On July 5th and 6th, hundreds of people came together from coast to coast to join First Nations and Metis in the Healing Walk, a spiritual gathering focused on healing the land and the people who are suffering from tar sands expansion. Led by elders and ceremony people, the group walked approximately 14 km around a massive tar sands processing facility.
Also on July 6th, early in the morning, a train carrying crude oil derailed in the town of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, causing a series of explosions and a massive blaze resulting in 15 confirmed dead and 40 missing, and over 30 buildings destroyed. The recovery effort is ongoing for this sadly predictable, yet no less horrifying incident, which speaks clearly to the need for events with intention like the Healing Walk. The destruction of their homes is an everyday reality for frontline communities like the First Nations of Alberta, whose suffering from tar sands development can only be described as slow industrial genocide.
Watch video of the fire here.
‘Grief on the Edge of Tar Sands’
by Linda Solomon
Cross-posted from the Vancouver Observer
Her sobs carried across the crowd. Intermittently, propane cannons boomed to frighten wildlife away from the tailings pond. She was surrounded by First Nation chiefs and elders, people from Squamish, Fort McMurray, and Fort Chipewyan. They comforted her as she cried over what they described as the devastation of their land, culture, and “Mother Earth.”
Her heart-wrenching weeping silenced the 400 or so people who had come from all parts of Canada to join the First nations for the 2013 Healing Walk. They stood listening, as a seemingly endless convoy of trucks carrying loads headed for the Syncrude oil sands facility, rolled slowly by. Her tears said more than all of the passionate and powerful speeches that had taken place over the last 24 hours combined: Bill McKibben, Naomi Klein, Wynona LaDuke, all dwarfed by the white haired woman’s raw grief.
No one explained. No one had to. It had already been said.
Throughout the demonstration, marchers looked over to where she sat, surrounded by chiefs and elders, on the edge of the tailings pond, a man-made body of water where oil sands waste goes, a toxic pond deadly to ducks and birds who hazard into it.
As her sobs pierced the cloudy day, some demonstrators began to weep. It was hard not to be moved by the depth of the elder’s emotion.
The woman stood. First, one chief wrapped his arms around her. Then another embraced her. Then another and another. An elder wiped tears from his deeply wrinkled face. They turned away from the tailings pond.
The walk continued.
For more photos of the Healing Walk, go here.