A Community Priority

This is an excerpt from friends of Pacific Wild, Mike Reid and Sarah Stoner’s blog. To view the full blog, and read a letter a day to Mr. Harper, visit http://www.dearmrharper.com

July 22nd

Dear Mr. Harper, ImageThe community of Bella Bella hosted a rally against tankers and pipelines today: Community Voices III.  The Heiltsuk people, many of which call Bella Bella home, have been cast as aggressive protestors in the media.  There was nothing aggressive about this gathering, only sheer and heartfelt passion.  A passion and a duty to protect the lands and seas that are loved by so many, relied upon for nourishment and sustenance.

Over the course of the afternoon, people of all ages flocked to the rally to participate in traditional song, games, food, paint signs and flags, watch an oil-spill demonstration and hear Heiltsuk Chief Councillor, Marilyn Slett, present an informative slide show of her recent trip to Alberta’s tar sands.ImageCovered in tar for an oil spill demonstration

Councillor Slett’s testament was powerful.  She spoke passionately about a visit to Fort McKay, home to Cree and Dene First Nations.  They don’t have their cultural way of life anymore,” she said. “To hear from an elder in Fort McKay that they can’t eat the fish there, they can’t hunt, berries don’t grow—it really hit home for me”.

The tar sands tailings leaking into the Athabasca River are causing a cultural genocide in Northern Alberta.  The waters, the lands and the traditional foods and ways of life that come from them are too polluted, too toxic, to be consumed.  Cancer rates in Fort McKay and Fort Chipewyan, downstream from the tar sands are higher than average.  And even though alarm bells were raised in 2006, the Alberta government didn’t agree to fund a health study until the spring of 2011.

Downstream of the tar sands, the fate of First Nations’ health and culture is grim.  Not irreparable, but grim.  Let’s not let this become the situation on BC’s coast as well.

For the coast,

Sarah and Mike

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