By now almost everyone must have heard of the giant industrial pig farm to be built in the southern territory of Eeyou Istchee. The Nation interviewed a number of people in each of the Cree communities that will be most affected by it. Surprisingly, some people hadn’t heard of the project. But many people had strong opinions. What follows is a selection of the comments.
Roger Orr, a Chisasibi native who resides in Nemaska: “The pig farm can be a source of economic development for the region but the environmental affects of the pig manure getting into the water system is a possibility. It could mean e. coli and other stuff affecting the fish, so I can see why the Cree leaders are opposing it. But it also confuses me at the same time. There is mining there that’s been going on for 50 or 60 years. Nothing has been done about it. It seems to me the mining and forestry and damming of rivers has a connection with the agreement that we don’t oppose in the same way we oppose a pig farm. One of the chiefs said in his own words he’ll do anything to protect the tallymen. I’m very confused, that’s contradictory because we have Freddie Jolly who will be most affected by the Rupert’s River diversion and they’re doing nothing for him. All a sudden there’s a pig farm and there’s a big concern. What about the tallymen who have been affected by the mining.”
Chief Robert Kitchen of Waswanipi: “When we first heard about this pig farm to be established on Waswanipi territory we presented it to the people and of course they didn’t like it. So we passed a resolution opposing the project. From there we invited the promoter to come to our traditional gathering and make a presentation with the family members being present. There were 10 of them; we were very surprised they showed up,” he said.
“We didn’t agree with the idea because we don’t think it will pass the environmental assessment. One thing that really impacted us is the liquid waste that will be purified and then poured into the river. That river drains into the Waswanipi River. That would affect our drinking water. There was a resolution passed at the General Assembly opposing the pig farm. There will be strong opposition from the community of Waswanipi.”
Paul Dixon, local fur officer in Waswanipi: “Our land is the old world and the new land is going to plunder the old world. That’s how I feel when people differentiate the old world from the new world. I can’t believe that’s intelligent.”
Freddie Jolly of Nemaska: “I know they’re trying to create jobs but I don’t believe that in destroying the land at the same time. All I have to say for now is the promoter should build his pig farm in his own back yard.”
Rose Dixon Gilpin, a Cree language teacher in Waswanipi, went to Quebec City to observe the pig farms there. “It was awful,” she said. “There were only small farms but the one that will be built on our land will need 32,000 pigs just to start the farm. We saw how they will dispose of the manure and it will contaminate our grounds and rivers. I wouldn’t be too interested to eat wild foods anymore if the pig farm goes through so we urge all Crees to give us support and oppose the project.”
Jennifer Gull, Administrative Environmental Officer in Waswanipi, also went to Quebec City. Gull said they asked the Minister of Environment what is the safe level of toxins that will be drained into our rivers. “The Minister said the maximum is .15 and the minimum is .30. They didn’t really give us a number because they don’t know for sure. We will continue to oppose the project.” Billy Stephen, an elder from Waskaganish: “I truly respect the land, this is where I brought up all my children. If there’s more harm to be done to our land, it is good for the Cree people to sit down and talk about it. I heard the elders of long ago, they said always respect the land and never give it up. The Creator gave it to us to survive on. The White people they were given a different way of life. All the animals and fish live and drink from the water and if the water is contaminated they will all cease to exist. I don’t think it’s a good idea for a pig farm to be built on Cree lands if it will destroy our way of life. We don’t know what kind of disease will come from that.”
Andrew Natachequan an elder from Whapmagoostui: “The government has already done enough damage. Long ago the Elders truly respected the land and all that was in it. Now the government brings all kinds of ways to make money on our lands, that’s alright but they should look at what the environmental impact will be. They should look at what they’re doing to the land. The fish will be the first to get affected. That’s the first food that the Creator gave us, it comes from the sea and rivers so we totally support our brothers who are opposed to the pig farm project.” Many people gave excellent comments on the issue. The Nation will update the progress of the battle over the proposed pig farm at a later date.