by Robin Burridge Manitoulin Expositor
LITTLE CURRENT—A group of Wikwemikong elders on Manitoulin,in conjunction with Manitoulin Coalition for Safe Energy Alternatives (MCSEA), will be holding a peaceful protest this weekend on Goat Island to express their opposition to industrial wind turbines on Manitoulin. “We are not afraid to speak up and say we do not want these towers damaging our mother earth,” Rosemary Wakegijig, a Wikwemikong elder and one of the protest’s organizers, told The Expositor. “There doesn’t seem to be anything happening to stop the development of industrial wind turbines on Manitoulin. Everyone is just listening to the developers and taking the things they say at face value.”
Ms. Wakegijig explained that she and other Wikwemikong elders felt that they needed to take action and encourage others to become informed on the issues surrounding wind farms on the Island.
“We hope it will encourage people who have remained silent to speak up and inform others of what wind turbines will do to our home,” added the Wikwemikong elder.
Organizers are adamant that the protest will be peaceful. “Let cool heads prevail,” joked Ms. Wakegijig.
Ray Beaudry, spokesperson for MCSEA, told The Expositor that the protest has been organized by the Wikwemikong elders, but MCSEA has lent their support with organizing the event and will be present for the protest. “We have invited several guests from both the provincial and federal governments,” said Mr. Beaudry. “Victor Fedeli (Nipissing MPP and Progressive Conservative Party energy critic) has confirmed and we are just waiting on final confirmation from other government officials. We have many other guests that will be attending from as far away as Port Elgin, Thunder Bay and even Saskatoon.”
The protest will begin on Saturday, March 31 at Goat Island with a sunrise ceremony at 7 am, where a sacred fire and tipi will be erected.
The protest is open to all who wish to attend, with speeches beginning at noon from government officials, elders and community leaders.
The protest march will start at 1 pm at Goal Island, travelling across the swing bridge, down Manitowaning Road, through downtown Little Current, up Worthington Street and back across the swing bridge to Goat Island.
“It’s a long walk, but we plan on driving the elders along with the walkers,” Mr.Beaudry added. “Marches are common with other wind protests that have been held throughout Ontario and we felt it would be a good
idea to increase visibility and awareness.”
Protest organizers have been in contact with the hospital, local emergency response services, downtown business owners, the town and the OPP, informing them of the protest to ensure communication and the safety of protesters and Little Current residents.
The OPP sent out a release, informing the community of the planned wind protest and asking for drivers to “drive slowly through this area and please watch for pedestrians.”
They also stated in their release, “The OPP respect the right of everyone to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly”and notes that they will be on hand to “ensure public safety, keep the peace and assist with traffic flow.”
Rick Martin of Northland Power and the project manager for the McLean’s wind farm project commented to The Expositor that the group, “has the right to express themselves.”
“They have had several opportunities to discuss issues with the project as part of the regulated process and have utilized that right,” said Mr. Martin.
Mr. Martin said that neither he, nor rep-resentatives from Northland Power, would be present for the protest, stating, “it is not our endeavour, but we will continue to be engaged in the formal process.”
The Wikwemikong elders and MCSEA are hopeful that the protest will evoke change in the community regarding industrial wind turbines and projects such as Northland Power’s McLean’s Mountain wind project.
“We will be focusing on wind issues affecting not only Manitoulin, but all of Ontario from feed-in tariffs, high electrical rates and the impacts to wildlife,” concluded Mr. Beaudry. “We hope that others will come out and support the Wikwemikong elders in their awareness campaign.”
Letter to editor,from elders.
Who runs our councils? Secretive people or we who elect them?
EDITOR’S NOTE: This letter was first sent to the chief and council of Wikwemikong and has been reprinted in The Expositor at the authors’ request.
Dear Chief and Council:
Re: Industrial Wind Turbine Development
Approximately 10 weeks have passed since Rosemary Wakegijig wrote to the editor of The Manitoulin Expositor questioning the “lack of transparency and accountability on the wind farm initiative” by the Wikwemikong council.
There is still a lack of written information on the above issues that are very similar to the Dolomite Quarry proposal that was overturned about 14 years ago. The band members were not provided with an itemized financial report and all the pertinent information, and the saga continues to this day.
As of this date, there has been no response and we are now officially requesting the council to provide a detailed financial summary, and all other reports on this endeavor to the community. If there is a referendum
or an opinion poll, the community members need to be fully informed on what to base their opinions/vote on. The band members who already signed the petition is already their referendum and/or opinion. There appears to
be secretive planning, by some councillors, taking place behind closed doors in spite of the petition that was circulated, and signed by many band members. This secrecy is also occurring at the United Chiefs and Councils of Mnidoo Mnising (UCCMM) level. Wikwemikong is not a member of this organization and the Wikwemikong Bank logo that was on the Green X Conference agenda held in Sudbury should not have been part of it. By the way, this conference was not publicized in the local papers.
We would like to reiterate that we are in favour or renewable energy, but industrial wind turbines are out of the question.
Our group has also discovered that the real treaty is Treaty No. 25. The important and pertinent information is listed in Volume 1 of the three-volume set produced by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. The starting point in the Treaty of 1822 and it supersedes any other treaty long
before the Treaty of 1836.
Wikwemikong is in the midst of negotiating the island claims and in no way should Northland Power be making plans on installing a transmission line on the North Channel and Goat Island and putting up wind turbines.
Wikwemikong has a stake on this part of the island (as per reference to the court case, i.e. 23,000 islands, refer to Poupoure Order).
We do not appreciate seeing/hearing the chief stymied at every opportunity by a left-of-centre council or a council good at talking nonsense for hours, but lacking the political guts to give an emphatic “yes” or “no.” Who runs the band council? It is the people that put them there, and we might mention that this year is election year, so vote wisely and vote for the sincere giigdoo ninwuk and giigdoo ninikwek.
Band council must practice respect, truth, honesty and speak on behalf of the people, after all they are called “Giigdoo ninwuk or Giigdoo niniikwek” meaning those who speak on our behalf.
Ida L. Embry (Trudeau)