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Waking up to Gaia’s call

By working with diverse communities across old boundaries, we will get it right for Earth

By Carolyn Pogue

This Thanksgiving, amongst the apples, gourds and leaves in our cornucopia, I will place a bowl of water and a bowl of earth. I want to celebrate waking up to Gaia’s call for restoration.

In Alberta, the government recently announced that in the vast Castle Wilderness Area, one park will be expanded and another created to protect it from forestry and mining. Although there is some oil and gas activity there now, no new licenses will be approved. This is an ecologically diverse and sensitive 104,000 hectares that includes mountains, forests, foothills, grassland, rivers and lakes. Located in Treaty 7 area, it has always been important to the Blackfoot Nation and is integral to the Y2Y (Yukon to Yellowstone) wildlife corridor. Diverse community groups working with government achieved this legislation.

Also, this year marked the signing of a watershed management agreement between the Northwest Territories (NWT) and Alberta. Literally. The former, downstream of the Mackenzie River Basin, receives water flowing from Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Yukon through to the Arctic Ocean, via the Mackenzie/Decho River. Because of increasing pressure on water from oil sands development, pulp and paper mills and hydroelectric projects, water flowing north needs this protection. 

The NWT negotiation team was informed by The Water Strategy, which was developed in collaboration with Aboriginal groups, communities, regional and environmental organizations, co-management boards, industry, government and residents. Ralph Pentland, a member of the team, told the press: “This is the most comprehensive of any water management agreement in Canada. It deals simultaneously with water quality and quantity, groundwater, biology, atmospheric sources of pollution and overall ecological integrity.”

I breathe more easily knowing this agreement is in place. Our grandsons live in Yellowknife; their mom was part of the team that supported negotiators in developing this world-class bilateral agreement.

We also have family in Winnipeg, and on a summer visit, I noticed a lawn sign at Crescent-Fort Rouge United Church: “Pave the Road to Reconciliation. Support Shoal Lake 40.” To learn more, I connected with Lynda Trono, at West Broadway Community Ministry. There, Lynda shared her report of the Shoal Lake Awareness Day, which brought 1000 people into the streets in September.

“If our bodies are 80% water,” Lynda wrote, “most people living in Winnipeg are made of Shoal Lake. For the past 100 years, Winnipeg has had access to clean, fresh water flowing through an aqueduct that starts 150 km away in Shoal Lake, Ont. But the community of Shoal Lake — like other First Nations communities — has been under a boil water advisory for 18 years.”

Although Ontario, Manitoba and the reserve agreed on how to complete a road and bridge, the federal government became a stumbling block, offering funds for a study but not implementation. One Winnipeg group, Churches for Freedom Road, began urging churches to use lawn signs to support action. Mosques, Hindu Temples and community groups have raised their voices, too.

Last Sunday, I worshipped at Calgary's Knox United Church. Its minister, Rev. Dr. Greg Glatz, is a recent arrival from Winnipeg. His sermon focussed on pulling together for the common good, reaching across barriers, and going outside the normal ways of doing and being. That’s what I expect from Manitobans. Winnipeg’s city-wide community action for justice is one recent example. And I’m eager to see how that story unfolds.

By working with diverse communities and across old boundaries, we will get it right for Earth. Happy Thanksgiving.

Author's photo
Carolyn Pogue is a longtime Observer contributor. New posts of The Pogue Blog will appear on the first and third Thursday of the month. For more information on Carolyn Pogue, visit www.carolynpogue.ca..
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