(For a few photos of the event click here. For a newspaper article, with photos, click here.)
OPAL stands for Oxford People Against the Landfill, referring to a site of a quarry near Ingersoll, Centreville and Beachville. The quarry is used up and is now the site of a manmade lake, but for which there is a proposal for a landfill. It is opposed for not being wanted so close to the communities, and for being unsafe for the watershed and the Thames River, as the site is porous limestone and very close to the river. The communities want to retain the lake for recreational use.
There were several hundred people present, including strong presence of the Council of Canadians. There was literature about the project and OPAL, numerous petitions to the Ontario Ministry and politicians, and booths and literature of many other affiliated organizations. OPAL has built a strong alliance of organizations, including the Oxford Committee on Social Justice, Habitat for Humanity, and many environmental organizations, among others.
There were four speakers.
Steve McSwiggan, chairperson of OPAL, who also acted as MC, gave an overview of the regulatory process involved, and how the group was opposing the project.
Tom Comiskey, the mayor of the town of Ingersoll, spoke against the project and how it was important for the future generations of residents, for the current generations to protect their water and environment.
George Henry of the Chippewas of the Thames First Nations council, spoke about how the First Nations have the constitutional right to be consulted and to consent about resource usage, and that they intend to enforce those rights with respect to this project, as they are downstream on the Thames.
Finally Maude Barlow of the Council of Canadians gave a passionate and highly informative broad ranging talk about water resources, water supply and pollution. She outlined what she considered fundamental principles of water, including water as a human and legal right, water as a community property, and water as, despite the potential for conflict and hardship as a result of growing shortage, a unifier of action to preserve life now and in the future. She stated that water shortages are becoming acute in many parts of the world, noting particularly in California and western China. She noted how overuse of water by industry and cities is resulting in diminishment of watersheds and aquifers, and transfer of water to the oceans, augmenting the rising of ocean levels also being caused by climate change. She criticized recent federal legislation which has significantly reduced regulatory scrutiny and oversight of water and water resources. She praised the efforts of OPAL and its alliance, and related how a similar project in Simcoe County was stopped after a long community based struggle.
The speeches were followed by an attempted walk to the site of the quarry, which was truncated due to the cold windy conditions, and in the evening by a fundraising dance and silent auction. For information on how to get involved and donate, see the OPAL website, link below.