Community Coalition Against Mining Uranium (CCAMU)
Citizens’ Inquiry on the Impacts of the Uranium Cycle
Home Scope of the Inquiry Participants How to participate Counties & Municipalities
About CCAMU CCAMU Supporter Registration Location & Dates Supporting Organizations
   

If it is to be, it is up to me

Kathryn Langley

I am here today because I believe that as a citizen it is my duty to speak. "If it is to be, it is up to me."

The impact of the uranium cycle is about values. It is about our relationship to the land, to life and to sustainability.

My first memories of land would be the grass I played upon beside my parents' rented apartment. It wasn't "my" land, but it seemed to be "my land" - home...I remember travelling over to the river bank and watching the ducks and picking the wild flowers. Back in the late '40s we had huge public playgrounds, beautiful public parks and gardens, public drinking fountains, public swimming pools for all ages. Governments worked for the common good.

My grandparents, Art and Lou, were shipped to Canada as poor young teenagers because of economic problems in England. My grandfather, served in WW#1, was shot and the result was a fused elbow. Upon his return to Canada, he worked as a letter carrier. He used his leisure time in his backyard garden growing vegetables flowers, herbs, fruits. My grandparents collected rain in barrels and composted all peelings. My grandmother's cold cellar contained the products of great labour and love - jams, pickled beets, corn relish, chili sauce, sweet crabapples - umm. They did no damage to their land. I would travel home from visits with armloads of lilacs, glads, rhubarb, dill... My grandfather's place of employment Canada Post has recently been under attack by foreign corporations. This was possible through NAFTA - a bad agreement made by - I would say misguided governments.

My dad, a production supervisor at Outboard Marine, farmed a rented acre and a half in Otonabee Township. He spent weekends growing the produce that filled my mom's cold cellar, her two freezers and his labour helped to feed the more than 70 people who boarded at our house over a few decades. I remember the spring smelt run - the platters of silvery fish perfectly fried by my mother. My dad fished and hunted. We never wanted for food. In the middle of the night, he would pick dew worms. This is the how I grew up living in west end of Peterborough. In labelling, I was part of the The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism...

Saturday afternoon movies were largely centered on "Cowboys and Indians" - the taming of the "wild frontiers" and the acquisition of land, the spread of settlements and the ensuing "progress". I have a feeling there may be a new series of movies on the horizon documenting the on-going struggles. We, here, are part of this continuing struggle over land and land use.

At 18, I attended Peterborough Teachers College. My education was nearby, relatively free and publicly funded.

The Gr. 4 Social Studies text, "We Live in Ontario", described the farming, fishing, forestry, mining and manufacturing jobs in Ontario. I do not recall information being presented on the negative impacts of removing dangerous elements from bedrock or a discussion of the Ontario Mining Act and its abuses.

Gr. 5 was "Pirates and Pathfinders" describing the European explorations across oceans to find riches and the colonization of other lands by the power houses of royalty and commerce - England, France, Spain, Portugal, etc.

Gr. 6 was "Breastplate and Buckskin" which documented the colonization of foreign lands claimed in the name of whichever King or Queen. Little was written about the lack of a concept of land ownership by aboriginal people. In order to expand my knowledge of what I was teaching, I enrolled at Trent University in Native Studies. I took Introduction, Identity and Self-awareness, Politics, and Education which gave me a background of understanding about First Nations - culturally and legally and culturally dating back before the "colonization" and "westernization". I studied treaties and wampum agreements with First Nations as equal partners with the English and French settlers.

My classes and I went on many outdoor excursions. Our most memorable experiences were overnights to Camp Kawartha for outdoor education - the seasonal cycles - the water cycle - the connectedness of everything - the need to protect and to preserve. The overlying concept was the importance of leaving nothing behind but our footprints. Over the years these excursions became increasingly prohibitive because of rising costs and students needed to do more funding and fund-raising. We did literacy assignments on "preservation of tropical rain forests" and the "value of wetlands and habitat". Sound practices were argued for by students in Grades 4 - 6 who understood "environmental sustainability".

The Bob Rae New Democrats passed their "Environmental Bill of Rights" - February 15th, 1994.

Here and now - I question the protection and preservation being done by Government - programs named well - but signifying what?

The Harris Conservatives and their "Lands for Life" allowed devastation in huge areas outside the "pockets that were protected".

