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While a trial in San Francisco makes headlines around the world, a group of trappers and Indigenous Elders in Ontario are taking note.
San Francisco has become a hot spot for legal challenges against Monsanto, the subsidiary of Bayer which produces much of the world’s glyphosate-based herbicide, commonly known by the trademark Roundup.
A jury trial in San Francisco agreed on March 19, that California man Edwin Hardeman’s lawyers had proven that exposure to the Monsanto product Roundup was a substantial factor in causing his non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
The second phase of the Hardeman trial is now focused on liability and damages.
Meanwhile in the Robinson Huron Treaty area of Ontario, a group calling itself the Traditional Ecological Knowledge [or TEK] Elders have gotten nowhere in their efforts to stop the aerial spraying of glyphosate-based herbicide as a forest management practice.
“The Anishinaabeg do not believe in any chemical use in their territory,” said TEK co-founder Ray Owl. “If it can kill one item, one blade of grass, it’s not good.”
In the forestry industry, it has become common to use glyphosate-based herbicide to kill off plants that will compete with newly planted seedlings in areas that have been clear cut.
But the TEK Elders and some trappers in the Robinson Huron Treaty area say they are seeing declines in animal numbers which they attribute to glyphosate herbicide.
Owl and his TEK group have approached both the federal and provincial governments about their concerns in regard to the aerial spraying of glyphosate-based herbicide in Robinson-Huron Treaty territory.
“They’re really good at playing ping pong,” said Garden River First Nation Councilor Sue Chiblow of the government response to the TEK inquiries.
Chiblow helps organize the TEK Elders’ efforts to stop the aerial spraying of glyphosate herbicide.
“We went to the Ministry of Natural Resources and they said ‘well no we just issued the license so that’s not our problem, it’s Health Canada’s problem” said Chiblow. “So we went to Health Canada and they said ‘well we don’t actually do the spraying, we’re just saying that it’s ok and it’s up to the companies to use it or not use it.”
Bob Behrens is a trapper from Sault Ste. Marie who has also written to the provincial government with his concerns.
Behrens has been trapping on the same trap line since 1985 and says he has been watching animal numbers dwindle since 1988 when he was informed in a letter from the MNRF that Vision – a glyphosate-based herbicide made by Monsanto for forestry applications – was to be sprayed where he traps.
“We had an abundance of rabbits, songbirds, porcupines, beaver. They all started to decline – rabbits just started to reappear last year. And I’m going to say for a 20-year period there were no rabbits here. A lot of the trappers are having problems with the decline in beaver,” said Behrens.
Behrens’ friend and fellow-trapper Joe Jones of Garden River First Nation has seen dwindling numbers of animals too.
This most recent trapping season, Jones – who is also one of the TEK Elders – began noticing a change in beaver meat he’s harvested – and he wonders if its connected to the spraying.
“Eating the beaver, this fall it’s going black,” said Jones, “Especially the bigger beaver. You cut ‘em open . . . it’s not as red, it’s really black.”
In 2017, Behrens asked the federal Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change to conduct a review of the use of glyphosate herbicide in forestry, but he was told by the department that a review was “not warranted.”
APTN Investigates requested interviews with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry but those requests were declined.
The ministry did email APTN a statement, which said in part, “Herbicide use is very limited in Ontario and they are only used when absolutely necessary – usually amounts to less than 0.2 per cent of Ontario’s forested area in any given year….Health Canada recently re-evaluated the use of glyphosate, finding no unacceptable risks to human health or the environment when used as directed.”
However, a federal government publication about forestry acknowledges that glyphosate based herbicide causes reductions in animal numbers.
“Short-term reductions in numbers of some wildlife species (e.g., small animals or birds) are known to occur,” the publication Frontline put out by the Canadian Forestry Service in Sault Ste. Marie states.
The article goes on to say that, “Such changes are typically quite transient, with numbers returning to normal levels within 2-3 years as vegetation and preferred habitat or food re-establishes on the treated site.”
The Frontline publication also notes that similarly moose and deer may also avoid glyphosate-treated areas for “a few years.”
