KENORA -- Nearly two dozen Anishinaabe women, men, youth, elders and their supporters have begun a week-long walk in opposition to a plan that would convert the Energy East Pipeline to carry bitumen.
The walk from Eagle Lake to Shoal Lake will cover more than 125 km of TransCanada’s proposed pipeline route where it crosses more than a dozen waterways in Treaty 3 Territory.
Anisinaabe Water Walkers said they're driven by protecting water for future generations.
“The love we hold for our children is the same we hold for the land, the water, the air and the future generations which depend on the decisions we make today,” said Iskatewizaagegan First Nation (Shoal Lake #39) Chief Fawn Wapioke, who is among those making the journey.
“Water is life. Our Anishinaabe laws and values tell us everything we need to know about Energy East. That is why we say 'no.'”
Pipelines, energy strategies, the environment and Indigenous rights are all likely to be important issues in the upcoming election. With First Nations People expected to vote in record numbers this October, the grassroots Indigenous water defenders against Energy East believe the walk could become a factor in deciding tight races in the Kenora Riding and elsewhere along the route.
“First Nations are on the forefront of the fight against the impacts of climate change, as well as its primary drivers like the expansion of Canada's tar sands and its pipeline infrastructure such as the TransCanada Energy East pipeline proposal,” said Clayton Thomas-Muller, Indigenous Climate Campaigner with 350.org .
“The Sacred Water Walk in Treaty 3 Territory against the path of the project is one of the most important grassroots initiatives to support in this major fight to protect our water, land and collective rights against the agenda of big oil and the Harper government.”
The group's press release called the risk to local waterways "unacceptable," citing recent pipeline spills, climate change and the expansion of oil resources in Alberta. The Energy East Pipeline would carry the highest volume of Alberta-extracted bitumen on the continent.
“It is very important that we as Anishinaabek youth stand up and start acting and fighting for the water,” said Edmond Jack, one of the Water Walkers and a founding member of the Grassy Narrows Youth Organization.
“All people across Turtle Island, from all walks of life need to realize that our water is at risk from industry like this pipelinek and we need to start thinking about the future we are leaving for our children.”
Walkers will cover 30 kilometers per day before arriving in Shoal Lake #39 on Aug. 8.