SIMCOE COUNTY, ON: CPT Aboriginal Justice Team accompanies blockade of proposed dump site over aquifer


23 July 2009
SIMCOE COUNTY, ON: "What is most sacred"--CPT Aboriginal Justice Team accompanies blockade of proposed dump site over aquifer


by Robin Buyers


The logo for the County of Simcoe on the "Notice of Project" posted at Dump Site 41 in Tiny Township reads "for the greater good."  But members of the nearby Beausoleil First Nation, thousands of neighbouring farmers, cottagers, and other non-Native citizens believe that neither their interests nor the environment is well-served by the decision of County Council to build a dump site directly above ground water that scientific studies have identified as of the purest quality. 

"They have to stop raping Mother Earth," says Vicki Monague, one of five Beausoleil First Nation women who have been leading ongoing nonviolent direct actions at the site since the County began digging and deaquification commenced in late March. By then, more than two decades of citizen campaigns against a dump above the aquifer had failed. 

As traditional Keepers of the Water, the Beausoleil women set up a legal encampment on the Parnell family farm across the road from the dump site on 14 May 2009.  On 6 July, when the County stepped up work, the women, soon joined by citizens from the surrounding communities, blockaded the site's entrances. 

Sharon Yovanoff, an environmental researcher, told a local newspaper that "the young women did what had to be done."  Prominent figures such as Beverley Jacobs, President of the Native Women's Association of Canada; Maude Barlow, President of the Council of Canadians; and environmentalist David Suzuki were also outspoken in their support.  Nevertheless, Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) surveillance of the protest intensified, and, on 16 July OPP officers warned those blocking the gates to leave immediately or face arrest. 

CPT sent its first four person team to the blockade on 13 July because police arrests at the site became a real possibility.  Full-time CPT accompaniment began on 19 July.  Team members are currently joining the Anishinabe women and local citizens at the blockades, listening to the stories of the ongoing struggle with County Council, sharing stories of nonviolent struggle, and documenting police presence. 

Fear of a police action to end the blockade intensified 22 July, when Justice Peter Lauwens granted Simcoe County an interim injunction ordering protestors to unblock entrances and allow work to proceed. The court will hear arguments for and against a permanent injunction next week. 

The Anishinabe women and local citizens are united in committing to the blockade until there is a moratorium on site development, however.  As the statement from the Beausoleil First Nation Council posted at the encampment says, the protestors "are calling upon their neighbours and countrymen to help them to protect what is most sacred to them.  What is most sacred to all life on this planet?  Pure, naturalwater." 

"Charges won't bring down the blockade," says Vicki Monague.

You can see photos of the action here: