winter 1998-99

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WATERWALK - Eloise Charet's overview of the 1998 Cross-Canada WaterWalk in Kootenay Barter Times

WaterWalk Seeps Into Ottawa - Lois Cape writes about the arrival of the WaterWalkers in Ottawa

Back in the Kootenays - Thank you's from Eloise and thoughts on returning home

by Eloise Charet

WaterWalk began on May 8th in Victoria, B.C. at mile `O' of the TransCanada highway. In the beginning, I walked alone. Adjusting to the constant noise of traffic, inhaling exhaust fumes was difficult, not to mention exchanging my soft bed for a ditch. Later, Kerry Attridge joined in Kamloops, Karen Roberts and my daughter Emma in Calgary along with Flow-Mow, our infamous back-up vehicle covered with signatures from across the country. Our journey of 5000 km lasted seven months and ended in Ottawa.

Our purpose was to raise awareness about the condition of our water. All across Canada all kinds of people joined in to walk their talk and participate in our water-weaving ceremony. This consisted of smudging in the four directions, blessing the water, ourselves, the journey, pouring and adding drops to our bottle. Later, Red Cloud, of the Sagkeeng Reserve, added a sacred cloth out of which I made little medicine pouches of tobacco and herbs. We hung one over every river, lake and stream along the way, weaving them as we wove the stories of the local people.

Kerry Attridge, Saltspring Island:
"Where I live, the water is getting dirtier by the day. Victoria and Vancouver have open sewers running in the ocean and the Fraser river." Right across our country, human and animal feces from large farms were major contaminants, sometimes literally ruining a town's water supply."

KAMLOOPS, B.C.: Colleen Seymor, teacher:
"One of our major pollutants has been a pulp mill. Our children are sick when they drink or swim in the water, 24 caribou died drinking downstream in the spring, our salmon is bordering extinction."

REVELSTOKE, B.C.: Marge Skypnick, trapper:
"We live below two dams on one of the worst fault lines in the world and have two minutes to evacuate our homes if anything goes wrong. They flooded our rare fertile land in the mountains, the fish are going extinct and now we import food and live under low level radiation from hydrolines. We lost a healthy way of life for progress."

SLOCAN VALLEY, B.C.: Eloise Charet, mother:
"Every town around us has lost their pure water. I spent seven weeks in maximum security prison trying to save my watershed from being logged, believing that it wasn't worth losing it for 19 days worth of lumber."

Banff- Ted and Sara:
"C.P.R. earned 1.25 billion in profits last year but it costs you and I money to go see Lake Louise. Trains are the greatest animal killers as well as one of the worse polluters across our nation, they spray dealy herbicides along the tracks which crosses every body of water. When ordered to clean up their oil spill in Banff, they just dumped it right in Golden's watershed."

an unknown man said:
"We used to bring our toxic chemicals to Swan Hills but because of all their fines it's too expensive, so now we just dump it down the drain along with many other corporations."
Faye Ash and Jack Locke:
"We are fighting the chemical spraying in our parks, schools and homes and trying to get the fluoride out of our water, it's just a by-product of mining."
Alison and Dave Good:
"They spray hydro lines, roadsides, clearcuts. They even tell tree-planters not to have babies for two years after working one season. All this leaches into our water."
From Alberta to Saskatchewan, the samples were very black and tainted with oil and tar.

Jack Wornock, university professor in Regina:
"We have the highest rate of MS (Multiple Sclerosis) in North America, the highest infant mortality in Canada. Between the spraying of fungicides and pesticides, chemical farming and uranium mining in the North, our breadbasket isn't a very healthy place to live."
We asked the mayor of Regina about these awful statistics; his answer was to blame it on the native people. We showed him the sample collected by nine year old Brandon Wilson. "I wouldn't drink this water, there's dead fish in it" (Buffalo Pound, Regina's watershed). When we left his office, we watched a city employee spraying the roadside with an herbicide that floated around our car and drifted over to the people at the sidewalk cafe. It's a known fact that herbicides, pesticides and fungicides mimic diseases in mankind such as MS and more.

Kamal Galay:
"They fog Winnipeg to kill the mosquito population even though a university test has proven that it doesn't help and this drains into our water. They found pharmaceutical drugs in the Assiniboine."
Clem and Phyllis Courchenes of the Sagkeeng Reserve:
"We live downstream from a nuclear plant, a dam and a mill. We have high levels of toxins and the diseases that go with it. If our children swim in the Winnipeg River, the flesh burns off their arms and hands. We just lost a 21 year old son to cancer this year."
Nearby, an entire family of three generations sat crippled in wheelchairs.

