Rediscovering Mother Earth: 800 km protest continued

The Chippewas of the Thames First Nation honoured UW student Rachel Thevenard for her activism and aid in the fight against Enbridge’s Line 9 pipeline Jan. 23. 

The problem came when Enbridge violated section 35 of the Canadian Constitution by not initiating First Nations’ right to consent for the use of the pipeline. The pipe’s age and a sudden increase of its normal load contributes to a risk of rupture over the next five years. This in turn creates a great risk for First Nations living along the pipeline. 

In response to the mistreatment of the rights of First Nations, Thevenard decided to run along the length of Line 9 — a distance spanning from Sarnia to Montreal or about 800 km. 

This problem sees its roots in environmental racism; a term that Stephen Svenson, a sociology professor at UW and WLU, as well as an avid activist for environmental and aboriginal issues, explained “is essentially when you have populations of people, [or] people of colour, that are marginalized [and] disproportionately receive the negative impacts of development and environmental degradation.”

During the honoring, Terrylynn Brant, a Haudenosaunee Seedkeeper, addressed the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation and praised them for their activism against the Line 9 pipeline. 

“What you’re doing is raising awareness that this carbon, this oil, is a way of life that we have to quit, and that’s our responsibility,” she said.

Climate change and environmental degradation are pressing problems, and these issues may stem from a lack of care, Svenson noted.

“We’re starting to see the impacts, we’re starting to make the connection, and these two things are inextricably linked…. The original people still have … a different relationship with the Earth than we do. The Earth is still sacred to [the Aboriginal Peoples, and] we have to rediscover that, because if you don’t love something, you won’t take care of it,” he said.

Brant also brought with her a message of solidarity to the Chippewas of the Thames First Nations. Brant quoted the Disney song “You have a Friend in Me” to express the support from different Nations and collective action to help the Earth. 

“I was incredibly humbled by the event,” said Thevenard, “which solidified my understanding that we have to evolve out of tar sands and destruction and into a way where we can all survive. Mother Earth will be so much better off if all people consider this in their daily actions, for all future generations.”

The Chippewas of the Thames First Nation have appealed to the National Energy Board and are going to the Supreme Court over the issue. 

Currently, there is a funding campaign called “Chippewas for Mother Earth” on to help raise money for the legal cost of going to court. 

“Another word for activism,” said Svenson, “is community work …or community building. Essentially what you’re doing is you’re building a movement, you’re building a community, and how do you do it? You do it through good will. You can do it through patience and understanding, you can do it through deep care, [and] you can do it through building friendships, true friendships with people.”


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