Over 300 people gathered in Toronto last night for “She Speaks: Indigenous Women Speak Out Against Tar Sands,” a series organized by the Indigenous Environmental Network and supporters.
Moderated by Heather Milton-Lightning of Pasqua First Nation, the speakers on the panel highlighted the role of indigenous women as life-givers and keepers of the water in their communities, as well as being among those most affected by the tar sands.
Crystal Lameman of Beaver Lake Cree First Nation opened the panel, discussing the impacts on her community at “ground zero” of in situ tar sands extraction. The Beaver Lake Cree have launched a groundbreaking legal action alleging that permits granted to oil companies have violated their treaty rights.
The conversation moved on to Southwestern Ontario, where a reversal of Line 9 is currently under consideration. Missy Elliott comes from Haudenosaunee Territory of Six Nations, whose land is crossed by the Line 9 pipeline. The reversal would bring tar sands oil to Ontario via infrastructure more than 30 years old, roughly the same age as the pipeline involved in the Kalamazoo River spill in 2010. Tar sands oil may also be refined in Ontario, likely in Sarnia where Vanessa Gray of Aamjiwnaang First Nation lives with already unacceptable levels of water and air pollution in the aptly named Chemical Valley.
Suzanne Dhaliwal of the UK Tar Sands Network rounded out the panel with a discussion of international solidarity campaigns against corporations and investors supporting the tar sands.
All of the speakers are fighting back and standing up for their communities and ask Ontarians to do the same. In the words of Missy Elliott, “we will stop this pipeline…by whatever means necessary.”