Aboriginal Justice: Ontario: Protecting Sacred Water

 

Simcoe County’s “Notice of Project” posted at Dump Site 41 in Tiny Township reads “for the greater good.”  But members of the nearby Beausoleil First Nation, thousands of neighbouring farmers, cottagers, and other non-native citizens (settlers) believe that neither their interests nor the environment is well-served by the County Council’s decision to build a garbage dump right over a pristine aquifer.

 

“They have to stop raping Mother Earth,” said Vicki Monague, one of five Beausoleil First Nation women who have been leading nonviolent direct actions at the dump site since the county began digging in late March.

As traditional Keepers of the Water, the Beausoleil women set up a legal encampment on the Parnell family farm across the road from the dump site on 14 May.  A statement posted at the encampment calls on their neighbours to help protect what is most sacred to them.  “What is most sacred to all life on this planet?  Pure, natural water.”

When the county stepped up work in early July, the Anishinabe women, joined by settlers from the surrounding communities, blockaded the site’s entrances.  CPTers began accompanying the blockaders on 13 July, listening to accounts of the ongoing battle with the Simcoe County Council, sharing stories of nonviolent struggle, and documenting police presence.

Ontario Provincial Police surveillance of the protest increased, and on 16 July, OPP officers warned those blocking the gates to leave immediately or face arrest.

Fear of police action to end the blockade intensified 22 July, when Justice Peter Lauwens granted Simcoe County an interim injunction ordering protestors to move so work could proceed.

However, the Anishinabe women and local citizens insisted they would maintain the blockade until authorities declared a moratorium on dump site development.  “Charges won’t bring down the blockade,” said Monague.

Beginning on 30 July, ten people were arrested over seven days.

That number grew on 17 August when three First Nations people and three settlers, including CPTer David Milne, blocked the gates again in the early morning.

“I knew this day was coming.  I dreamed about it,” said Patricia Watts of Wabigoon First Nation.  “I take it personally to protect the water.  If it means me being arrested, I’ll do it.”

The hard work and determination of the water protectors bore the sweet fruit of victory when the Simcoe County Council, meeting 25 and 26 August, voted 22-10 in favour of a one-year moratorium on work at the site.

Those resisting the dump say they will continue to press for complete cancellation of the project.

“They don’t understand the power of our prayer, of our Grandfathers and Grandmothers,” said Watts.  “We’re not going away, we’re not leaving, we’re not giving up.”

 

Statement by CPTer David Milne

“I took part in healing ceremonies and prayers with Anishinabe elders.  The Anishinabe Kweag (women), as Keepers of the Water, told me their visions about this place.  Elders explained the significance of the lodge, the Sacred Fire and the Grandfathers, and I marveled once again at their appreciation for the whole of Creation and humanity’s humble place in it.  Over the days the mounds of dirt being dug out for the dump grew higher.  I pictured lines of trucks emptying loads of garbage into that hole while under it sat an underwater lake of pure water.  At some point I realized that God was speaking through these people.  I walked across the road and stood in front of the gate.”