Why the 'Idle No More' Movement Is Our Best Chance for Clean Land and Water
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There is some money flowing in, that’s for sure. A 2010 report from DeBeers states that payments to the eight communities associated with its two mines in Canada totalled $5,231,000 that year. Forbes magazine reports that diamond sales by the world’s largest diamond company “increased 33 percent, year-over-year, to $3.5 billion” and that DeBeers “reported record EBITDA of almost $1.2 billion, a 55 percent increase over the first the first half of 2010.”
As the Canadian Mining Watch group notes, “Whatever Attawapiskat’s share of that $5 million is, given the chronic underfunding of the community, the need for expensive responses to deal with recurring crises, including one that DeBeers themselves may have precipitated by overloading the community’s sewage system , it’s not surprising that the community hasn’t been able to translate its … income into improvements in physical infrastructure.” Last year, Attawapiskat drew international attention when many families in the Cree community were living in tents.
Kashechewan’s chief and council are poised to shut down the band office, two schools, the power generation center, the health clinic, and the fire hall because the buildings were not heated and could no longer operate safely. “In addition, some 21 homes had become uninhabitable,” according to Chief Derek Stephen. Those basements had been flooded last spring, as the weather patterns changed. (Just as a side note, in 2007, some 21 Cree youth from Kashechewan attempted to commit suicide, and the Canadian aboriginal youth suicide rate is five times the national average.)The neighboring village of Kashechewan is in similar disarray. They have been boiling and importing water. The village almost had a complete evacuation due to health conditions, and as Alvin Fiddler, Deputy Grand Chief of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, a regional advocacy network, told a reporter, “fuel shortages are becoming more common among remote northern Ontario communities right now.” That’s because the ice road used to truck in a year’s supply of diesel last winter did not last as long as usual. “Everybody is running out now. We’re looking at a two-month gap” until the ice road is solid enough to truck in fresh supplies, Mr. Fiddler said.
Both communities are beneficiaries of an agreement with DeBeers.
The lost boys of Aamjiwnaang
Back at Aamjiwnaang, the Ojibwe have blockaded the tracks. Those are tracks that are full of chemical trains, lots of them. There are some 62 industrial plants in what the Canadian government calls Industrial Valley. The Aamjiwnaang people would like to call it home, but they’ve a few challenges in their house.
There’s a recent Men’s Health magazine article called, “The Lost Boys of Aamjiwnaang.” That’s because the Ojibwe Reserve of Aamjiwnaang has few boys. Put it this way: In a normal society, there are about l05 boys to l00 girls born. That’s the odds for a thousand years or so. However, at Aamjiwnaang, things are different.
Between 1993 and 2003, there had been two girls born for every boy in the tribal community, one of the steepest declines ever recorded in birth gender ratio. As the reporter for Men’s Health notes, “These tribal lands have become a kind of petri dish for industrial pollutants.”
The Idle No More movement is further spurred by what Clayton Thomas Muller, a representative of the movement, calls “the extremist right wing government of Steven Harper,” a government that seems intent on selling the natural wealth of the Canadian (aboriginal) north to the highest bidders in a multinational market. The recent passing of the omnibus budget Bill C-45, which gutted thirty years of environmental legislation, was approved by the Senate in a 50-27 vote.This trend is international, particularly in more industrialized countries , and the odd statistics at Aamjiwnaang are indicative of larger trends. The rail line known as the St. Clair spur, carries Canadian National and CSX trains to several large industries in Sarnia’s Chemical Valley. Usually four or five trains move through each day, all full of chemicals. The Ojibwe have faced a chronic dosage of chemicals for twenty-five years, and are concerned about the health impacts. They are also concerned about proposals to move tar sands oil through their community in a pre-existing pipeline known as Line Nine.