By Jennifer Ashawasegai
June 1, 2017
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.