Windsor, ON skyline, with the Detroit River in the foreground

Windsor, Ontario is located on the Detroit River, less than three miles from Detroit, Michigan. The Detroit River is classified as a “Great Lakes Area of Concern” by both the EPA and Environment Canada, due to high levels of pollution which harm the integrity of the ecosystem.

Not adequately addressed by these agencies, however, are the human health impacts associated with such heavy industrial pollution.  As stated in the abstract of a 2001 article,  “the rates of mortality, morbidity as hospitalizations, and congenital anomalies in the Windsor Area of Concern ranked among the highest of the 17 Areas of Concern on the Canadian side of the Great Lakes” (Gilbertson & Brophy: 827).

Windsor’s position on the U.S. border has created a complex situation in which it is even more difficult than usual to determine sources of pollution and causal effects on health.  In 2008, environmental lawyer and activist Robert Kennedy Jr, while speaking at Windsor’s Rotary Peace Summit, stated that U.S. industries have made Windsor “the most polluted city in North America” (Winsdor Star, 2008).  According to Kennedy, the city — which shares an airshed with Detroit — reports some of the highest cancer rates and respiratory illness rates in Canada. Furthermore, Windsor is the site of the most heavily used border crossing between Canada and the U.S., resulting in long lines of diesel trucks waiting to cross the Ambassador Bridge every day, year round. In addition, Windsor has its own well-developed industrial sector that adds considerably to the toxic mix in the local airshed.

Sources of interest:

 Petition regarding issues at the border 

A statement from Health Canada

Given these conditions and circumstances, there are any number of aspects of the general topic “environmental justice issues in Windsor” that one might profitably pursue.  This web site focuses on three such aspects: education (K-12, university, and community), policy, and pollution. These sub-topics were decided upon as way to begin understanding the environmental situation in Windsor, especially as it effects the health and general well-being of workers and residents there.

The following YouTube video, though not necessarily representative of the people of Windsor generally, reflects the sense of place some residents — youth in particular — feel toward their city.  Especially noteworthy in the context of this website are mentions of Windsor’s close proximity to Detroit, Michigan, USA, and the pollution that results from that location in addition to emissions from local industries.

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