Jul 082013
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Native elders to lead a spiritual gathering ito heal land, air, water and the web of life.

by Stephen Leahy

FORT MACMURRAY, July 1, 2013 — Native elders from all over North America will lead people past lakes of tailings wastewater and massive infrastructure of the tar sands industry along the Athabasca River in Fort McMurray, Alberta. Organisers say the event, dubbed the Healing Walk, will be a spiritual gathering focused on healing the land, air, water and all living things harmed by the expansion of what is already the world's largest industrial project.

"This is a sacred walk because it invites us all to begin a process of healing —  healing the land from violence, healing ourselves from our dependence on an economy based on that violence, and healing our deeply imperilled democracy," said Naomi Klein, writer and author of bestselling The Shock Doctrine on why she is participating on the Media panel on the morning of the walk, along with Bill McKibben and several First Nations leaders. Bill McKibben is also one of three keynote speakers, at the day long teach-in the day before, along with Winona LaDuke and Tzeporah Berman. 

There are plans to triple the size of the tar sands over the next two decades. An international science panel recently warned that the nearly 200sqkm of toxic wastewater is the biggest threat to the Athabasca and Mackenzie Rivers, a region sometimes called "Canada's Serengeti."

"The land is sick here. The people are sick from polluted air, water and food," says Jesse Cardinal, co-organiser from the Keepers of the Athabasca, an alliance of native and non-natives who started the Healing Walks.

"There is emotional and spiritual sickness too," Cardinal said referring to high rates of drug use and prostitution among the tens of thousands of tar sands workers including native people.

The tar sands boom is also "poisoning" Canada's politics through "escalating attacks on First Nations rights, by the dismantling of crucial environmental protections, and by the gagging of scientists," Klein said.

Cardinal believes that "prayer is powerful. We have faith a higher power will reach out to those causing all this destruction."

The 8-mile (14-km) walk on 6 July will be the fourth and it will have special meaning. Four is a sacred number among many native peoples and in other cultures, said Clayton Thomas-Muller, who will moderate the Media panel with Klein and McKibben.

"It means this is the beginning of a new cycle, a slowdown and eventual end to the tar sands," said Thomas-Muller, a co-ordinator with the Idle No More movement, an ongoing protest much like Occupy Wall Street that spread across Canada in protest against the Harper government removing indigenous rights and environmental protections.

More than 100,000 are active and planning a summer long series of actions in Canada and other countries, he said.There will be no protests or protest signs allowed on the Healing Walk.

"I'll be taking off my activist hat," said Hannah McKinnon of Environmental Defence Canada.

About Stephen Leahy

Stephen Leahy is an environmental journalist based in Uxbridge, Ontario.

His writing has been published in dozens of publications around the world including New Scientist, The London Sunday Times, Maclean's Magazine, The Toronto Star, Wired News, Audubon, BBC Wildlife, and Canadian Geographic.

For the past few years he has been the science and environment correspondent for Inter Press Service News Agency (IPS), a wire service headquartered in Rome that covers global issues, and its Latin American affiliate, Tierramerica, located in Mexico City.

Stephen Leahy graciously allows Straight Goods to reprint his articles. However, he earns very little compensation for his valuable work. His solution is Community Supported Journalism.

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Please contact Stephen if you have any questions. This article previously appeared on the InterPress Service wire. Website: http://stephenleahy.net

© Copyright 2013 Stephen Leahy, All rights Reserved. Written For: StraightGoods.ca

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