Michipicoten First Nation Youth were supported by members and elders in their demonstration held yesterday during the lunch hour on Highway 17, just south of the Wawa Goose Monument.
Vehicles who stopped were offered a phamplet, and many tooted their horns in support.
This peaceful event was inspired by the Water Protectors at Standing Rock, “In honor of our future generations, we fight this pipeline to protect our water, our sacred places, and all living beings.”; and the protection of water everywhere.
The struggle for clean water is everywhere, and here in Northern Ontario there are serious instances of pollution. From the presence of microbeads in Lake Superior, more seriously Grassy Narrows First Nation has been battling the effects of mercury dumping and the poisoning of the Wabigoon River for many years. In Gogama, the community is currently fighting for cleanup of the Makami River from the CN derailment of oil-carrying tanker cars of March 2015. There was also a second derailment of oil-carrying tanker cars three weeks earlier, just 14 kilometres away.
Just this morning, news broke that The Wildlands League (a chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society) claims that De Beers has failed to consistently report the levels of methylmercury in the creeks surrounding the Victor Diamond Mine, located 90 kilometres west of Attawapiskat First Nation. They allege the company has neglected to properly report on mercury levels from five of nine surface water monitoring stations from 2009 to 2016, which is a violation of the mine’s condition to operate, and that these are offences under the Ontario Water Resources Act. The mine doesn’t actually deposit methylmercury into the land or water, but the mining activity does stimulate the conversion of mercury — already present in the ecosystem as a consequence of coal-fired plant pollution — into methylmercury; and these levels must be monitored.
The protection of water is not just a concern for First Nations peoples but should be a concern for all. One can live longer without food perhaps three weeks, but only days without water.
Emerson Reil from Michipicoten First Nation will be travelling to Standing Rock, and he will be carrying with him the MFN Flag signed by all the youth. A prayer was held, with all holding hands in a circle at the conclusion of the demonstration – thanking all for participating, especially the youth. Their participation gladdened the hearts of the elders.