These pages have been developed from interest and a belief that we ‘Europeans’ as they often call us, even if we live in North America, on the basis that all our values are so similar to each other (and European values were imported to North America) but very different from theirs. Our knowledge is intellectual more than first hand. For this reason this site must reach out to anyone who passes by and can help to better inform readers here.
Another reason for adding 1st Nations to what is essentially a political blog is that, although they differ, native communities have generally not lost their connection to the planet. Their philosophy is not one that in most cases can be immediately reconciled with corporate, and especially multinational corporate, interests. This is mainly because of the tendency for these institutions to rape and pillage for short term gain. A little more investment in local communities (time) and less of a focus on maximizing profits may help us all to see each other as human beings, all responsible for leaving a beautiful planet for our children.
There are approximately 370 million indigenous people spanning 70 countries, worldwide. Historically they have often been dispossessed of their lands, or in the centre of conflict for access to valuable resources because of where they live, or, in yet other cases, struggling to live the way of their ancestors. Indeed, indigenous people are often amongst the most disadvantaged people in the world.
There does not seem to be one definitive definition of indigenous people, but generally they are those that have historically belonged to a particular region or country, before its colonization or transformation into a nation state. They may have different—often unique—cultural, linguistic, traditional, and other characteristics to those of the dominant culture of that region or state.
For now we leave you with a single example of what will be explored in more depth on this site.
The First Nation of Aamjiwnaang’s burial grounds is located in Sarnia, Ontario. These people have been there for hundreds of years. And about 70 years ago, they got some great new neighbors. The first thing you notice when you visit Sarnia, Ontario, is the smell. Imagine a mixture of gasoline, melting asphalt, and a trace of rotten egg smacking you in the face and crawling up your nose every time you breathe. It’s a cocktail that will make you unpleasantly high and dizzy.
That smell is coming from the chemical valley, where 40% of Canada’s petrochemical industry is located in a 25 square area. The chemical valley is responsible for the production of gasoline, plastics, pesticides, fertilizers, cosmetics, and a whole bunch of other chemicals that Canadian society relies on.
And it’s estimated that in 2013 alone, the Canadian petrochemical industry will generate $24 billion in sales. Two years ago, thanks to the 60 petrochemical plants and oil refineries that operate in the chemical valley 24/7, the World Health Organization gave Sarnia the title of the worst air in all of Canada.
We often imagine Canada to be a paragon of virtue when it comes to these issues but the truth is it is far from that. Regular participation in highway blockades and protests are the norm for many First Nations communities in Canada who are pushing back against environmental damage to their native land.
One of the major issues that the residents of Aamjiwnaang need to deal with are chemical leaks from the plants themselves. Often times, these leaks go unreported, and in the first half of 2013 alone, there were three spills of hydrogen sulfide. One of them sent several small children from Aamjiwnaang’s daycare to the hospital.
Once VICE heard about Aamjiwnaang’g struggle, they knew they had to go visit the chemical valley themselves to try and get a better sense of how the relationship between the First Nations and the petrochemical industry is being handled, what’s being done to ensure the safety of the people of Aamjiwnaang, and what the future of the chemical valley holds.
They visited Sarnia while a high profile energy conference was being held. Political leaders and energy executives had converged on the city to discuss how more money could be squeezed out of Canada’s most valuable resource – their oil. As you might imagine, the people of Aamjiwnaang were not happy to hear that more industry would be coming their way.
The safety of the people’s natural resources obviously comes first but there is no natural law that says corporations can use spin, deceptive and other unsavoury tactics in their relentless pursuit of profit. It you are not a native person take a second. Close your eyes and imagine…. That it is your children that are suffering these hardships.
Could we do something then?
A sign for the Aamjiwnaang First Nation Resource Centre is located across the road from NOVA Chemicals in Sarnia, Ont. A new study has shed light on the health problems facing a First Nations community living near one of Canada’s most industrialized areas. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Craig Glover) | CP