Defending Land Defender and Community Scholar Vanessa Gray
An Open Letter from Graduate Students regarding Vanessa Gray’s court case.
Vanessa Gray is a 23 year-old Anishinaabe’kwe from the Aamjiwnaang First Nation, located in Canada’s Chemical Valley, near Sarnia, Ontario. She has been working with community members to bring awareness to environmental racism and health issues resulting from her reserve’s toxic surroundings. She is an organizer with Aamjiwnaang and Sarnia Against Pipelines (https://aamjiwnaangsolidarity.com/).
This past December Gray was arrested for shutting off a valve of Line 9 – an Enbridge pipeline carrying Alberta bitumen through her traditional territory. She had notified Enbridge about what she planned to do before she took this action. She was protecting her home and her community from the well documented, proven risks that pipelines and the fossil fuel industry pose. She now faces criminal charges of mischief over $5000 and mischief endangering the lives of others. This could mean 25 years to life in prison.
In a press release shortly after Vanessa’s arrest, she said, “It’s clear that tar sands projects represent an ongoing cultural and environmental genocide….I defend the land and water because it is sacred”. This perspective is what led the Economics for the Anthropocene (https://e4a-net.org/)–a group of scholars dedicated to rethinking economics, law, and governance in ways that take into account the wellbeing of people and ecosystems–to invite Vanessa to the project as a Community Scholar. She has contributed significantly to our project and taught us a great deal about Indigenous leadership on energy issues. As we have got to know Vanessa and learn about her story and the prison sentence she faces, we have been moved to support her.
We have entered a time in earth’s history – the Anthropocene – that is characterized by massive disruption in the ecological life support systems by human activity. This is also a time when we are slowly waking up from massive injustices of colonial exploitation of people and land. This is a time for honouring and empowering the heroic individuals who stand up and defend the rights and wellbeing of human communities and ecosystems. It is not a time to be treating such courageous and revolutionary people as criminals. Our future depends on people like Vanessa Gray.
We are co-presenting an event at McGill on September 27th in support of Vanessa. Please join us:
To learn more about the case and about how you can help Vanessa: http://line9shutdown.ca/the-case/
Please share this article far and wide!
Janica Anderzén , PhD Candidate, University of Vermont
James Arruda, MES, York University
Matthew Burke, PhD Candidate, McGill University
Caleb Gingrich, MSc Candidate, McGill University
Kesha Fevrier, PhD Student, York University
Jennifer Gobby, PhD Candidate, McGill University
Emery Hartley, MSc Candidate, McGill University
María A. Juncos, PhD Candidate, York University
Alia Karim, PhD Candidate, York University
Anna Kusmer, MSc Candidate, McGill University
Professor Patricia Perkins, York University
Sophia Sanniti, MES Candidate, York University
Romain Svartzman, PhD Candidate, McGill University