By LESLIE KNIBBS
For The Mid-North Monitor
Tuesday, June 30, 2015
“We have to think of our future generations, how long will it be before we have no fresh water to drink. Our medicinal plants are being affected.” -Emma Meawasige, Serpent River First Nations
Apart from planning demonstrations, they submitted a position paper to Health Canada claiming indigenous science is part of oral traditions as set down in treaty rights, and therefore, is admissible evidence as required by Health Canada when deciding the safety of glyphosate in the current government review.
The directions from the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) states, “A scientifically-based approach will be applied in making a final decision on glyphosate.” In reply, the TEK group insists in their position paper, “We hold expert Indigenous scientific knowledge of our traditional territories. Indigenous science focuses on ecological relationships and includes a sophisticated understanding of the behaviour of environmental contaminants. We believe that glyphosate and the additives that enhance its potency are harming the health and well-being of the water, soil, birds, fish, amphibians, invertebrates, humans and other mammals.”
Dorothee Schreiber, an environmental scientist from Montreal and Susan Ray, a teacher at Waterloo University, assisted the elders with the paper. The paper was given to Hughes on June 5 for presentation to Health Canada. Supporting petitions will accompany the paper. Algoma-Manitoulin MPP Michael Mantha was provided with a copy for presentation in the provincial legislature in the future.
Elders Ray Owl of Sagamok Anishnawbek, Willie Pine from Mississauga First Nation, Emma Meawasige from Serpent River FN and others including Idle No More activists attended the meeting. Comments on the current reevaluation regarding use of glyphosate regulated by the PMRA of Health Canada were due by June 12. TEK’s position paper gives the PMRA an in-depth report on their concerns, and their official view and recommendations.
In an earlier email from PMRA in response to TEK concerns, elders were told the reevaluation will look at scientific evidence as well as to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the United States for input when making its final decision on the chemical’s safety.
Elders at the meeting expressed deep concerns and commitment to the cause. Citing areas where the chemical is banned because of health and environmental concerns, include Germany, France, Bermuda and the Province of Quebec, TEK said there are non-chemical alternatives such as those used in Quebec where chemical herbicides have been banned since 2001. Chemicals such as 2,4-D and glyphosate are used by forestry companies such as Domtar, Tembec and others.
In 1979, the EPA suspended most uses of the weed killer 2,4,5-T and issued a notice of intent to ban the substance after the agency received complaints from western Oregon of a rise in the miscarriage rate in areas sprayed with the herbicide. In March the same year, the EPA postponed further hearings while it conducted negotiations with Dow Chemical Company and other manufacturers of the chemical 2,4,5-T. The weed killer contains traces of dioxin, a poison so powerful that three ounces could kill about 1 million people.
Forestry companies consider herbicides their primary tool for vegetation management dispensing them directly over top of lakes, streams and rivers in Ontario.
According to Sue Chiblow, environmental coordinator at the 34th All Ontario Chiefs Conference, “Herbicides are not used because of a lack of alternatives, but because it is the most cost efficient tool to achieve the desired results.”
Elder Raymond Owl, a founding member of TEK said, “It must stop, it must be canceled, we are the caretakers of Mother Earth that was given to us by the Creator so that we may continue to live as Anishinabek people for generations to come. We have never relinquished these sacred responsibilities.”
“First Nations have made known their protest on aerial spraying and have not been heard, nor has any action been taken regarding environmental concerns from any level of government,” said elders Willie Pine and Ray Owl in a letter to the PMRA. Pine and Owl requested that the PMRA consent to a meeting on their home ground, asking “for a planned hearing in our traditional territory of Mississauga First Nation in order that participating elders have the opportunity to offer three-day oral testimony on their knowledge of the environment.”
They are asking for a dialogue before any decision is made on using glyphosate.
At the May 26 meeting, Meawasige spoke about devastation from aerial spraying of chemicals.
“We have to think of our future generations, how long will it be before we have no fresh water to drink. Our medicinal plants are being affected.”