The Council of Canadians is helping to sponsor Caribou Legs, an Indigenous ultra-marathon runner, to run the 4800 kilometres from Vancouver to Ottawa to highlight the waterways across this country that are under threat from pipelines, fracking, mining and extreme energy projects.
Caribou Legs, as Brad Firth prefers to be called, is a Gwich’in man who now lives in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. The Gwich’in are one of the most northern Indigenous peoples. Their traditional territories extend from the interior of Alaska through the Yukon and into the Mackenzie Valley.
He will run 75 kilometres a day on this journey. He has previously run 3200 kilometres from Vancouver to Whitehorse, 1200 kilometres from Inuvik to Whitehorse, as well as numerous other runs of more than 100 kilometres in distance to highlight the threats to the Peel River watershed from mining.
National Geographic has noted, “Seven major rivers flow through the Scotland-sized area, which is home to healthy populations of caribou, grizzly bears, wolverines, and peregrine falcons.” More than $2 billion in gold deposits are also located in the area. This past December, the Yukon Supreme Court ruled in favour of First Nations rights and the protection of the watershed from mining. While 80 per cent of the watershed, which includes the lands of the Vuntut Gwitchin and Tetlit Gwich’in First Nations, are now protected, the Yukon government is appealing the court’s decision.
Caribou Legs will continue to highlight water protection issues as he makes his way across the country.
Vancouver-based Council of Canadians water campaigner Emma Lui has written, “The current Federal Water Policy – passed in 1987 – is sorely outdated. The Council is calling for a national water policy that addresses current water threats such as tar sands development, fracking, mining and climate change. To add to this, the federal government’s 2012 omnibus budget bills implemented sweeping changes to environmental laws and removed critical safeguards for water protection including: eliminating 3,000 federal environmental assessments through amendments to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act; removing protections for 99 per cent of lakes and rivers by changing the Navigable Water Protection Act, and gutting the Fisheries Act.”
The run will begin on Monday June 1 with a rally outside the Vancouver Art Gallery. He is expected to arrive in Ottawa on August 21. The communities he will run through, where the Council of Canadians have chapters, include Chilliwack, Kamloops, Salmon Arm, Golden, Calgary, Moose Jaw, Regina, Winnipeg, Thunder Bay and Sudbury.
For more on this, please see Caribou Legs on Facebook here.