Monday, August 25, 2014 5:21:37 EDT PM
“What can possibly justify poisoning my child? How can you justify, as my government, to spray things over my home and kill my children and poison my food?”
That was a question Cindy Chisholm, a councillor from Bruce Mines, asked at a meeting of communities at Willie’s Gas Bar, on Mississauga First Nation - west of Blind River.
Concerned Elders, council members and residents along the North Shore gathered to discuss the implications of aerial spraying being done in their communities.
The meeting, held on Aug. 19, saw travellers come under one roof to speak with a Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) representative on the dangers of herbicides spray being used on their land.
“When we started this I was very concerned about aerial spraying,” said Elder Raymond Owl, of Sagamok First Nations.
Owl said years ago, he and his son were driving in the bush where usually they would spot moose and other animals. However, on that day, they didn’t even see a squirrel.
“No tracks at all, and on the way out we saw an aerial spraying sign. Had we seen it going in it would have saved us a lot of trouble,” said Owl. “Ever since that time I have had a hatred for that sign.”
One of his concerns was the location of the signs, how they are located in the bush, rather than at entrances.
“You’re not even warning people. Why put (the sign) in the back?”
Because of these incidents Owl did more research and is joining other First Nations communities and municipalities to end aerial spraying.
Gerry Vautour, owner of East Bull Lake Wilderness Resort in Massey, said his health has been affected because of the spraying.
“This chemical breaks down your immune system, so you’re very vulnerable to different cancers and sicknesses,” said Vautour, holding an aerial spraying sign.
“You’re poisoning our people, you’re poisoning our food source,” he continued, adding his health “went right in the toilet now because I watched those helicopters spraying this stuff.”
The main chemical being discussed was glyphosate, which he was sprayed with. He fought to have his property not sprayed by the chemical and is now trying to pressure the government to stop spraying others.
“Shouldn’t everyone have the same right that I fought for for two years? We all have that right.”
The reason for the spray is to kill the weeds and allow the forest to thrive, according go the Ministry of Natural Resources. However like Owl, Vautour too noticed a decline in animal activity in the forest due to the chemicals killing birch and poplar trees - a source of food for wildlife.
“I’m in the tourist business for hunting and fishing, and when you take away all the moose and bear who is going to come hunting here?”
Vautour had contacted Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing MP Carol Hughes, and brought her to his resort in 2009 to show just how scarce wild life is becoming.
“I brought her where they had just sprayed and there wasn’t a bird or a squirrel. We were standing there and there was no bug bites, nothing. Everything was dead. I said to Carol ‘look around.’”
Hughes, who attended the meeting, said she had contacted the MNR regarding the use of glyphosate and the side effects it causes such as: destruction of red blood cells, lung dysfunction, low blood pressure and more. An email was sent back saying the use herbicides are “to ensure the long-term health of the forest” and the “use of herbicides in Canada is approved by Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency.”
This was echoed by Michelle Miller who works for the MNR out of the Blind River Office, but did add that the agency is re-evaluating the use of glyphosate.
“All registered pesticides periodically undergo (revaluation),” she said. “During this re-evaluation Health Canada will review all new research that has been conducted on glyphosate, including human health and environmental effects and determine if any changes to current registered uses, such as forestry, are advised.”
Unfortunately, until the review occurs the chemical is still being used and the Township of Sables-Spanish River is concerned as to what it is doing to their municipality.
“We’re very concerned when we receive letters at our council table on when the spraying is going to happen north of our municipality or on our township or where Gerry lives,” said Patricia Hnatuik, Sables-Spanish township deputy mayor. “We write a letter right away, not giving our support and asking them to not spray. All that water in those areas feeds the lake and feeds Sables-River, which is the water supply for our town.”
Hnatuik went on to say the township passed a bylaw to stop the spraying in their vicinity.
Miller said any spraying near bodies of water is done within a 30-metre distance of any body of water, but Hnatuik said the wind carries the chemical regardless of where they are spraying.
Charlie Smith, councillor for Sables-Spanish River brought the chemical back to the root. It is a poison.
“The fact of the matter is I know that it is bad for you,” he said. “I wouldn’t care even if it was good for you and it made you live five years longer and grew three inches. I would still be opposed to it because you’re still poisoning everything.”
He said the poison is leaving nothing to feed the animals, and that the forest belongs to the people.
“We want to fill our freezers, we want to fill our fridges, we want to feed our children and we don’t want to feed them poison! We want our hunting, our fishing and our picking back!”
The arguments and stories had Archie Baldwin of McKerrow, HP Roy of Blind River and Ted Linley of Huron Shores joining in the fight to put an end to aerial spraying.
“If you are to succeed and I really hope you do, because you definitely have the support from all the townships, you are going to need massive unity,” said Baldwin. “Because if you don’t go to the Premier, you’re done. And I support you 100%”
Roy said the issue has not been brought to Blind River council, but he would bring it to the table.
Linley said something needs to be done, adding it’s not just disastrous for people, but the animals and forestry.
Kandance Day Neveau, of Serpent River First Nation, spoke of how the death and illness being brought on by the spraying is “not fake, it’s not a movie,” and that it is time to stop ignoring it.
“It’s one thing when we (the youth) come together, but it’s another when the Elders come together and they want their voices heard,” she said. “It’s very powerful.”
Hughes said to go after is Health Canada, as they are the ones who have given the OK to use the chemical.
“It’s not to point the finger at MNR themselves,” she said. “They are doing what they are mandated as employees to do, and Health Canada said this product is safe to use as far as their concern.”
The First Nations and communities are working on a resolution that came out of the meeting.