An Open Letter:
Why the Jefferson Salamander isn’t the end all to the issue of the proposed HCBP:
We recently found out that the city’s monitoring of the Jefferson did not find any confirmation that the Jefferson Salamander lives at the Hanlon Creek Wetland Complex. (Other than the hybrid found about a year ago). But we also know that, had the Jefferson been found, the City was attempting to apply for an exemption to the Endangered Species Act anyway, to be allowed to kill some in order to continue development. So it seems that we have come to the end of the road in terms of how the Jefferson Salamander can stop this development. But, there is one thing I want to make clear: This does not, in anyway, mean that this is a ‘green’ and ecologically sound development. All of the major environmental issues remain the same: causing destruction to the Paris-Galt Moraine, harming tributary A of the Hanlon Creek, (here-forth known as ‘Freedom Tributary’), killing thousands of animals, destroying their habitat, completely disregarding international treaties with Six Nations, and causing great harm to this beautiful old diverse forest, one of the last of its kind in Southern Ontario.
The Jefferson Salamander is important as an threatened species just as all species’ diversity is important. To keep paving over diverse forests in the name of ‘economic progress’ will inevitably eradicate this diversity. To only care about a species once it becomes ‘threatened’ is senseless as we continue on this path of destroying more and more habitat, thus placing more and more species at risk. In some sense, only caring about species officially titled ‘endangered’ can be equated to quitting smoking once we have cancer and are on our death bed. The Hanlon Creek Wetland Complex is the home to 20 species of reptiles and amphibians, 270 species of plants and trees, 16 species of mammals, and 112 species of birds. To destroy this beautiful land is to increase the risk to all of these animals as we eradicate their habitats and kill those animals who are unable to relocate elsewhere, such as all of the reptiles and amphibians.
Then there is the issue of drinking water. The Paris-Galt moraine is not only beautiful and the home to many species of life, but is essential to our drinking water as it provides a unique function in ground water recharging. The Paris-Galt Moraine is a deposit of soil, sand, and gravel left over from glacial times. Although the Mayor has lately been arguing that the moraine is not on HCBP land, this is in fact false. Section 3.2 of The City’s own Environmental Impact Study on the HCBP discusses the presence of the moraine on the site. While in the past the City of Guelph has declared its dedication to the preservation of Moraines, development of the HCBP will result in the leveling and grading of a northern section of the moraine, that lies on the South end of the site.
Development of the HCBP would also result in seriously harming Freedom Tributary of the Hanlon Creek, which feeds into the Downey Well. This well gives the City of Guelph 10 – 20% of its drinking water; any development around this area poses a grave threat to our water supply. Freedom Tributary also feeds into the Speed River that then feeds into the Grand River. Many communities that are part of the Grand River watershed oppose the HCBP because of the contamination of their own water supply. One of these communities is Six Nations of the Grand River, and there are international laws and treaties that hold the people who have settled on this land accountable to Six Nations for their actions.
Three major treaties with Six Nations that include the Hanlon Creek Wetland Complex are Two Row Wampum of 1613, the Nanfan treaty of 1701, and the Haldimand Tract Treaty of 1784. The Two Row Wampum is a treaty of non-disturbance and co-existance, demonstrated by a wampum belt that is mostly white with two purple lines down the middle, running parallel and never touching. This symbolizes two boats, one of Six Nations, and the other of settlers. Each is to drive their own boat and keep to their own path, and is NOT to drive the other’s boat, or drive their boat all over the other’s path. However, here we have a colonial situation where the settlers on this land have attempted to steer the other’s boat again and again. Development on the Hanlon Creek would further this for three reasons: one, we are not sure that it is not covered by the Haldimand Tract treaty, two, even if it is not covered by this treaty, it would surely have harmful consequences to land that is, and three, it is surely covered by the Nanfan treaty.
The Nanfan treaty of 1701 is named after by John Nanfan, the colonial governor of New York, and covers Southern Ontario, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan. It declares “free hunting…. for ever” and “free of all disturbances”. This includes the Hanlon Creek Wetland Complex, and the destruction of this land through the development of the proposed HCBP would directly be a ‘disturbance’ to this land that is legally bound to be disturbance free. As Southern Ontario is increasingly become a ‘pavement paradise’, this ‘free hunting forever’ has already been seriously compromised, further destruction to the Hanlon Creek Wetland Complex would greatly add to this.
