The newly formed association-Transition Initiative Kenora (TIK) under the leadership of Teika Newton is earnestly looking at ways to reconcile much of Kenora’s residents’ attachment to its own biosphere and natural habitat; with that of its economic need to diversity and welcome industrial opportunities via long-term employment strategies.
Newton cites this paradox as the definitive issue,“…How do we remain stewards and champions of a healthy environment (the thing that we most treasure about the place where we live) and at the same time ensure economic diversity and prosperity? Those are the evaluative things we have to ask ourselves when speaking of the energy east project.”
Maude Barlow Chairperson of the Council of Canadians opined that the emphasis taken by TransCanada is unsustainable and presents a real environmental disaster, “In Ontario, TransCanada wants to use a converted 40-year-old natural gas pipeline to transport diluted bitumen from the tar sands over some of the provinces most important waterways.”
In addition, the tar sand production within the traditional territory of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) and Mikisew Cree First Nation is projected to increase. ACFN Communications Coordinator Eriel Deranger explained her people’s position, “We’ve challenged Shell Canada’s recent application of the Jack pine mine extension and this project even though it stated that the panel found that there was (a) significant adverse effect that justified these effects and granted the approval under the oils sands conservation act. We intervened and challenged the project.”
Deranger went on to say, “…they (Shell Canada) admitted that it would cause irreversible impacts on the environment, and they admitted that it would impact treaty and aboriginal land use, rights, and culture. However they said it still was in the public’s (best) interest.”
As the oil debate rages on; greater mobilization efforts in reducing if not completely haltering the increased transport of oil is on the rise. What Newton mentioned during the Kenora meeting has been stated on numerous occasions, "We need much stronger rules on moving oil, and we also need to start making those investments in getting off of oil. We need to do that for climate change reasons, but it will also reduce all kinds of risks we've seen that are inevitable when you are moving a hazardous product."-Keith Stewart, Greenpeace.
Barlow indicated that initial conversations at the municipal level were not as positive as she would have liked it to be. However, Treaty 3 Grand Chief Warren White has acknowledged the importance of uniting with TIK and the Council of Canadians, in presenting a stronger opposition to EEP’s planned oil export routes through Ontario.
Whether Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford will take TIK’s concerns seriously; no one knows at this point. What is known is that he seems to favour dialogue. When speaking to the issue of the Northern Gateway project opined in the Globe and Mail on March 20th, Rickford stated the following, “…You don’t show up with a project and then try to build a relationship just to get the project through. That’s not the way it works.”
Rickford’s assertions that due process will be followed is in stark contrast to Prime Minister Harper’s vision as Canada’s role as a primary supply of natural resources for the purpose of global export markets, "Governments are looking to this for revenues, what's happened more recently is that the globe and the world economy has looked to Canada. -Gary Stringham, Canadian Assoc of Petroleum Producers.
Newton and local Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) activist Peter Kirby, among others believe that there needs to be a priority shift in our lifestyles; and gravitate as a country, away from extreme fossil energy practices. There is no duplicity in her affirmation that pipeline projects such as EEP presents too high of an environmental risk. It is a recurring theme that is being reiterated by more than one environmental groups such as TIK. Professor Stephen Larter, of the University of Calgary equates the issue by stating, "What do I do? Do I try to get rich while increasing carbon pollution into the atmosphere? Or do I try to stop it.”
TIK does not imply that societal models can operate and sustain themselves exclusively without standard forms of energy which oil and gas offers-presently. The Council of Canadians and the Environmental Defense believe that Canada is lagging behind in matters of transitioning to alternative forms of viable energy. In addition, the panel is stressing that the Harper government alongside major oil conglomerates; have of yet to find responsible ways to collect and safely dispose of oil petroleum by products. Professor Miriam Diamond, of the University of Toronto commented on this very issue, “…this is a really expensive problem, that's still waiting to be solved.” Meanwhile efforts to increase tar sand oil production continue.
In her closing remarks Barlow reaffirmed that all is not lost,
“We need to build a movement right across this country to say that we know that we can build alternatives that we have a very, very different dream of what our water means to us, what our air means to us, what our future means to us. We have to ask the questions...Who benefits? Who pays?. This is our risk and their reward. This is only and forever about the rights of big corporations. We're going to have to say no to EEP."