However, Jones and Behrens say they have noticed ongoing declines in animal numbers over a 30 year period.
Some reports indicate glyphosate may disrupt the endocrine systems of animals and humans. Endocrine disruption could result in changes to metabolism, growth and development, tissue function, sexual function etc.
But most of the governmental regulatory agencies in the world say that glyphosate ought to be safe – in contrast to decisions made by two juries in recent San Francisco court cases.
Most recently, a jury ruled this week that Edwin Hardeman’s lawyers had proved “by a preponderance of evidence that his exposure to Roundup was a substantial factor in causing” his non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Previous to the Hardeman case, a San Francisco-area man named Lee Johnson was awarded U.S. $289 million by a jury in 2018. The judge later slashed Johnson’s amount to US $78 million – and Johnson has yet to see a penny of it due to appeals by the Monsanto legal team.
In determining punitive damages, the jury in the Johnson trial determined that Monsanto had acted with “malice and oppression” in attempting to conceal their product’s potential danger.
Bayer, the parent company which now owns Monsanto, maintains that glyphosate herbicide is a safe product and in a recent statement they point to “more than 800 rigorous studies” submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other regulators, as well as the “largest and most recent epidemiologic study” which followed more than 50,000 pesticide applicators for more than 20 years and found no association between glyphosate-based herbicides and cancer.
But the fact that Johnson’s lawyers were able to convince the jury that his non-Hodgkin lymphoma was caused by his exposure to glyphosate has emboldened a wave of litigants, and more than 11,000 people have filed similar suits against Monsanto in the U.S.\
The question of whether this legal trend will continue to gather momentum is on the minds of the TEK Elders, as is the question of what effect it may have on regulators such as Health Canada.
The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer classified glyphosate as a “probably carcinogenic to humans” in 2015 – and for that reason, the TEK elders have decided to write to the WHO for help in their fight to shut down aerial spraying in their territory.
Chiblow is optimistic about the letter to the WHO she’s beginning to write.
“They dictate to other governments about health and what’s good and what’s bad,” said Chiblow. “So the World Health Organization should be able to assist.”
Jennifer Moore is one of Edwin Hardeman’s two main attorneys, and she also thinks contacting the WHO is a smart move.
“Going to the Wold Health Organization is absolutely the right thing they should do,” said Moore, “They need to get away from any type of body that is subject to political pressure because what we have seen is that Monsanto has incredible lobbying efforts.”
Original Article: APTN NEWS
Source: Anishinabek News
GARDEN RIVER FIRST NATION—On August 24, the TEK Elders Group met with two representatives of Eacom Timber Corporation in Garden River First Nation.
The TEK Elders Group is composed of Robinson-Huron Treaty Elders working to end the aerial spraying of glyphosate in north shore Lake Huron forests. Glyphosate, also known as Roundup, is an herbicide used to kill poplar, raspberries, fireweed, birch, and other species that overgrow jack pine or spruce on recently replanted clear-cuts.
The purpose of the aerial spraying or “aerial tending”, as the Eacom representatives called it, is to “maintain the same proportion of species that were in the landscape when [the forest] was cut.”
Tallman said that forestry companies are mandated by Ontario to manage forests in such a way that replanted trees “go back to the forest inventory,” which occurs at the “free to grow” stage, five to 15 years after planting.
“Aerial tending is one of the more efficient ways for conifers to come up above the competition,” stated Jennifer Tallman.
“We have a very different perspective of how we manage the land,” stated Josh Eshkakogan, a citizen and Elder of Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory. “We try to create a very diverse land and we can’t use poison to create a certain species for a user group.”
The approach of the newcomers is point focused, as Art Petahtegoose explained, surveying land, renaming places and defining spatial areas for exploitation.
“Suddenly it voids our presence, it erases our presence in our home,” Art Petahtegoose said. “It’s not an objective that we’re exploiting, it’s a life…when we put the Anishinabek name on a water body, we say there is a life there, an ecology that has to remain intact.”