The Haldimand Tract treaty of 1784 is land given to Six Nations as compensation for land they lost as a result of the American Revolution, where they allied with the British. The Haldimand Tract is six miles on either side of the Grand River. This either includes the land proposed for the HCBP, or is very very close. The exact boundaries of the Haldimand Tract are hard to determine for a number of reasons: uncertainty regarding if it measured in nautical miles or land miles, the river is constantly changing, there are new dams and concrete embankments that change the topography of the river, and there are tributaries that feed directly into the Grand River. However, one thing is certain: even if the Hanlon Creek Wetland Complex is not part of the Haldimand Tract, any destruction of this land would surely cause great harm to land that is. Thus, any destruction to the Hanlon Creek Wetland Complex would be illegal, as it would be breaking international treaties.
Fallacy in trusting Government:
I also want to bring up how this has illuminated our fallacy in trusting governmental bodies, such as the MNR, to look out for our well being. Just as Donna Cansfield, the then Minister of Natural Resources, let us down in fall 2009 when she went against the opinions of her own staff by not issuing a ‘work-stop’ order to the City of Guelph, so have the MNR let us down again. It seems that the MNR is more about enabling development to take place on environmentally sensitive land than on protecting said land, demonstrated through all of the loopholes in its policies. So what is the MNR there for, then? Well, let’s look at the name “natural resources”, which illustrates how the natural world is merely viewed as a ‘resource’ for economic extraction. Instead of being appreciated and respected for being the base of our existence, our food to eat, water to drink, air to breathe, this earth is only looked at though a lens of dollar signs, to see how our ‘natural resources’ can translate into economic growth. The MNR fits in nicely with the Ministry of Industry to promote economic growth, thus destroying our natural environment, in such a way as to feed us the delusion that ‘the government is looking out for our best interest’. Governmental bodies maintain the status quo, protect private property, inflict fear into deep environmentalists who are trying to ring the warning bell, and keep this monster of capitalism and industrial growth chugging. It is this monster of capitalism that is currently wrecking havoc on the planet, it is this monster of industrial growth that is giving us climate change. When will we learn that this is not in our ‘best interest’? When will we realize that we all need clean air, water, and land? When will we realize that we cannot eat money? If we follow along the track that the MNR sets out for us, where species are only protected once they are ‘endangered’, then I fear we will realize this far too late.
I chose Life
The time is here where we need to shift our values and realize what is truly important. We need to realize that the ‘world leaders’ are the leaders of money, and they are leading us into an industrial black hole that the Earth may not recover from. Many people had high hopes about Copenhagaan, thinking that ‘now the leaders will realize that climate change is actually an issue.’ And then many left disappointed. Most of us know these values that we need to hold higher – when we raise a child, we do not teach them to be competitive and destroy this earth, no, we teach them to cherish this earth, cherish friendships and relationships, and cooperate with one another. But then something happens (greed? capitalism? I wish I knew…), and we have a society that values competition and economic progress above all else, above community, above this earth. And we see these values reflected in policies, we see these values reflected in this society of excess and wealth, extreme consumerism, at the cost of so much. Other places in the world are feeling these costs of capitalism, industrialism, and consumerism, and soon climate change will bring these effects to our doorsteps as well.
I do not think that these are ‘radical’ ideas that I am writing. I work in the South End of Guelph, and spend much of my time talking with mothers, fathers, caregivers, and I hear them echo this fear. I hear them echo this urgency that we must all wake up and change. And these are not people who one would put the label ‘radical’ onto. What saddens me is, although many people agree with these ideas, how little they act on them. I understand how scary it can be to step out of the status quo with we have dependents, children, or even pets. But I would like instead for these loved ones to give us inspiration to do what needs to be done, as we contemplate “what kind of a world are we leaving for them?” I am calling on all people who live in the Hanlon Creek Watershed to wake up and realize that destruction to this beautiful land will have disastrous consequences for us all. I believe very strongly that we can stop the proposed HCBP. The key word being ‘we’. I, alone, cannot. But if everyone that lives in the Hanlon Creek Watershed took up their responsibility to care for this land, to care for the water that gives us life, and to therefore stop the proposed HCBP, than I have complete faith that we can.
We all need clean water, clean air, and biodiversity. We do NOT need more pavement, more ‘economic growth’, that increases climate change and environmental destruction. We do NOT need another business park when there are so many brown-fields in Guelph. We do NOT need the proposed HCBP.
Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. I welcome feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.