Upset Over Union Gas on Walpole Island

Locals stand in front of Walpole Island Band council to express concerns about natural gas construction on Walpole Island. August 10, 2016. (Photo by Natalia Vega)

Locals are asking Walpole Island band council to reconsider the construction of natural gas lines on the First Nation near Wallaceburg.

Although council had already approved the decision to have Union Gas install gas lines back in July 2015, community members became outraged when it came time to drill.

Community grandmothers stood in front of drilling equipment in what they call a peaceful protest on Monday.

As a result drilling had been called off and the grandmothers were asked to bring their concerns to council Tuesday night. One by one locals stood in front of council, some speaking through sobs.

Many of their concerns revolve around the damage that would be done to the environment by proceeding with the natural gas infrastructure expansion.

Walpole Island grandmother Marie Short says it’s their duty to stand up for their children and the environment.

“I would really like them [council] to think about this before they do it because it’s digging in the earth and our earth is sacred to us,” says Short.

“We need more input on what goes on,” she says. “There’s not enough information that goes out from this building (governance building) to the community.”

Chief Dan Miskokomon says there’s an issue between communication between the council and community members. He says it’s good to hear what locals have to say but a decision on how to proceed has yet to be decided.

“I think council should deliberate this and think about the decision they want to make,” says Miskokomon.

The purpose behind installing natural gas is because many locals can’t afford to pay their hydro bills so having natural gas poses as an affordable alternative.

The grandmothers say there are other ways to provide affordable hyrdo, ways that won’t harm the environment. During council meeting the grandmothers proposed to have a community vote on whether Union Gas starts construction on Walpole Island or not.

Spokesperson for Union Gas Andrea Stass says they are aware of the concerns Walpole Island locals have which is why they have decided to delay the construction.

“At this point we understand that they are trying to work through those concerns with the Chief and council,” says Stass.

She says the recent funding from the Federal Government has made it possible for the First Nations community to afford to go ahead with this project. But in the end it’s up to the community if they want to continue with gas service or not.

“The Walpole Island First Nations have been looking for natural gas service for a number of years because the cost of natural gas for home heating is less expensive than electricity,” says Stass. “We’re hopeful the project will move forward.”

Another council meeting will be held Wednesday night to further discuss Union Gas.