The Elders spoke about how herbicides poison everything that lives in the sprayed area, from the water to moose to insects, which together form an integrated whole.
“The weeds did their job at a certain time,” Ray Owl of Sagamok Anishnawbek explained. “The Creator made them to do their job. That lifecycle is only so long and then the jack pine or spruce takes over.”
Garden River citizen Sue Chiblow pointed out that “this whole perspective of a tree competing against another tree is actually not true,” and that trees have been shown to share nutrients through sophisticated underground networks.
The Eacom representatives said that the company incorporates First Nations perspectives in the forest management process through the committees in charge of writing the 10 year plans.
Amanda Barbe from Henvey Inlet First Nation, sits on two different forest management planning committees and she noted that she “can tell you it is just a formality, it is not consultation.”
The primary role of First Nations individuals on forest management planning teams is to provide statistical data and information on “values” – points like bird nests and burial sites, or clearly defined areas such as trap lines – that would be disturbed by forestry operations. In Ontario, the forest management planning process begins with Crown approval for aerial spraying already in place. The use of forest herbicides is covered under the Class Environmental Assessment for Timber Management decision issued in 1994.
“Many of us believe the Crown doesn’t have the jurisdiction [over forest management]…what we’re seeing here is a jurisdictional issue,” Kenneth Daigle from Batchewana First Nations said.
The Elders made it clear that under Treaty the Anishinabek gave permission for the newcomers to come onto the land and make a life, but that the Anishinabek retain the authority to make land management decisions.
The Treaty was also meant to share the wealth of the land so that First Nations would “never be in want,” Petahtegoose said. Manual tending of replanted areas, while more expensive than using herbicides, is practiced in Quebec, where Eacom also has forestry operations and where aerial spraying is illegal.
Using mechanical tools to remove unwanted vegetation on timber plantations could provide jobs for Indigenous communities in Ontario, Skip Jones suggested.
“I was around when they used to tend and release yellow birch. As late as the 70s, when I was with Lands and Forests, every winter people were hired to tend yellow birch. The same thing could be applied here.”
Eacom’s representatives said that they take their permission for forestry practices from the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Ministry of Environment.
Stephen O’Neill, a lawyer and retired judge who represents the TEK Elders Group, spoke of the Robinson-Huron Treaty Annuities case and the resurgence of First Nations in the Treaty Territory. While the upcoming annuities decision won’t address aerial spraying, the court case goes to the heart of a treaty-making process in which First Nations and the Crown agreed to walk together, O’Neill said. He pointed out that when Eacom says it is not part of the problem between First Nations and the government, the company is in fact taking a side.
“If I say I’ll just get my authority from the Crown, am I not concluding that there is no [First Nations] perspective here, no authority, no jurisdiction?”
In January 2017, 21 Robinson-Huron Treaty Territory Chiefs signed a declaration and resolution calling for a moratorium on aerial spraying.
The declaration states that “the Robinson Huron Treaty communities and their people have not been adequately consulted as required by the Robinson Huron Treaty of 1850 and Canadian law, nor has Canada or Ontario received our free, prior, and informed consent to spray these chemicals within our treaty territory, as outlined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”
TORONTO – Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) Elder Ray Owl has put the province on notice to stop the use of aerial spraying in the Robinson Huron Treaty territory. On the lawn of Queen’s Park in Toronto, May 31, he told the crowd of about 100 people that he went into the legislature building and spoke with the press. He said, “In that room over there, I declared war. It (aerial spraying) has to stop.”
This initiative was started several years ago when the Sagamok Anishnawbek Elder noticed signs in the bush while he was picking blueberries that aerial spraying was in use. After communicating with other Elders along the north shore of Lake Huron and in the Robinson Huron treaty territory, he learned aerial sprays were also being used in other areas. That’s when the TEK Group was formed, which is co-led by Mississauga First Nation Elder Willie Pine.
Over the past few years, the initiative has been growing. Most recently, all 21 Robinson Huron Treaty Chiefs have signed a resolution to support the ban.
