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Report / Climate Action

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.

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