The McGuinty Liberals praised their "Living Legacy". Who - truly interested in environmental protection, preservation, clean air, clean water, groundwaters.....waves environmental assessments on Crown Lands to enable mining to proceed faster?

My late husband Henry and I shared a family property which has 1000 foot frontage on Chandos Lake. Since the early 30s, his grandfather and his descendants numbering over 70 have managed with no telephone, no electricity, no indoor toilets... Greatly valued is the back to nature experiences. Fresh air, clean spring fed lake, harvesting specific trees, protecting the seedlings and wild flowers, watching the animals, feeding the chipmunks, composting, campfires - the peace the quiet - the family connections - the cooking on old wood stoves, the pumping of water...

Things are changing. There are mining interests half an hour north of us in Bancroft area and an hour west in the Haliburtons. Huge mansions are being constructed. Huge turbo crafts whiz by destroying the shoreline. The roads are wider. There is less natural habitat. The lake is more polluted. There are manicured lawns - a tribute to man's control over nature. There are carcinogenic chemicals in the water. Loud speakers blast music in the wee hours of the morning. Boats deliver weekend newspapers. Our lifestyles need to be rethought. We are in a period of transition. We must choose the path ahead using the wisdom we all have. We need to rethink every decision and how it will impact on the environment. I mentioned that on February 15, 1994, Ontario issued an Environmental Bill of Rights. We need our governments to enforce that Environmental Bill of Rights.

My van is covered in bumper stickers as I believe that it should be more than a method of transportation. My stickers are chosen to make people think.

I have Albert Einstein's "Our technology has surpassed our humanity." Einstein was referring to nuclear.

Dwight Eisenhower, in his final address to the nation told citizens to beware the military/industrial complex. Eisenhower was advised to omit the word political as in political/military/industrial complex. I have Voltaire's "Those who can make us believe absurdities, can make us commit atrocities." There are alternatives to uranium and to nuclear. There are alternatives to the conquer and destroy mentality. Uranium removed from bedrock is not good for living things and Mother Earth.

In the path ahead - using renewable sources of energy - we will need minerals for manufacturing components.

But the mining process needs to be completely redesigned to protect eco-systems. The below surface mineral rights should belong to the people who own the surface rights. Legislation must ensure the absolute utmost safety throughout the entire mining cycle - no escaping gases - no toxic tailings - no contamination of groundwaters. No one said it would be easy. To achieve this level of protection, we need a moratorium on the exploration for and the mining of uranium. We need legislation that works for the common good . We need government funding for research, development and making the transition to safe sustainable practices in providing energy. We need the citizens who are in jail for believing in protection of land, water, air to be released, pardoned and given restitution. This whole court foolishness is making lawyers rich and bankrupting whole communities opposed to mining. The current system caters to corporate wants, wishes, profiteering. It uses tax dollars to keep concerned citizens at bay through intimidation or in court or in prison. This I believe is a misuse of my tax dollars. Our current governments federally and provincially are promoting short term gain for the few with no regard for the sustainability of our eco-systems. I am with the majority who do not wish to be a resource colony for the world's energy hogs to the south of us.

"When will our governments get out of the pockets of corporate power and do what they were intended to do - govern for the people?" Acts and agreements were designed by men to serve a purpose. When that purpose is against the common good, the laws need to be repealed, abrogated, trashed.Where is the political will to think ahead seven generations? for best practices? for sustainability?

This June I will become a grandmother for the first time. What will my grandchild speak of 63 years from now? and her grandchildren in years later? The wise grandmothers of First Nations, what will they be telling their grandchildren? What stories will be told about the mere 600 years between 1492 and 2092? What impact will "colonization" have had on the place we call Canada, North America, Turtle Island? How can the damage we have done to peoples, to our environment be rectified?

This is a time of transition and our Governments must act on behalf of the "common good" and not short-sighted, short-term profiteering.

Our future - our sustainability - our very being - requires legislation that takes into account all impacts of the uranium cycle.

We must question our political/military/industrial complex which in my opinion is rapidly becoming "fascist corporatism" which seeks to direct and control political decisions, limit democracy and jail those who disagree with the policies of the "State".

It is time for change. Think ahead seven generations. Our technology must support our humanity! My bumper sticker says, "No Uranium."