The farm families in north Chatham-Kent with dirty wells aren’t the only ones outraged by the province’s decision to clear the North Kent One wind farm of any fault in the contamination of 12 wells with temporary water tanks.
Corrine Tooshkenig, a resident of Walpole Island, clan Water Grandmother and Water Panther, said she had to speak out after reading about the Ministry of the Environment decision in The Chatham Voice. Tooshkenig supported the blockade on Bush Line this past summer by Water Wells First members at a turbine construction site before a court injunction forced the protestors to move. While on site, Tooshkenig conducted sacred ceremonies with blockade participants.
“I am coming from a Native perspective. I am outraged beyond words. I want to condemn C-K mayor and council for not firmly committing to helping the North Kent farm families and businesses that don’t have temporary drinking water hauled in because NKW1 is taking away their water tanks,” Tooshkenig said in a phone interview. “I think it is extreme brutality that these people have no drinking water. It is a human rights issue. The farmers are being violated by having no voice and the silence from the elected seat of the leadership.”
The clan grandmother has been involved in protecting the drinking water of the people of Walpole Island, attending meetings about the drinking water source for Wallaceburg and area, as well as international social justice forums.
“There are no words for what I feel for our neighbours; these farm families and farm businesses,” she said. “Farmers have to grow their crops and if Chatham-Kent is promoting Farmers Feed the People, then where is their head? Greenbacks; you can’t drink that.”
The volunteer water activist also said she questions the involvement of the Walpole Island band council for getting involved in wind farm projects, with 15 per cent ownership in NKW1, without consulting the band members. She intends to look into what process the council followed to become investors in this project and others. She said the issue should have been put in front of the people.
Having sat in meetings with environmental protection leaders such as David Suzuki and Al Gore, Tooshkenig said she intends to keep being a voice for the protection of water, including Walpole Island issues with being downstream on the St. Clair River from the chemical valley area near Sarnia. She said they are facing the same situation and it is impossible to know who to trust.
With the water wells in north Chatham-Kent, she said the situation for the farmers without water is unacceptable.
“Water is very political, but whether it be in the river, in a lake or under the ground, people need water to drink. Unfortunately, these farmers are finding themselves in political scapegoating and Otter Creek is next. They are going to find themselves in the same boat,” she noted. “Chatham-Kent council is going to realize they can’t drink dollars, they need water for life.”
She described the situation as a “political hot potato that is being thrown around” and said she is “disgusted” with the political leadership. The Otter Creek wind farm project near Wallaceburg is also close to water sources and water wells, with 12 super turbines (approximately 680 feet tall) planned. That project is currently in the REA permit process with the MOECC.
“One individual farmer said the farm horses won’t drink from the well water and they have horse sense. The MOECC and Samsung and Pattern, in my opinion, are just sellers and hawkers that are in this territory and are liars,” Tooshkenig alleged. “The horses, they won’t drink so what does that say. I’m going to believe the horses.”
The Walpole Island resident said the issue of protecting water is not just a local, or provincial or even just a Canadian one, and action is needed before farmland and lives are ruined from a lack of clean water.
“All over the world, if you look at a bigger picture, there are water shortages, like in California. They are not looking at the bigger picture,” she noted. “To (Mayor) Randy Hope, I say I condemn him and that decision strongly, and the same with our chief and council and their partnerships without giving the people the chance to say yes or no.”