MINDEMOYA—After previously receiving a positive vote by Central Manitoulin council on a motion declaring its opposition to the use of Garlon and similar herbicides for tree and vegetation management by Hydro One right of ways and ditches within the municipality (after a petition was presented), Petra Wall of Square Bay, who spearheaded the campaign along with a group of other concerned Manitoulin residents wants this issue take provincially to Queen’s Park.
The group met with Algoma-Manitoulin MPP Michael Mantha last week to discuss the next steps in the process and they stressed they are only looking at a change in legislation to allow municipalities the right to ban the use of Garlon by Hydro One in its vegetation management program and that their concerns and initiative in no way include farmers or the agriculture industry; they do not want to interfere with farming operations.
“We’ve been working on this issue for awhile now,” said Ms. Wall, who along with Paul Darlaston, Zachary Nicholls and George Kopylov met with Mr. Mantha. “What we are trying to get is legislation to change so that municipalities can have the responsibility for where or what is used to clear ditches and trees (on roads and right of ways).” She pointed out existing legislation has taken away the powers from municipalities to have authority on this work and that several incidents have shown that Garlon has been improperly used, and guidelines for the sprays have not been followed, by Hydro One that can affect water or stay in soil for many years. Ms. Wall also pointed out that instead of the use of sprays-pesticides, Hydro One and others can remove trees and vegetation mechanically.
“They use the sprays to kill the trees and shrubs, but they don’t always abide by the guidelines and spray more than just those,” she said. “A lot of the time this work is done by third party providers and Hydro One is supposed to be supervising this work, but I don’t think they always do a good job of it.”
Ms. Wall pointed out that Central Manitoulin, along with several other municipalities on Manitoulin Island, have passed motions opposed to the spraying of Garlon and other herbicides by Hydro One in ditches and right of ways on the Island. But until the province allows these decisions and authority to be the municipalities, she says it won’t be adequately controlled.
“I know when they sprayed (Garlon) close to our property a few years ago, they did so within 10 feet of our well,” said Ms. Wall. “We want limited access to using sprays in the ditches,” she continued, stressing, “we are not talking about use by farmers; we don’t want to interfere with the work they are doing.”
“Municipalities want a greater say,” agreed Mr. Mantha.
Mr. Darlaston noted, “each council takes a different position on the issue.” He said in Billings it took several meetings with council, including one in which 30 people attended a council meeting, for council to pass a motion to ban the use of Garlon.
“But we have had to go from municipality to municipality to get any action taken,” said Mr. Darlaston. He said the Manitoulin Municipal Association does not have formal authority to ban Garlon on behalf of all its member municipalities.
Mr. Kopylov raised a concern that under the current Pesticides Act, those carrying out the work on the vegetation are not as stringently required to post where, when and what they are using as has been the case in the past.
Mr. Mantha pointed out all the concerns raised had been brought forward to the previous government and they acknowledged the issues, but action was not taken. “I will discuss these concerns with the new Minister of Environment (Rod Phillips) at ROMA (Rural Ontario Municipal Association). I’d like to read the petitions you have had people sign. We need to start discussions again and ask who will be assigned to look at issues like this and who we can put our questions to.”
“So the course of action is that we need to raise the bar, bring awareness of the issues to everyone on the Island,” said Mr. Mantha. He recommended the group visit municipalities, individuals and organizations and survey them as to if they know the affects of pesticides like Garlon, and whether they are knowledgeable about them and their potential effects.
“You need to make it clear that this is only dealing with vegetation, trees and shrubs in ditches and right of ways. This cannot be a hardship on farmers,” said Mr. Mantha, a sentiment the delegation agreed is the case.
In Central Manitoulin over 500 signatures were collected from individuals opposed to the use of Garlon for vegetation management and overall over 1,000 signatures Island-wide have been collected, said Mr. Darlaston.
“I’ll be able to walk these (petitions) over to the minister and present them,” said Mr. Mantha. The number of people that have signed, “sends a strong message to the minister that this is an issue that needs provincial involvement.”
Mr. Mantha also recommended the group, “discuss the Traditional Ecological Knowledge Elders (Tek) group (based along the North Shore). Their biggest concern and mandate is aerial spraying,” he said, noting he has talked to the TEK group about the concerns of the Island group.
Mr. Nicholls said local First Nation communities have their own people employed to get rid of vegetation.
“What is needed is to bring all of your individual minds together, meet and discuss your concerns and issues with the Tek Elders, survey and find out what is the awareness of people locally on this issue,” said Mr. Mantha. “Then we can bring all this information together and then as a group have comprehensive information to bring to the minister on the issue. And make it clear that legislation needs to be changed so municipalities have more authority. The standard response from the government is not going to fly any more.”