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Walking to heal the fossil fuel sickness

John Bell

July 1, 2013

Beginning July 5, First Nations and Metis people will welcome anyone who wants to witness the environmental damage done by the tar sands to join them on the fourth annual Healing Walk.
Indigenous communities have led opposition to tar sands, from the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation fighting tar sands production in Alberta, the Aamjiwnaang First Nation opposing local refineries in Ontario, and the Coastal First Nations opposing pipelines through BC. This has galvanized a movement that now spreads along the pipeline routes--from the last year's sit-in against the Northern Gateway pipeline through BC, this year's mass demonstration against the Keystone XL pipeline in the US, and growing opposition against Line 9 through Ontario and Quebec.
Recently Alberta has been the scene of extreme flooding and major pipeline spills, calling attention to global warming and violence against the environment. The Healing Walk is organized by Keepers of the Athabaska. Organizer Jesse Cardinal told the Guardian newspaper: “The land is sick here. The people are sick from polluted air, water and food.” In an online petition, organizers are calling on federal Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver and Albert Premier Alison Redford to join them: "Minister Joe Oliver has claimed that tailing ponds at the tar sands are being cleaned up to the point where 'you’d be able to drink from them' so we want to invite the Minister to join us for the Healing Walk. We would like him, and Alberta Premier Redford, to walk 16 km in our shoes and see the devastated land, breathe the dirty air, and see the toxic tailings ponds. We believe that if enough people ask him, he will have to come."
The Healing Walk will attract activists like Naomi Klein, Brigette DePape, Winona LaDuke and Bill McKibbon of But there will be no protests, signs or speeches. As the walkers pass the destroyed landscapes of the region, there will be drumming, songs and prayers to heal the land, water and people. Clayton Thomas-Muller, organizer for Idle No More’s Sovereignty Summer said of past healing walks: “Something happened when we all decided to take a break from the battle with big oil, national and provincial governments, and the banks that finance them. When we decided to instead focus all of our intentions, our power and our love on healing our most sacred Mother and those that depend on her health through prayer, ceremony, and the physical act of walking together, we led with our hearts.”
For more information and updates on the Healing Walk go to

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