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Windsor/Essex & London chapters support Walpole Island First Nation members opposed to fracked-gas pipeline

The Council of Canadians Windsor/Essex and London chapters supported a blockade yesterday by Grandmothers, Aunties and Mothers intended to stop the construction of a fracked gas pipeline at the Walpole Island First Nation.

Windsor/Essex chapter activist Randy Emerson tells us, “The Windsor/Essex chapter had the privilege to protest along side indigenous people’s at Walpole Island. The London chapter was also present. At first we stopped traffic on the bridge to the island to hand out info flyers and to block any Union Gas equipment. When Walpole Island police told us we could not impede traffic we stood by the side of the road with our signs. We accomplished two things.  One, the work was stopped on the pipeline and two, no equipment made it over the bridge.”

Emerson adds, “We then learned that band council and Chief were having an emergency meeting about the pipeline. Band members went to the Council to voice there opposition. The Band Council and the people came back to the sacred fire by the bridge and every member of the community got a chance to speak. In the end they will have to meet again to resolve their differences.”

The Sarnia Observer now reports, “Emotions were running high amongst Walpole Island residents Monday as a blockade prevented construction workers from coming on the island to install a natural gas pipeline. …The project was expected to start construction Monday morning, but construction workers were sent home because of the blockade. …[Union Gas spokesperson Andrea] Stass said Union Gas will be meeting with the chief and council on Tuesday [August 30] morning to discuss the next steps.”

In mid-May, Postmedia reported, “Protesters have set up a camp on top of a proposed natural gas pipeline on Walpole Island First Nation. The protesters set up on [May 19], just west of the Walpole Island Bridge… Protesters had a number of signs with anti-fracking message written on them. ‘The way that natural gas is pulled out of the ground is through fracking. This natural gas that we will be receiving comes from Pennsylvania. Also, our brothers and sisters are in Oklahoma, British Columbia and Alberta where fracking is really big. It affects our relatives greatly, it affects their drinking water, their hunting and food’, said Theo Blackbird-John.”

In early-August, Postmedia added, “With a long list of concerns about the arrival of natural gas to their community, a handful of Walpole Island grandmothers on [August 8] stood in solidarity beside a piece of heavy equipment, refusing to allow it to dig into the earth to start construction. The grandmothers met with Walpole Island officials, asking that the heavy equipment be removed. Walpole Island administrators agreed to move the equipment off of Walpole Island for now. Corrine Tooshkenig, who said she’s also a great-grandmother, said the group are not protesters but call themselves ‘concerned grandmothers, aunties and mothers’.”

And in mid-August, an Anishinabek News article titled ‘Grandmothers create blockade to protect the water’ reported, “The gas line excavation was starting ‘without the people’s knowledge’, Grandmother Corinne Tooshkenig,  the first of the blockaders, told  Chief Dan Miskokomon and councillors  the evening of Tuesday, August 9.” The Two Row Times further explains, “Chief and Council refused the request tor a community vote and went so far as to change the time and location of the second meeting without prior notice.”

Walpole Island First Nation is located about a 125-kilometre drive north-east of Windsor, directly across Lake St. Clair.