I have a simple question. Why hasn’t the Cree leadership hasn’t asked for the resignation of the Minister of the Environment André Boisclair?
The attitude of his department in keeping secret the toxic levels of arsenic, cyanide, cadmium, chromium, zinc, copper, selenium and mercury present in the fish surrounding the Ouje-Bougoumou area is more than disgraceful. The levels were unusually high, which means that they were not natural. One of the things that alerted Crees to do a study was that the tallymen were catching large numbers of fish with deformities.
Suspicious deaths have occurred in Ouje-Bougoumou. There are high cases of cancer and behavioral problems with children. It can only be a matter of time before they are linked to contaminants associated with development in the area.
At first the Department of the Environment said the findings made by scientists were unreliable but later admitted that the study confirmed what they already knew. They apparently knew about this as far back as 1999 but waited until October 16, 2001 to tell the people in the area.
I do not have the words to describe the horror I felt when I heard about this. A department that is responsible for protecting people and the environment not only failed to do their job but deliberately didn’t warn people of the danger that was present.
I know the outrage I felt. This is a Cree Walkerton, remember that small town and the e.coli outbreak? This is a Cree Walkerton, where the crime (of at the very least stupidity and negligence) was made not over a short period of time but a long time. Where is the public inquiry? Where is the media coverage? Where are the people who made this decision not to inform people? I want to see these people sweat in a public forum for their actions. I want justice and-justice isn’t being silent. If a Cree leader cannot or will not talk on behalf of his or her community when the people are being poisoned then there is a problem.
Yet I have heard nothing and have seen nothing in the press beyond a couple of small articles.
I have tried to understand why Environment Quebec didn’t tell people of the dangers. They could have been ordered not to. They could have been incompetent. They could have put the interests of mining companies before the well-being of people. Was it a Nazi-type experiment where a supposedly inferior race is used to see what the effects of these toxins are? I don’t know, but an inquiry could find out and prevent this sort of thing from happening elsewhere.
What I do know is that I consider the silence on the part of a watchdog agency like the Quebec Department of the Environment to be a crime against humanity. Children and pregnant women were being poisoned and they did not have to be. I find that sick and inhumane. I stop short of calling Quebec’s Environment Department racist because non-Natives have probably been affected by this also. A public inquiry into this department is not only needed, it is the only responsible thing to do.