UPDATED: Aamjiwnaang closes River Road in fight against COVID-19

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Barricades are set up on River Road.

Alex Kurial/Local Journalism Initiative

The Aamjiwnaang First Nation is closing part of the St. Clair Parkway in an effort to reduce traffic in the community and slow the spread of COVID-19.

Aamjiwnaang Band Council ordered the closure of St. Clair Parkway with the exception of local residents and emergency services only until further notice. The road will be closed from Marlborough Avenue to the Suncor gate. All traffic will be diverted to Highway 40.

River Road is a county road, Sarnia and Lambton County agreed to the road closure. The presence of several businesses along the road factored in, as these locations are at higher risk for transfer of the virus. 

Sarnia Police says worker access to plants and facilities along the road will not be restricted, including Suncor’s Sarnia Refinery.

While they are not physically manning the stations, Sarnia Police said that they will be the ones contacted if the closure is not adhered to. 

“If something were to escalate where people were causing issues and not abiding by their request, [Aamjiwnaang] would contact the Sarnia Police for assistance or enforcement,” says Cst. John Sottosanti, media officer with the Sarnia Police. 

St. Clair Mayor Steve Arnold, whose residents use the road as a main artery to and from Sarnia, says there will be an impact, but important services will remain unaffected.

“Of course we’re impacted anytime you close off a main road like that,” says Arnold. “I’ve had a number of people who have called me about it.”

“They said [Aamjiwnaang] that they would make sure any emergency vehicles that had to get through would have the right of way and go wherever they need to be, whether it’s a fire truck or ambulance or police,” says Arnold. “I distributed that out to council and senior staff, and nobody had any major issues with it as long as the emergency vehicles were able to go.”

Arnold credited Aamjiwnaang First Nations Chief Chris Plain for contacting him in advance of the decision. “Chief Plain sent a note to myself and the city and a few other folks and let us know what was going on. So it wasn’t something that was a major surprise, and we could send that off to our public works folks and the emergency services.”

Arnold noted that the Lasalle Line remains fully open, a main truck route for the St. Clair area.

Waterfront access will also be limited to Aamjiwnaang citizens until further notice.

The local government has also ordered all construction within the community stopped until further notice.