In part, the resolution reads, “The lands, waters, air, plants, animals, birds, insects and medicines within the Robinson Huron Treaty territory are being exposed to aerial spraying of chemical herbicides, including those containing glyphosate, with the intention that such application will encourage growth of planted trees by eliminating all other vegetation.”
The article also mentions that the chemicals used have “destructive effects and impacts upon the Anishinawbek way of life, including Treaty rights to fish, hunt, gather and harvest within the Robinson Huron Treaty territory.”
Since 2014, the group has delivered a position paper and written letters to the Federal Health Minister, Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry and with the provincial Minister of Indigenous Affairs and Reconciliation, seeking a moratorium on the use of aerial spraying. Despite those efforts, in it’s resolution, the TEK Group says aerial spraying has continued in various areas throughout the Robinson Huron Treaty territory.
At the peaceful demonstration at Queen’s Park, there were a small handful of Chiefs present, along with Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee.
Sagamok First Nation Chief Paul Eshkokogan is the regional Chief of the Robinson Huron Treaty. He said, “You know something is important when Elders take things into their own hands.”
Former Superior Court Judge, The Honourable Stephen O’Neill reviewed the laws on the government responsibility of the ‘Duty to Consult’. He maintained First Nations were not consulted properly and spoke about the various Supreme Court decisions which have upheld the ‘Duty to Consult’.
From the grassroots level, Isaac Murdoch spoke at the event and said Anishinabek “have a right in our territories to say no.” Murdoch also discussed natural law and mentioned that resource extraction equals environmental devastation.
Elder Ray Owl says the province wants to see all First Nations on board the ban. Owl says he will be going to each territory to petition the people for their support to ban aerial spraying in Ontario.
Leslie Knibbs, Midnorth Monitor
February 20, 2017
At the new community centre on Feb. 16 in Sagamok First Nation, Chief Paul Eshkakogan informed those attending a recent meeting on aerial spraying that he and many of his colleagues from the 21 First Nations, included in the Robinson Huron Treaty of 1850, are in full support of Elders in their efforts to put a stop to aerial spraying in traditional territories.
Eshkakogan, when referring the government’s lack of response to Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) Elders’ many requests, said, “They don’t listen, when governments are not listening, then you are going to hear the wrath of our Elders.”
Eshkakogan went on to remind those attending that “the spraying program will probably start in July, so we have a number of things we can accomplish before then, but we have to let everything awaken in spring.”
The chief strongly recommended a strategy be formed leading to assembling a team and then “go out there and look at each of these blocks (spraying areas in the forests of all 21 First Nations).”
Elder and former chief Art Petahtegoose of Atikameksheng Anishnawbek, White Fish Lake First Nation, has been a member of TEK since its inception. Petahtegoose reiterated the Elders’ position on aerial spraying.
“We want to hold Ontario and Canada to account for spreading this contaminant around our ‘kitchen.’ We’re going to sit down and remind them of their obligations.”
Petahtegoose spoke of having responsibility for the children and future generations and caring for Mother Earth.
“My mother takes care of me,” he said.
Sagamok Lands and Resource director Ross Assinewe told those gathered, “It’s not just the forestry industry, but (we) must look at others.”
“When we talk about a course of action, we have to look at who we are going to talk to.”
Assinewe referred to the corridors of hydro towers in the forest where spraying is done on an intermittent basis.
Elder Raymond Owl, of Sagamok, proposed holding a demonstration at Queen’s Park in the spring.
Eshkakogan said, “demonstrations are good, they get the message out, but they have to used at the right time.”
With no response coming from Health Canada regarding the Elders demands to stop aerial spraying, the focus for TEK has now shifted to the province. Currently, Quebec is the only province to ban aerial spraying. What will happen next in the Elders efforts to stop aerial spraying will be discussed at a March 3 meeting in M’Chjigeeng First Nation.
In the meantime, Eshkakogan will be speaking to other chiefs on this issue.
A collection of writings and news on traditional ecological knowledge and the TEK Elder's fight to stop aerial spraying of herbicides in Northern Ontario.