Stop Aerial Spraying

Stop Aerial Spraying
Posted on October 18, 2015 | George Knibbs | Written on October 18, 2015
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Author's Note:

Author's Note:

Living and working in the north is what I do.  While covering TEK elder demonstrations against aerial spraying, I realized what a serious threat this type of activity is as to harming all life.  I support their efforts to place a ban on using glyphosate in our forests.

TEK elders group continuing fight to ban aerial spraying

With unflinching determination, Elders Raymond Owl of Sagamok Anishniwabek First Nation and Willie Pine of Mississaugi First Nation continue to shout out their call to Health Canada to put a stop to aerial spraying of northern forests.

Acting as point men for the “Traditional Ecological Knowledge” (TEK) group of  First Nation Elders,  Pine and Owl  formed an alliance with the Sudbury environmental group  "Stop Aerial Herbicide Spraying On The Sudbury Forest" on August 28 when both groups spent two hours working together at Mississaugi First Nation handing out information pamphlets to passing motorists on the Trans Canada Highway all in an effort to inform the public of the dangers of aerial spraying.

Melanie LaQuerre and Gerry Kingsley, two Sudbury members of the environmental group began working with the elders to educate the public on the dangers of aerial spraying after receiving a call from Jayson Stewart of Massey. Stewart, a high school teacher in Espanola, as well as the Director of the upcoming movie “Rezilience” has been active in environmental issues for years. On Stewart's suggestion, the two groups formed an alliance with a common goal to stop aerial spraying.

At present, Health Canada's mandatory ten year re-evaluation is underway on the safety of Gylphosate,  a herbicide used in aerial spraying and classified by an agency of the World Health Organization as probably a carcinogenic to humans.

Earlier this year in June, a position paper stating the elders concerns along with a petition to stop the use of aerial spraying was given to Health Canada by TEK with assistance from MP Carol Hughes. Neither TEK nor Hughes has had a response from the agency.

MP Carol Hughes as well as other concerned citizens joined the two groups in asking travellers along the highway to support a ban on the use of all herbicides. Hundreds of vehicles slowed to take a pamphlet from the demonstrators.

Health Canada is insistent that scientific evidence must be submitted by any concerned parties for consideration when doing the re-evaluation. The elders are insisting their traditional ecological knowledge should be considered scientific evidence. A request by the Elders for a meeting in traditional territory to give oral testimonies was given to Health Canada in June of this year by MP Carol Hughes. As of this date neither the TEK group nor Hughes has had a reply.

In addition to the meeting request, and a legitimate claim of scientific knowledge based on traditional ecology, TEK claims treaty rights recognized and affirmed in section 35 (1) of the Constitution Act of 1982 giving First Nations the rights to water and to hunt, fish and gather berries and plant medicines in traditional territories are being violated. Elders assert the use of aerial spraying of Glyphosate and the damage it causes to plants, water, and animals not only infringes on these rights but is a clear violation of the constitution.

In the past, when re-evaluating the safety of a chemical, Health Canada has relied to a great extent on scientific evidence. According to a representative from the agency, there is much weight put on findings of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and scientific studies. The Sierra Club cites several studies indicating exposure to Glyphosate can include destruction to red blood cells, lung dysfunction, low blood pressure, kidney damage, erosion of the gastrointestinal tract, dizziness, fever and nausea to name a few.

At the demonstration  Ontario Chief Glen Hare spoke to demonstrators telling them it “was all of our responsibilities” to try to stop the aerial spraying. “We are the keepers here and we must work together to protect the water, medicinal plants and wildlife. Without them we're done,” he said. Hare told those attending all but two of the First Nations in Ontario are behind the elders in their cause to stop aerial spraying. According to Hare “Lake Helen First Nation and Pic Morbert First Nation are not in support,” and that is their right to go their way in what they feel is the best interest of their community. At a recent summit of Chiefs a resolution was carried to support TEK's goal.

With the hope of making the banning of aerial spraying a political issue, concerned citizens are anxious to get all their candidate's stand on this very important issue. The province of Quebec as well as many countries have banned the use of Glyphosate as a result of health concerns and damage to forest lands and water. Elders state in their mission statement, "We have a right to clean air, water, soil and forests. We need to respect and protect this beautiful land and all of its amazing plant and animal life. We have a voice and need to be heard. Lets speak up and stand together."

Two hours after standing in the middle of the trans Canada Highway educating travelers on the dangers of aerial spraying, all demonstrators joined hands and took part in a Round Dance while those stopped in traffic looked on. Following the dance, Chief Pat Madahbe spoke of seeing moose with tumours in the forests. Calling the spraying "totally unacceptable," Madahbe asked "when are they ever going to stop this (aerial spraying) insanity?"

With a federal election looming, Chief Glen Hare had the last word making it clear putting a ban on aerial spraying is a political issue. Glancing around the crowd, he said, "look around people, there are two women here today representing political parties, one party is missing." MP Carol Hughes, the NDP incumbent was present talking to people and taking part in the demonstration by handing out pamphlets, while Heather Wilson, Liberal hopeful from Espanola was there talking to demonstrators.

With the hope of making the banning of aerial spraying a political issue, concerned citizens are anxious to get all their candidate's stand on this very important issue. The province of Quebec as well as many countries have banned the use of Glyphosate as a result of health concerns and damage to forest lands and water. Elders state in their mission statement, "We have a right to clean air, water, soil and forests. We need to respect and protect this beautiful land and all of its amazing plant and animal life. We have a voice and need to be heard. Lets speak up and stand together."

The TEK Elders and the Sudbury group believe by educating and informing the public, more people will recognize the dangers of aerial spraying and support a ban. A decision will be made this year by Health Canada.

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About The Author

I am a freelance writer.  My work is middle east affairs and aboriginal issues.