The following letter to the editor was published in the Manitoulin Expositor newspaper July 17, 2012. One June 15, 2012, David Suzuki and Ontario Minister of Energy Chris Bentley participated in the the opening of the M’Chigeeng First Nation wind power project.
To the Expositor:
I am writing this letter to express my disapproval of the construction of industrial wind turbines on Manitoulin Island. These turbines are and will continue to be in direct conflict with the aboriginal treaty rights concerning the traditional practice of hunting. Lands will be set apart and animals will be dispersed. This is an infringement on our traditional ways.
Secondly, we know that Manitoulin has always been an important area of burials.
Even today, many people choose to have their ashes spread on sacred Manitoulin.
We should not be disturbing ancestral burial grounds in anyway. When the two turbines were constructed in M’Chigeeng I heard that bones were discovered. Excavators continued their work without the concerns that should have been warranted. Archeologists should have been called to the site, but I don’t think that was the case.
Lastly, I wish to emphasize the long-term effect of these turbines from the point of view of First Nation traditional values. They symbolize a profound change to our ways when we, the elders, are trying to teach our children the importance of honoring Mother Earth. We are trying to teach them respect and gratitude, but instead they are being influenced by profits and models coming from large corporations.
Our council was not upfront and our community was not properly informed and consulted. These two turbines in M’Chigeeng were built while our community was sleeping. I certainly don’t wish to see more of these industrial structures encroaching on our sacred land and creating conflict between our people.
George Corbiere, elder
“Our council was not upfront and our community was not properly informed and consulted.”
Many people who feel like me, here in Marmora, Ontario, could certainly empathize with George Corbiere. Our council was not upfront and our community was not properly informed and consulted, either.
Although in Mr. Corbiere’s case his objections were to industrial wind turbines (aka “renewable energy”) and in our case, ignored local objections from June 2011 to date are to a pumped storage (ie non-renewable) project proposal from Northland Power Inc., I’d bet our feelings that our trust has been betrayed would be shared.
It doesn’t make me feel one bit less miserable to know that people who feel betrayed by their Council here in Marmora, like me, have company elsewhere.
Several things his letter has made me curious about, though, if Mr. Corbiere himself or someone else reading my comment would fill me in:
Did Mr. Corbiere and the rest of the people in his community find out their council had decided to support the project after-the-fact and that their council had done so before allowing the people to even know the project had been proposed, like us?
Did the council in Mr. Corbiere’s community become active (perhaps the better word is proactive?) proponents of the project once they had decided to support it (but before the people had heard of it), like ours did?
Did Mr. Corbiere’s community and the media first hear about that project’s proposal at a public meeting jointly held by his council and the developer but then never have any opportunity for open public discussions and debates with their council, the developer and/or any other politicians with media present, once the people had had time to study and think about the project, like happened here in Marmora?
Did Mr. Corbiere’s council issue a joint promotional press release with the project developer on the same day the community first heard of the project’s proposal?
Did their council also force Mr. Corbiere and the rest of the people in his community to pay for a marketing campaign to promote the project whether they objected to it or not, like our local taxpayers had to?
Did Mr. Corbiere’s council attempt to publicly obscure any local dissent by treating anyone posing objections like they were second-rate or invisible and refuse them equal public voice to their supporters, perhaps even calling them “troublemakers”, “negative” or “too suspicious”, like ours did here in Marmora?
Were many people in Mr. Corbiere’s community too intimidated by their council, project proponents and/or supporters to make their objections and concerns publicly known locally and on their own, like here in Marmora, thinking their friendships, families, business or employment might be negatively affected?
Did any media reporters in Mr. Corbiere’s area interview any of the people posing objections and publicize their side of the story or were they also ignored by the local press like their counterparts here in Marmora?
Did Mr. Corbiere or anyone else there who felt like him have any other political representation available to them besides their own council, or were they denied political voicing of their objections and concerns completely, like we were here in Marmora?