and looks to community members of Aamjiwnaang First Nation for alternatives to data colonialism. 

This report is a collaboration between Yellowhead Institute and the Technoscience Research Unit at the University of Toronto. 


How can Indigenous environmental data justice practices help protect communities from the bad faith misinformation practices of the petrochemical industry?

Why do the provincial and federal governments allow multinational corporations to decide how to share pollution information with First Nations? 


Education Resource

Pollution Notification Map

The Technoscience Research Unit at the University of Toronto created an interactive map and graphics that offer insight into the density of pollution events in Aamjiwnaang. The map visualizes notifications from 2013 until the 2023 publication of this report. The data can be filtered by incident type, season, and company responsible.


FAQs about the Pollution Notification Map and Data

This factsheet offers important contextual and explanatory information about notifications, pollution incidents, the map data.



This factsheet outlines three categories of recommendations: Harm-Reducing Recommendations for Industry; Recommendations for the Federal and Provincial Governments, and Recommendations for the Bluewater Association for Safety, Environment, and Sustainability (BASES)

“When you stand anywhere in Chemical Valley, the intensity of pollution and industrial activities is immediately evident. You can see the plumes of smoke in the sky, the bright flares on top of the stacks, the pipelines crisscrossing the land, the railways cutting across the roads, and the hundreds of rusty unlabeled tanks. Sometimes, you can smell something in the air, feel a sensation on the skin, experience disrupted breathing, or have a mysterious headache interrupt your day..."


Vanessa Gray

Anishinaabe kwe, Aamjiwnaang First Nation


Beze Gray

Anishinaabe, Aamjiwnaang First Nation


M. Fernanda Yanchapaxi

Kichwa / Mestiza


Dr. Kristen Bos



Dr. M. Murphy

Red River Métis


Mo Thunder Bedard

Haudenosaunee / Anishinaabe, Aamjiwnaang First Nation