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From August 3-7, people will be walking along the proposed Energy East pipeline route from Eagle Lake to Shoal Lake, drawing attention to the threats posed by TransCanada's proposed 1.1-million-barrel-per-day Energy East pipeline.
Following the existing path of a natural gas pipeline proposed for conversion to carry oil, the walk is in the beautiful Anishinaabek Treaty 3 territory of northern Ontario and Manitoba. Treaty 3 territory has 30 per cent of Ontario's fresh water and supplies Winnipeg with its drinking water.
The Anishinaabe walk is coordinated by the Grassroots Indigenous Water Defence that formed after Anishinaabe women in Treaty 3 territory saw a need to reach Anishinaabek communities about the risks presented by the project in a way that resonates with their world view as stewards of the land and protectors of water.
Participation from people of all nations is welcomed, native and non-native, for the whole duration of the walk, for one day, or even a couple hours. For up-to-date opportunities to participate, please see their Facebook event. Please also consider donating to the water walk --the money goes towards walk logistics including food, housing and needed support.
"For myself, this is about water protection," described water walker Chrissy Swain when I recently spoke to her. "There has already been too much industry through Treaty 3 territory that has done a lot of damage. We hear about oil spills and tanker car explosions. We know this is an old pipeline. In my eyes, a small chance of a spill is still unacceptable." Chrissy will be joined by her son (20 years) and two daughters (14 and 9 years old) on the 175-km walk.
"I'm also joining because I believe in our ceremonies," adds Chrissy. "This is part of getting spiritual help and guidance in protecting our water."
Indeed, the prospect of a spill in any of the over 1,000 waterways this massive pipeline would cross is enough to keep me awake at night. The sheer capacity of the pipe means that a spill threatens to be one of the worst Canada has ever seen.
More than one million litres could spill in just 10 minutes. This adds to the oil that remains between valves that can leak once the pumping stops. The rocky and hilly terrain and remote nature of much of the Treaty 3 territory would make quickly responding to a spill challenging.
Energy East would ship a variety of crude oils, including diluted bitumen. Diluted bitumen has proven to sink when spilled in water. Five years and over $1 billion spent, submerged bitumen still remains in the Kalamazoo River.
The Anishinaabe water walk is a clear example of Indigenous people leading the charge against tar sands pipelines. In the wake of Harper's omnibus bills that gutted federal environmental protections, Indigenous and treaty rights are a critical stumbling block to industry's extreme energy ambitions in Canada. This includes their assertion on the front lines such as the Unist'ot'en Camp and in court challenges, such Beaver Lake Cree Nation vs Alberta and Canada.
Current walking schedule -- see the facebook event for updates:
Sunday August 2, 2015 Start at Eagle Lake Pow wow grounds to Eagle Lake Bypass Distance : 16 kms. Camping at eagle lake pow wow grounds. People are invited to arrive early at the Eagle Lake powwow (July 31-Aug 2) to spend time at the powwow and met up before leaving as a group on Monday morning. There will be an honor song forthe water walkers.
Monday August 3, 2105 Start at Eagle Lake By pass to 30 km (Vermillion Bay Area) Distance : 30 km. Camping at Eagle Lake
Tuesday August 4, 2015 Start at 30 km to Dixie lake ( call Williard lake ) Distance : 30 km. Possibly camping at Williard Lake –
Wednesday August 5, 2015 Start at Dixie lake to Kenora By pass ( rushing river ) Distance : 30 km. Camping at Rushing River-
Thursday August 6, 2015 Start at Kenora by pass east to Kenora by pass west Distance : 30 km. Camping at Grand Council Treaty Three
Friday August 7, 2015 start at Kenora by pass west to shoal lake junction Distance : 30 km. Camping at Shoal Lake Pow wow Grounds
Saturday August, 8 2015 start at shoal lake junction finishing at Shoal Lake Pow wow Grounds Distance : 9 km Camping at Shoal Lake Pow wow Grounds.
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