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Site 41

Many stories from our backyard are stories of success. Take Site 41, a proposed dumpsite in the County of Simcoe, which was to be planted right on top of a centuries-old pure water acquifer that provided water to many municipalities in the area.

Its fate was determined by a months-long protest by a passionate group of people, spearheaded by First Nations women, farmers, and local civilians.

Though Site 41 had been contested as a dumpsite for 15 years, in the summer of 2009 we watched as the Ministry of Environment signed off to begin excavation. The news came in spite of warnings from scientists that the proposed dumpsite risked contaminating the pure water beneath it.

The Chief of the Kawartha Nishnawbe First Nation spoke strongly against Site 41, a vast territory of land with treaty rights held by his community. Site 41 was their backyard, and planting a dumpsite there would mean water degradation, habitat and species loss.

They had not even been notified or consulted on the impacts of the development. For them, the issue was not about waste. The issue was about water. We already learned that water is scarce, even in Canada, and we can’t afford to lose a precious clean water source.

We admired their perseverance, refusing to back down for months on end. Their call grew louder and stronger, and soon world-renowned environmentalists, from David Suzuki to Maude Barlow were speaking out against it.

We first recognized Maude Barlow back in August, for her strong voice on water issues with the Council of Canadians.

Their fight was a major victory – in 2009, the government decided to shut down the site. Those involved at Site 41 have learned a lot from their struggle and share it with others who want to organize on important community issues. Learn how to rally your community and take action in your own backyard by visiting our In My Backyard campaign page.

Some of the brightest moments in the battle at Site 41 were captured by Todd Harris in a short documentary called Site 41: A Quarter Century Fight to Preserve Clean Water. Harris captures the emotion-filled setting at the months-long protest, and highlights the hard work and dedication of the local communities who succeeded in stopping the dump.

His work also demonstrates the possibility for hope and celebration for backyard victories like these. But what is ultimately revealed is that this fight, like the story we covered on CommunityAIR in Toronto, is that larger waste issues still exist in the region, and the group will continue to organize and fight to maintain a clean environment where they live.

Watch a clip from Site 41: A Quarter Century Fight to Preserve Clean Water to hear voices from the community:

Remember – in the battle to save the planet, you can make a difference in your backyard. What actions are you taking to make a difference in your community? How are you acting locally to affect global change? Do you know someone who is a change agent in your community? Share your story here for your chance to win a prize in our contest

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