Originally posted by:
June 19, 2008
In the news today we often hear stories about indigenous communities setting up blockades to protest government policies and to protect their lands, rights, and traditions.
In reading statements issued by the People, we are informed that they’re on the edge of an abyss, expected to remain silent and inactive while corporations, with the governments consent of course, threaten to unhinge and destroy everything they hold sacred. Everything that makes them unique.
The corporations proceed without remorse or regard to the People they impact. In turn, the People say they have no choice but to try and stop it. Indeed they don’t, because their inaction would mean accepting a death brought on cowards who sleep a little too well at night.
Accordingly, half way through 2008 now, there have been more than 5 dozen protests, roadblocks and lawsuits headed by indigenous Peoples. That number will continue to rise as long as the federal and provincial governments of Canada refuse to uphold their legal mandate by engaging in meaningful consultations with Indigenous People – and in so doing, respecting their right to say no, and their right to live in peace with their cultures, lands and traditions intact.
Indigenous Land: Canada’s Toxic Storehouse
Lurking behind these efforts, so far away you can barely see it, there is a massive health crisis in Canada.
According to a Treasury Board of Canada Inventory on contaminated sites, there are 4,464 toxic sites within the treaty territories of Indigenous People in Canada. That’s roughly 1.5 sites for all of Canada’s 2,720 Reserves — though in reality, some reserves have upwards of a dozen sites, where others have none. Here’s the link to the inventory and directions on how to navigate.
By the looks of things, Canada is doing very little to clean these sites, and there’s next to no one reporting that fact. Equally so, there are few studies or investigations being performed and even fewer resources available to ensure the safety and well being of those effected by the toxins.
There are, however, a small handful of legal efforts aimed at those responsible for the sites, directly or indirectly. For example: the Beaver Lake Cree, the Woodland Cree and the Chipewyan Prairie Dene First Nation are all suing Alberta because of the impact oilsands development is having on their treaty rights, their lands and their health.
Several communities have issued moratoriums on industrial activity for the same reasons. Examples include the People of Kitchenuhumaykoosib Inninuwug, Grassy Narrows, Takla Lake, Serpent River, as well as the Dehcho, Chipewyan, and Tahltan.
There are also a few – but only a few – community efforts that monitor the levels of toxins they are being forcefully exposed to. Currently, the Aamjiwnaang Bucket Brigade is the only example I can find.
Where are these toxins coming from?
Noting the fact that there are a number of toxic sites not mentioned in the Treasury Board Inventory (see below), are you wondering where all these toxic sites are coming from?
What you see here is a snapshot of a google map created by the National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI) – Canada’s legislated, nation-wide inventory of pollutants released, disposed of and recycled by industrial facilities.
The map lists over 8,600 facilities in Canada, who together released, etc. over 300 different substances in 2006.
Here’s the same map with an overlay of all Indigenous communities in Canada:
To get any closer you’ll have to download the following two overlays, then import them into Google Earth. (If you can’t use Google Earth but need to see a larger version of either map, let me know and I’ll make one for you.)
- NPRI Facilities. In viewing this map, please remember that it’s two years old. It therefor under-represents the current number of facilities in Canada, especially those pertaining to oil and mining.
- Indigenous Communities. This map was created by Canada’s Department of Indian Affairs, so it only includes communities “recognized” by Canada. The Lubicon Cree for instance, are not listed on the map.
Toxic sites not included in the Database
As noted above, there are several toxic sites that Canada failed to mention in the database. These sites include:
Primary mining sites such as tailings ponds, landfills, slurry injection sites, and so on.
Radar line sites: There were/are at least 100 military Radar line sites throughout the Subarctic, as referenced in “An Aboriginal Perspective on the Remediation of Mid-Canada Radar Line Sites in the Subarctic: A Partnership Evaluation”
Finally, for the sake of mentioning it, there’s one last set of sites not mentioned in the database, but perhaps that’s a good thing. According to a 2005 Report by the Assembly of First Nations (pdf), all of Canada’s 22 nuclear reactors are situated on Indigenous Treaty Lands. The Nuclear waste is stored on-site.
Stay tuned for Part 2, “Surviving Canada’s Toxic Legacy.”
- Appalling living conditions a form of passive ethnic cleansing
- Study probes First Nations risks from seafood toxins
- Oil Spill in Attawapiskat community still not cleaned up – children threatened.
- Contaminants poison reserves
- The toxic effect on Indigenous living in Chemical Valley
- Water ’source of fear’ for native communities, report says (also see the Report “Boiling Point” by the Polaris Institute, which profiles six communities facing water crises)
- Mercury threat rising in Ontario
- Fort Mackay: Effects of the Tar Sands
- Environmental pollution and diabetes may be linked (it is estimated that 27% of Indigenous People in Canada will have Type 2 diabetes within the next 20 years.
- Coalbed Methane Threatens Skeena Watershed