It was a perfect moment. The eagle soared so high that it started to go out of sight, and one First Nations member said it is taking our message to the creator.
One can only hope.
It couldn’t have been a better day to gather in protest of the industrial wind turbines proposed for McLean’s Mountain on Manitoulin Island. The sun was shining, children and adults carried signs, First Nations and non-Natives drummed and sang and speakers spoke with passion.
The protest was put on by a group of elders and youth from the Wikwemikong First Nation. Rosemary Wakegijig thanked everyone for “honouring our cause.” Emcee Ray Beaudry of Manitoulin Coalition for Safe Energy Alternatives explained why the location on Goat Island (just north of the swing bridge at Little Current) was chosen for the event. “There were two reasons this location was chosen. One, it was a big space to gather. And two, where we are standing is where the switching station will be built to take power off the Island. I repeat, taking it off the Island not to the Island.”
If Northland Power is given approval for the transmission line to be built, it will not only pave the way for their proposed 24 turbines to be built on MacLean’s Mountain, but will open the rest of the island for development of the industrial giants.
The first guest speaker was Conservative MPP Vic Fedeli from the Nipissing riding and the party’s energy critic. Fedeli began by saying, “by now, even the most optimistic folks have realized Ontario’s Green Energy Act is a complete bust. Dalton McGinty created the Green Energy Act with the stated purpose being to ‘green’ Ontario’s energy through conservation and renewable generation. To achieve this, the government removed all local municipal planning powers over development of renewable projects. When you neutralize the municipality, you’ve got the perfect storm for procedural abuses, failed fiscal oversight and gross misuse of taxpayer dollars.”
Fedeli went on to speak of the feed-in tariff program, which pays high fees to wind and solar producers and gives producers guaranteed access to the grid. The auditor general says the FIT program loses two to four manufacturing jobs for every green job created. And your electricity costs rose 26% from 2008 to 2010 and are projected to rise another 46% by 2014.
Other guest speakers spoke of the dangers to the environment, habitats being lost, raptors and bats being killed. It was when Dr. Roy Jeffery was speaking to the approximately 150 attending that the eagle came into view. Silence fell as it flew higher and higher until it was out of sight. Young First Nation member Hunter Abbotossaway read a speech written for a school public speaking project about the dangers of industrial turbines.
Wikwemikong Chief Hazel Fox-Recollet welcomed everyone to the gateway of Spirit Island, “a place that all of us are proud to call home.” She spoke of the importance of having a voice and that governments must listen to the people. She said, “I know when people are in support of this kind of industrial development you have to ask are they motivated by revenues or the health of our people.”
As the group began to gather for their march across the bridge into Little Current, one couldn’t help but think that this is the way we are supposed to be. Both nations, young and old coming together for a cause they believe in. Not the way the power companies would like, as they pit friends against friends, rural against urban, family against family.
Maybe if Premier Dalton McGuinty actually came and saw this sacred place, if he actually stood on MacLean’s Mountain, he would realize what a mistake he and his government was making.
Ruth Farquhar is a freelance writer based on Manitoulin Island.
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