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Great Lakes Article:

Natives want voice on waterís future
By Raymond Bowe
The Enterprise Bulletin
05/28/03


COLLINGWOOD - After a brief introduction in his mother tongue, the chief of the Chippewas of Nawash north of Owen Sound said he wishes aboriginal people were advised of any decision regarding Georgian Bay water.

Ralph Akiwenzie said natives have concerns over the effect regional pipelines have on wildlife and fisheries on Georgian Bay, Lake Huron and the Bruce Peninsula.

Everyone is aware of water issues because of Walkerton, Akiwenzie said. Itís important to look at the economic and environmental impact of any (pipeline) proposal.

Akiwenzie said many native bands not just the Chippewas of Nawash are left out of any discussions concerning this precious resource.

Referring to native rights, Akiwenzie said itís about time a First Nations view is upheld. Any diversion or water pipeline will have an effect on our shores. What happens with (spawning grounds)? Itís scary.

Any shoreline alteration or development is important to us, Akiwenzie said.

Earlier this year, Collingwood council denied extending the water pipeline from Alliston to Bradford West Gwillimbury because it would take water outside the watershed.

David McLaren, communications officer for the Chippewas of Nawash, said you just canít send water 50 kilometres and expect no impact on the environment.

McLaren said the band doesnít oppose all pipelines, but asked that natives be advised of any proposals for such projects.

He said accurate information in environmental assessments (EA) isnít being given to the public, and many people who live in native territories know their traditional areas well, and what effects or damage would be done to them with more development.

Pipelines donít guarantee citizens water quality and quantity, McLaren said, and water could be contaminated as it returns to the source by way of polluted rivers and streams.

The answer, McLaren said, is for the Municipal Engineers Association to intensify Class EAs in certain areas that may be more susceptible to damage or catastrophe.

McLaren said diversions in even the smallest water systems could be similarly destructive, including the potential transfer of aquatic species. The real effect is on fish and the insects they eat, he said.

Referring to an information package, McLaren said the Great Lakes account for 18 per cent of the worldís fresh water. Only one per cent of that is renewable rainwater, and the other 99 per cent is non-renewable prehistoric or glacial.

Weíre playing too fast and loose with that one per cent, McLaren said, adding more than 100 First Nations communities live under boil-water advisories.

Councillor Chris Carrier, whoís also chairman of the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority, said the amount of data municipal councillors are given on water issues is mind-blowing.

Carrier said itís difficult for both councillors and the public to sift through the mounds of information to gain the accurate perspective needed to make the right decision.

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