It was too cold even for insects, the glassy surface of Lake Superior faithfully reflecting a ruby sky as the sun rose over Pancake Bay Provincial Park, crisp beams of light cutting through the branches of old growth maple, birch, oak, spruce and pine. The mist burned away and birdsong swelled to fill the open chambers of this lakeside wood. I was alone.
Bob Swim has fished the waters of Port Mouton 51 years now, and his luck was pretty good until the mid 1990s.
That decade saw the arrival of open pen aquaculture to his home bay, a relatively inoffensive operation with three pens raising fin fish from spring until fall. The picture changed with the arrival of Cooke Aquaculture a few years later, purchasing and expanding this fish farm until Bob and his colleagues noticed a change.
The first you see of the Treaty Truckhouse is its flag, in my case thrashing proudly red in the crisp wind of late April, dancing among the dead tan long grass with a Shubenacadie River backdrop. Proceed a little farther on and the simple wooden structure supporting it comes into view, held out of the mud and pools of standing water by a network of pallets. Unless dressed in the firmest of winter attire, you are cold, and unless blind, you see the buildings, fences and mixing channel of Alton Gas just beyond, intent on one day dumping brine into the Shubenacadie.
The Shubenacadie River stands out, for the routine tidal bores which reverse its flow, for the sheer volume of fresh water it drains from central Nova Scotia, and, most importantly, for playing host to the last spawning population of Striped bass known in the Bay of Fundy.
Point Pelee has always been unique among Canada’s national parks. It was the first to be established for primarily conservation purposes in 1918, its importance to the migratory songbirds of North America made evident by local ornithologist Jack Miner and others. Because it jutted so far south into Lake Erie from southern Ontario, it offered birds flying north their first opportunity to make landfall in Canada, sharing unorthodox company on this 15 square kilometre spit of land for a few weeks before scattering across the Canadian north.
It was the 18th of August when I gained the summit of Mont Jacques-Cartier, an alpine peak of shattered stone and meager vegetation some 1,270 metres above Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula. Several stones were organized into mounds marking the trail all visitors were obliged to follow, and just beyond them, lounging in no-man’s-land with a mountainous backdrop, were the very last of the Atlantic caribou. Here was the end of a very long pilgrimage, for me, but more so for them.
I never appreciated the term “natural resources,” precisely because it reduces everything, from individual animals to entire ecosystems, down to dollars and cents. Through the subtle power of language it implies forests contain only wood, and rivers only water, ignoring their ecological complexities or intrinsic values, defining them instead by their human utility. It suggests, to one degree or another, that our regional environment is inanimate, an object worthy of no more legal or moral consideration than a warehouse from which we take regular inventory.