The Law of Mother Earth

by Gary Farmer

Bolivia passes “Law of Mother Earth” which gives rights to our planet as a living system. The Law of Mother Earth (“Ley de Derechos de La Madre Tierra”) holds the land as sacred and holds it as a living system with rights to be protected from exploitation.

This action in Bolivia started back in 2010. It startles the mind why this is not a popular stance among nations around the world. You’d think people would start to realize you can’t eat your money.

Personally, I feel strongly about our own Grand River from its mouth to its source. The majestic waterway runs through our community and represents our original agreement; the Haldimand Deed. Six miles either side of the Grand River was our original offer for siding with the Canadians, a.k.a the British in the Revolutionary War and War of 1812 in the formulation of this country.

When you think of our Grand River, I think how polluted it’s become. I used to swim and fish in that river. My great grandfather, James Green lived on the Grand River and have wonderful memories of there small farm as a child. The orchard, the three sisters garden, the tomatoes, watermelon, rhubarb and berries of all kinds were plentiful. I can still smell my grandmother’s hot apple pie cooked in a wood stove wafting on their hillside home overlooking our Grand River valley. It was paradise in the late ‘50s.

Checking on the internet I found our Grand River has recent infractions of industrial pollution.  Here’s the scenario at the heart of Enbridge Pipeline Ltd.’s spill.

A contractor working on a section of an Enbridge pipeline in North Dumfries, within 100 metres of the Grand River, accidentally damages it without knowing and leaves; during the night the damage turns into a leak. By early morning 4,400 barrels of foreign sour crude oil have spilled into our Grand River; At 6 a.m., someone calls to report an oil odour coming from the Grand. The pipeline is shut off and the incident is reported immediately to the Ministry of the Environment’s Spills Action Centre.

And does anybody trust the Ministry of Enviroment? My experience with the Ministry of Environment is that it’s fine to drop chlorine gas and sulfuric acid into Lake Superior no questions asked. So how can we trust this government or any other government to protect us from pollution?

In another bit of research, scientists from the Faculty of Science and Environment Canada found the equivalent of 81,850 to 188,650 cans of diet soda pass through the Grand River to Lake Erie every day. Surprisingly, maximum concentrations of sucralose, cyclamate and saccharin in the Grand River were found to be the highest reported worldwide to date.

It’s dumbfounding when you think the Grand River is 300 kilometres long, how much land the original Haldimand Deed encompassed and to think we only have approximately 22,000 square acres remaining that we live on. That’s less than 10 per cent of the original tract.

For a few years I’ve been thinking, some of my fondest memories at home on the rez in recent times where when the community was meeting on a regular basis during the Caledonia debacle.   We really felt more like a community than I ever remember. I had this wonderful thought that maybe we should protect the rights of our river. Like the Bolivians. Make it law in our own legislative and/or confederacy processes. Maybe we should create a force of unarmed people to protect our river and defend it’s right to live for our future generations of children yet to be born.

We may have lost our control over most of the 300 kilometres of the Grand River, but that does not mean we should not be actively trying to heal our entire 300 kilometres river; by being active both politically and environmentally. Active in measuring and documenting by observation all along that original Haldimand Deed tract. It was ours to begin with and we shared our wealth but now we have to take matters into our own hands peacefully and begin the work necessary to bring attention to our primary water source.

We may have come up with a quick solution to cleaning our water with our new filtration plant and the laying of fresh pipe all this month long but our long term health must be approached with the due diligence of a crafty lawyer.

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