Letters: More emphasis on the environment needed in the current provincial election

A healthy economy depends on a healthy environment

To the Expositor:

Candidates in the upcoming Ontario elections need to focus more on the environment. They conveniently forget that an economy is not possible without a healthy natural environment. Consider this: “The world had its 400th consecutive hotter-than-average month in April,” according to Tim Alamenciak of TVO. Matt Richter of the Green Party of Ontario states, “we have to, as a society, lower the amount of carbon we emit.” Erin Horvath of the Ontario NDP stated that cap and trade investing will “help people consume less power.”

There are good reasons why Indigenous peoples gather in protest against the expansion of pipelines. If the oil companies cannot adequately explain how remediation can be done after an oil spill, or even how an oil spill can be prevented, then there are no good reasons to build oil pipelines across indigenous territories. Free, prior, and informed consent is required, not blasting innocent protesters with ice cold water in the wintertime as indigenous peoples try to speak their truths. If, after the discussion process of free, prior, and informed, indigenous peoples say no, then no it should be. Indigenous peoples have survived in the Americas for the last thirty-five to fifty thousand years BP – before present.

In a more local article recently there was some blathering on about health and education, about advocacy and action at provincial and federal government tables, and about governance and reconciliation. Health, education and governance are not possible without an economy. An economy is not possible without a healthy natural environment. A healthy natural environment to indigenous peoples is referred to as Mother Earth. It is no accident that Mother Earth is regarded as female. If a society exercises violence against the female, it exercises violence against Mother Earth, the environment. One can hide under platitudes about health, education and advocacy. But one can’t hide from the truth.

And some of those truths are these: According to the Canadian Women’s Foundation, of the 34 countries in the OECD, Canada had the highest gender wage gap in 2014. In the Foundation’s discussion on women and leadership, they note that even though 82 percent of women between 25 and 54 years old participate in the labour force, scant few are represented in leadership roles. Twenty-one percent of single mothers raise children in poverty. Thirty-seven percent of First Nations women living off-rez live in poverty. Sixteen percent of single senior women live in poverty.

As to gender-based violence against women, Indigenous women are killed at six times the rate of non-Indigenous women. As to the why, some of the violence is based on the false belief that men have a right to control women, even violently. This is wrong. This is against the law.

Every May, the Canadian Women’s Foundation campaigns for an end to violence, raising awareness and funds for violence prevention programs and for support for about 450 emergency shelters across Canada.

The links are clear. If politicians are promising better health care, education, transportation, governance, and advocacy, then be sure that the natural environment is taken care of first. The natural environment is what your economy is based on. Your health care, education, transportation, and reconciliation come from the economy. The Ring of Fire development ain’t going to be possible without acknowledging, negotiating with, and listening to the indigenous peoples on whose lands those minerals sit. Mii sa iw

Marie McGregor Pitawanakwat

Whitefish River First Nation