Judy Dapishcochnicook and her husband Kukra from the Grassy Narrows:
"Reserves are dumping grounds for industry and we were one of the worst hit for mercury poisoning. Diabetes and cancer are becoming an epidemic and every time we complain to the government, they just raise the parts per billion. When they spray our blueberry patches, they tell us we can eat the fruit but don't step on the ground because it's toxic."
At Grassy Narrows they held a blanket dance for us at their pow-wow. First, I danced alone to the beat of the drum, then I watched Judy hobble over with her two canes as all the spectators joined in, honoring our walk. The simplest people were the most generous and those who suffered were the most compassionate.

Sandy and Mike Kantymir of Thunder Bay:
"Our city has a choice of two sources for our drinking water. One is Lake Superior and that is considered a chemical cocktail, there is a creosote blob floating at the intake and nobody is assuming responsibility for it. The other is Loch Lomond or Kazazeekeegewaigmag. It used to be one of the cleanest lakes in the world but they logged, polluted it and now it's full of this parasite called giardia. Warnings are posted informing pregnant women and babies not to drink the water. I could never image we could come [to] this."
Brenain and Phil of Northwatch in North Bay:
"We have been fighting a losing battle for years trying to keep Toronto's garbage out of our watershed."
The Ministry of Environment answers to a nuclear waste spill into the Ottawa River at Chalk River, Ont.:
"It's so minute, like measuring a teaspoonful in a whole swimming pool, barely worth it."
The local people told us they no longer swim or fish in the area. Who do you trust? Who do you believe?

Lois Cape from Oka:
"I walked with Singing Wolf for our suicidal youth and value this [WaterWalk]."
Joan Russow, national leader of the Green Party:
"I can't think of anything more important to do than stand for the water but unforunately I am presently denied access to Parliament meetings and considered a threat to the state for no valid reason except from orders higher up." (Pepper spraying and Apec was the headline news.) "The police were very agitated and intimidating towards us, it was not a pleasant place to be [WaterWalk on Parliament Hill - Oct.2, 1998]."

The bear grandmothers gave us braids of sweetgrass and the grandfathers lit a sacred fire on Victoria Island [on the Ottawa River, near Parliament Buildings], a place attempting to unite the tribes of Canada. We camped and watched over it for the next three weeks, day and night. It became our main focus, keeping the flame lit in the midst of darkness, hope alive in the middle of despair and love still flowing when nobody seemed to care. It made us strong, like the courage it takes to stand for your right to life, knowing pure water is that life. It gives you a deep sense of honor and pride towards your accomplishments rather than sit by and complain or get sick over it. I saw the big difference in towns that banded together to preserve their watersheds, they carried themselves with self-esteem compared to other depressing places who gave away their clean water to polluting industries for the sake of a job.

So we carry on with a new web site, with a power to the people philosophy and we are open to donations.

Gracious thanks to all the people who helped make it happen. Stay tuned.

The above article appeared in the Kootenay Barter Times, Dec. 1998 - Jan. 1999
published in Nelson, B.C.

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Water Walk Seeps Into Ottawa
by Lois Cape

"Flames that need to be protected from the wind"

Yesterday, October 2, was a momentous occasion for Eloise Charet. She got to cry on Parliament Hill.

After five months of walking across the country, beginning in Victoria, B.C. on May 8, to bring a message of the importance of clean, safe water...; after being received, heard, and helped in communities and reserves across the country...; after sending out hundreds of press releases to announce her arrival...; she arrived in company of only three family members and tree friends, two of whom have been her road companions all along. No public interest. No mainstream press.

So she set up her display of water outside the Parliament Buildings, as she had planned, and sat and cried while people streamed past ignoring her or casting indifferent glances. She was crying for those people, outside and inside the building, who were ignoring the cause and thereby contributing to the destruction of us all.

The issue here is not all about Eloise Charet. It is about the future of all of us, of our children, and of the generations to come. The future of the whole planet is at stake, because without clean water nothing will live. Does nobody but Eloise Charet and her few faithful supporters care?

