Onkwehonwe Week in Review – Week of September 9, 2015

By Danielle Boissoneau

Canada’s Chemical Valley Toxic Tour

Over the Labour Day weekend this year, Aamjiwnaang and Sarnia Against Pipelines (ASAP) kicked off the annual Toxic Tour through Chemical Valley.  Canada’s Chemical Valley produces 40% of Canada’s petro-chemical industry.  60+ industrial facilities surround the community of Aamjiwnanng and have had disastrous effects on the animal, waters and people.

The Toxic Tour walked alongside 11 kilometers of industrial plants, above ground pipelines and smokestacks spewing Benzene into the air.  Over 450 participants attended with buses coming in from cities like Toronto, Hamilton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Montreal and London.

The organizers stated that the goal of the Toxic Tour is to continue to shed light on the destruction caused by the tar sands, pipelines and industrial chemical facilities.  Enbridge’s Line 9 originates beside Aamjiwnaang, passes through the Haldimand Tract and crosses the Grand River near Cambridge, Ontario.


Cottagers Remove Wild Rice from Pigeon Lake

Pigeon Lake, near Lindsay, Ontario is part of a larger group of lakes known as the Kawartha Lakes.  The area is traditional Anishnaabek territory.  Pigeon Lake grows wild rice (manoomin) which is a food staple for the Anishnaabek peoples. Controversy has arisen over the decision to remove the plants. Contractors were hired by the cottagers after seeking permission from Parks Canada.

Curve Lake First Nation Chief Phyllis Williams decries the decision to remove the ancestral food source.  The Williams Treaty of 1923 ensures that Anishnaabek rights are constitutionally protected.  Duty to consult was never undertaken in the process of removing the wild rice.  Chief Williams continues to explain, “the Anishnaabe rely on this traditional food source for sustenance, social and ceremonial purposes.”


TransCanada Workers Evicted from Unist’ot’en  Territory

The Unist’ot’en (Yinka Dini – People of the Earth) are re-occupying their traditional territories in Northern British Columbia.  They have built pithouses and permaculture gardens in the pathway of proposed pipelines by Enbridge and Pacific Trails (Chevron).  Proper consultation has not taken place.  Unist’ot’en spokesperson Freda Huson insists that the Unist’ot’en Camp is not a protest or a blockade, rather it is an assertion of jurisdiction over the land.

On September 5, 2015, TransCanada Coastal Gaslinks workers were evicted from the territory after attempting to complete some work. The RCMP have also been attempting to exercise their colonial authority over the sovereign Unist’ot’en clan of the Wet’suwet’en nation.  Chiefs from all five Wet’suwet’en clans are in support of Unist’ot’en.  All are opposed to pipelines.

In 1997, the Supreme Court of Canada, through the Delgamuukw case, confirmed that Aboriginal title does exist, that it is a right to the land itself. The Unist’ot’en will not give consent for industry to access their territory citing the need to protect the land and water for the future generations.


Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Encourages Voting; Doesn’t Vote Himself

Perry Bellegarde, Chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) encourages Aboriginal peoples to vote in the upcoming election pointing out the fact that 51 ridings in Canada have been identified as potential “swing ridings.”  According to votetogether.ca, a swing riding is,”a riding where the result was close previously, and there’s a reasonable chance it could be different this time.”  Bellegarde insists with the numbers of Aboriginal voters, we are capable of “closing the gap” in the standards of living between the average Canadian and First Nations peoples.

When asked if he voted, Chief Bellegarde sheepishly admitted that he did not vote.  He referred to ancestral nation to nation agreements as a reason for that decision.  Bellegarde claims to be “non-partisan” and refuses to endorse any party.  The Assembly of First Nations received $450 000 from Elections Canada to encourage First Nations to vote.


Anishnaabe Immersion School Opens in Kenora

This year, a new immersion school for Anishnaabe students from kindergarten to grade two will be opening in Kenora, Ontario.  The school is an initiative of the Bimose Tribal Council.  They hope to teach fluency through immersion, with a new grade added each year.  The school will not only be teaching fluency in language but also the Anishnaabe culture and traditions.

Lorena Fontaine is an assistant professor at the University of Winnipeg and she says that “guaranteeing a right to education in a First Nations language would be part of the reconciliation process [with Canada].”  Loss of language, culture and traditions has been cited by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as one of the core components of cultural genocide.  Section 35 of the Constitution entrenches the right of Indigenous peoples to keep cultural ties, like language, alive.

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