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Canada Post Blocks Health Canada Advisory to Indigenous Community

by November 27, 2008
 

November 28: The following article has had a significant update. For details, see the section "Response from Canada Post"

A Canada Post employee has apparently refused to allow the distribution of a Health Canada advisory that warns of serious health concerns regarding the "Build All" open pit asphalt plant located near the Mohawk Territory of Tyendinaga.

According to a recent press release, Health Canada issued the advisory to the Chief and Council of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte (MBQ) in early November, "After receiving complaints from residents and workers in the area of breathing difficulties, nose bleeds, nausea, burning eyes and throats."

"When MBQ failed to respond to Health Canada's concerns or notify the community, [on the morning of November 26] a local resident attempted to circulate a copy of the Health Canada advisory through the Shannonville office of Canada Post," states the press release.

"A Canada Post employee told him that they would not circulate the advisory, as the Post Office had been visited by the Tyendinaga Police Service and advised... that circulating the flyer would be too controversial."

One side of the flyer held a reprint of the letter that Health Canada sent to the MBQ, which states in part, "There are a few concerns with the operation of this asphalt plant, firstly open burning exposing residents on and off reserve to smoke from the asphalt plant processes and activities. Secondly, the emissions generated from asphalt processing and other activities involving burning can have a serious impact on human and environmental health."

The letter goes on to strongly recommended a halt of operations at the plant until the site can be properly assessed, "to ensure the health of local residents and the surrounding environment."

As noted in the Toronto Star, "The other side of the flyer describes the chemical makeup of [the] plume emitted from asphalt plants in general".

"It also links the plant – owned by Build All Contractors – to the Tyendinaga chief of police. Company owner Tom Maracle and Chief Ron Maracle are brothers," continues the article. And therein lies the controversy...

Nepotism. It's something that happens all too often among people in positions of authority, and in this case, something that can contribute to people losing their health--even their lives.

November 28: Response from Canada Post

Deborah Harron-Thomson, a director of communications at Canada Post, sent in an email expressing concerns over a what she believes is a misrepresentation of Canada Post. She writes,

I am concerned about this article published, Canada Post Blocks Health Canada Advisory, in which no one from Canada Post was contacted for comment. Therefore, you ran a one-sided article, which was inaccurate as it pertains to Canada Post. In the case of this mailable item, destined to residents of the Mohawk territory of Tyendinaga, the employee at the postal counter did not ‘refuse’ to distribute it, nor did they say the flyer was ‘too controversial’. They simply said that before they send it out they wanted to verify with our officials. After reviewing the flyer, our officials concluded that it could be distributed and the customer was advised. The fact is Canada Post’s mandate is to deliver all the mail entrusted to us, unless it is deemed non-mailable based on the Canada Post Corporation Act.

It is good news to hear that Canada Post will be distributing the flyer---even more so that the people we rely on for mail, are not going to try and obstruct the right to free speech, or further endanger the health of the people of Tyiendenaga.

That said, perhaps I should have contacted Canada post for comment, but in all honesty I felt that the allegations were comment enough.

As for the allegations themselves, which I included as a direct quote from the press release, it does not actually say that that employee himself said the flyer was controversial, but that he was "advised by the police that circulating the flyer would be too controversial."

As for the employee's apparent refusal, at this point it's impossible to know whether or not he did this (unless it was recorded?). But since the flyer is going to be distributed, perhaps Canada Post can be given the benefit of the doubt. After all, the peoples' health and right to be informed is what matters most here.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Canada Post Blocks Health Canada Advisory to First Nations Community

(Wednesday, November 26, 2008) On Nov. 5th 2008, Health Canada issued an advisory to the Chief and Council of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte, regarding an open pit asphalt plant located near the western boundary of the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory.

The plant is operated by the Build-All Construction company. Highlighting concerns that emissions generated from asphalt processing and other burning activities can have a serious impact on human and environmental health both on and off reserve, Health Canada strongly recommended that these activities cease pending a full assessment of the site.

When MBQ failed to respond to Health Canada's concerns or notify the community, a local resident attempted to circulate a copy of the Health Canada advisory through the Shannonville office of Canada Post this morning.

A Canada Post employee told him that they would not circulate the advisory as the Post Office had been visited by the Tyendinaga Police Service and advised by the police that circulating the flyer would be too controversial.

It should not matter that the Build-All asphalt plant is operated by the brother of Tyendinaga's Chief of Police. People have a right to be informed about companies and activities that could have adverse effects on their health and the environment.

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Background Information:

TYENDINAGA: HEALTH CANADA ISSUES ENVIRONMENTAL ALERT:

Letter to Tyendinaga Mohawk Band Council "strongly recommends" immediate closure of asphalt processing plant as "imperative to the health of residents."

In a letter dated November 5, 2008, addressed to the Chief and Council of Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, Health Canada has issued a scathing report outlining the impacts of open air burning practices at the Build All asphalt plant located on old Highway 2.

After receiving complaints from residents and workers in the area of breathing difficulties, nose bleeds, nausea, burning eyes and throats, Health Canada has called on Chief and Council to stop the operations "to ensure the health of local residents and the surrounding environment."

The letter goes on to state, " There are a few concerns with the operation of this asphalt plant, firstly open burning exposing residents on and off reserve to smoke from the asphalt plant processes and activities. Secondly, the emissions generated from asphalt processing and other activities involving burning can have a serious impact on human and environmental health."

Plume emitted from hot mix asphalt plants generally contain steam, fine particulate generated by crushing rock used in the asphalt, metals, carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and smaller organic compounds such as phenol, benzene and toluene. The PAHs and other organic compounds can condense on the particulate and travel significant distances.

Repeated exposure to these materials can be associated with short and long-term health effects, including several types of cancer.

When asked what the police could do regarding Build All operations, Chief of Police Ron Maracle publicly stated, "This is my brother's business and I certainly wont let you shut him down."

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