Joan Russow, leader of the Green Party, cares very much and was impressed upon to express her views. In a speech to the supporters she told how the quality of water has been her concern for 50 years, since being told as a child that she couldn't swim in the Ottawa River due to the pollution caused by the E.B. Eddy Company.

She stated that in 1977 at an international conference on water, it was resolved that the access to clean water is a human right. Our human rights are being constantly violated by the steady destruction of our watersheds.

She went on to say that in 1982, every country of the world signed an agreement which undertook to protect the watersheds, declaring a necessity to respect the inherent rights of Nature beyond human purpose. Canada clearly violates that part as our waters continue to be the dumping grounds for pesticides, mine tailings, chemical and bacterial wastes. According to the Fisheries Act, it is a criminimal offence to deposit deleterious substances in our waters. It is a clause which is rarely enforced. Ms. Russow's knowledge and expertise on these matters was much appreciated.

The next speaker was Kerry Attridge , who has accompanied Water Walk for most of the journey. He has shared the adventures and disappointments, shared the walking and the driving of the support vehicle, a huge older model white car covered with the signatures and comments of wellwishers encountered on the jouney. Kerry considers it a blessing to have been allowed to take part in this walk. He has seen with his own eyes so much of the country, what is being done to our water by industry, and what the politicians are allowing to happen by turning a blind eye. The "chemical cocktails" pouring out of the nation's taps are a shameful blot on our government. Diesel fuel and antifreeze spills from CPRail, logging, and mining are only some of the things that take this toll on our future.

Says Kerry: "The corporate system is killing our children slowly through water issues. Clean water is a gift from the Creator, only now it cost $2 a litre: that is the price tag that has been put on Life."

Eloise herself spoke, still stunned with disbelief at the apathy of the nation and the general public. It astounded her that not even the press was interested in validating the issue. She has brought water samples from communities she has visited accross Canada to demonstrate to the politicians and the people the seriousness of the situation.

She invites you all to come and join her, bring samples of water from you own communities, so that a collective voice can be raised on Parliament Hill to demand a solution for the future of our children.

She will be on Parliament Hill or at Victoria Island, depending on the weather and circumstances, daily throughout October, and every Friday evening of October she will hold a candlelight vigil at the Eternal Flame from 9 to 10 pm. Please come at any time to show your support for this vital issue."

Editor's note: Lois Cape accompanied Eloise Charet when she walked into Ottawa on October 2, 1998.

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Back in the Kootenays

Eloise Charet

December 11, 1998

Upon returning home to the Slocan Valley in the Kootenays of British Columbia, the first news that greeted us was the fact that Slocan Forest Products was preparing to log on Goat Mountain just above New Denver and that the logging road permit had been issued for the Red Mountain area, including Hasty Creek. People form in pockets trying to protect their precious watersheds, but it is important that we all try to band together for the last stands, the last seeds. If anything, the WaterWalk taught me that there is barely anything healthy left out there, and in the mountains, because of our isolation, our sources aren't as tainted. All B.C.'s watersheds are doomed in the next ten years, because that's the only trees we have left to log.

Presently all efforts to preserve any living legacy should be our 'raison d'etre'. We just have to get out there or stand by someone who is. I know for a fact that we would never have crossed the first ditch if people weren't taking care of my kids; handing us money,putting us up, feeding us, patching us up and more. It was truly a test of faith to see if we were going to MAKE IT, and we all did because it takes a hundred people to hold one person up. It took many to move us across Canada, and waterwalk is a symbol of all those wonderful, generous and compassionate people. I can't thank you all enough, you are my heroes !!! I wish to formally aknowledge everybody under the donations list, our shareholders.

In the meantime, we have been very busy. Kerry left for Saltspring Island to rest his bones and we were quite teary-eyed when he departed. Steve Lones is planning an incredible water website called Watertalk. He feels that the response was so good and the information so pertinent that we must keep it going. I have done several interviews with our local newspapers and radio. Time magazine will publish a piece this winter. Our water samples hit the front page of the Nelson Barter Bulletin and I talked to a large crowd at the succesful Barter Fair. It has been extremely busy for us as well as exciting and we shall continue...Personally I am trying to find a home to settle down with my children, and as Christmas approaches, I am starting to feel desperate. FloMo [ed. note: the 1974 Ford LTD Eloise drove across Canada] is still on the road and looking pretty much like the 'Blues Brothers' coming to town, driving everybody to drink ...water, that is...

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