Letter by an environmental activist in support of relocating Frederick Street residents, dated
July 24, 1998

To Prime Minister, Jean Chretien
Federal Minister of Environment cc: Michelle Dockerill
Federal Minister of Health Robert Chisholm
Premier Russell MacLellan John Hamm
Provincial Minister of Environment Alfie MacLeod
Provincial Minister of Health Elizabeth May, Sierra Club of Canada
Dr. Jeff Scott Juanita McKenzie, Frederick Street

As those of you involved with the JAG process know, I retired for an indefinite time from environmental activities back in May. During the past couple of months, I may not have been active in issues, however, I have been keeping up to date through the media, and people involved in the issues. Now my conscience feels it is being forced back to activism because of the lack of action for the Frederick Street people. All these deadly chemicals found in the immediate area -- how much more proof does one need?

(section from Toronto Star article 7/19/98)
"Nova Scotia medical officer of health Jeff Scott suggested at one public meeting that the federal guidelines were too strict and said the tests revealed no immediate health hazard to residents. Those tests showed that a brook and backyard soil from Frederick St. contain arsenic, molybdenum, benzopyrene, antimony, naphthalene, lead and copper, all at concentrations many times above federal guidelines. Those chemicals are known to cause various cancers, birth defects, heart disease, kidney disease, brain damage, immune deficiencies and skin rashes." " 'You're never going to find a smoking gun,' says Don Ferguson, a scientist with Health Canada who is involved in studies of the area. He, too, does not believe people on Frederick St. are in immediate danger. While he admits the coal processing site adjacent to Frederick St. is a hazard for those who actually walk across it, he says the toxic fumes can't travel as far as people's homes."
I have several questions to ask. What is it going to take for a decision to be made to relocate the residents of Frederick Street who want to be relocated? Do we need the tragedies of Love Canal (ref: Love Canal, My Story by Lois Marie Gibbs) to repeat themselves in Cape Breton before people are moved?
People on Frederick Street are not well. People in Sydney are not well. We have the highest cancer rates, heart disease and MS rates here. People centuries ago relied on their instincts, not scientists, for survival. If there was something in their surroundings that could hurt them, they either ran from it or got rid of it. People who rely on instincts now days are called "crazy" or figuratively patted on the heads and told "we know better than you what is the right thing to do for you." Instinct is telling the people of Frederick Street that they are living in an area dangerous to their health. People in positions to make decisions are telling them they have to have "scientific" evidence before they can be moved.
Are the contaminants in Sydney so intelligent that they know they must stay within the confines of those fences, and within the waters of the tar ponds?
They were doctors/scientists who told women it was okay to take DES while pregnant. They were doctors who prescribed antibiotics for years to find out now that overuse causes immunity to them. They were scientists who invented pesticides and said they were okay to spray on lawns. They were scientists who invented chlorofluorocarbons which have destroyed the ozone layer. Scientists and government scoffed at Rachel Carson when she wrote Silent Spring talking about how volatile chemicals become when they mix in our under groundwater. Engineers said the Titanic was unsinkable -- guess what? It sunk! Doctors, Scientists and Engineers are not infallible -- more often than they would care to admit, they are wrong.
I don't know about any of you, but I was brought up in a home where I was taught the Golden Rule "treat others as you would have them treat you." That is something that came out of religious teachings. I hear so many people brag about being "good God-fearing, some even church-going, people," however, they sit by and allow fellow humans to suffer in poison and stench and do nothing to help.
My conscience and spiritual beliefs have pushed me to write this letter and I do hope that the people in positions of leadership and power in our country and province make humane decisions for the people of Sydney who are crying for help. Has our society gotten so callous that they can sit and watch people suffer with no conscience to do something?
Would any of you live on Frederick Street? Would you bring your children up on Frederick Street? If you wouldn't, WHY wouldn't you? If there are no health hazards there, why wouldn't you live there? Maybe Dr. Scott and other health and environment officials should move to Frederick Street while all this testing is being done, and during the cleanup efforts to prove to the people that it is safe to live there Good idea?
I feel frustrated at what is NOT happening for Frederick Street, I cannot even begin to imagine how those poor people living there must be feeling -- If I were Larissa's mother (refer to same article mentioned above) I would be terrified too.
Don't forget, we got the smoke a few years ago all the way from Quebec when they had their forest fires. We were told in Cape Breton, at that time, to stay indoors if we were afflicted with respiratory problems how can the fumes and dust so close not have an effect on peoples' health, when smoke coming from hundreds of miles away can have an effect?

Yours truly,
Frances Morrison

Federal Environment Minister, Christine Stewart's response to this letter


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