Underninteens: The Real Education
By: Neelam Khare & Peggy Lam, Alumni
This summer, the two of us set off on a journey to discover Canadian issues. It started off with just a vision to go to Montreal and learn French, but soon transformed into a two-year project with a lot of planning and fundraising. Our goals included making a documentary on social justice and environmental issues, connecting with youth, and capturing the stories of minority groups.
On July 12th, 2009, we headed off on our voyage as we got into the train. In the middle of the night we sort of woke up and without saying anything the words were speaking loudly, “This was real.” Our dreams were no longer dreams but reality.
After a 30 minute delay, we boarded our very first Greyhound bus. Like usual, we went to the back of the bus. Wrong Move! Let’s just say it involved a certain smell in a certain place in the bus, with certain people doing a certain something after eating. We learned from our mistake to never sit in the back of a Greyhound bus ever again.
In Fort McMurray we ended up in the Discovery Centre for the Tar Sands, it was completely not planned and we didn’t even know something like this even existed. It was devastating to see how much control the oil corporations have over the education system. Toddlers were being taught how to extract oil, and were given toys to learn how to dig pits and create tar sands. Part of us felt wrong just being there. We were walking through downtown in Fort McMurray, and the schools and colleges that we saw were not funded by the government, but instead, the oil corporations.
Fort Chipewyan has been a life changing experience. We got to interview some of the most inspiring individuals, who believe in nothing but the truth. It seemed like every person we had talked to had lost someone to a rare cancer, that in our and many of the community member’s opinions are linked to the contamination from the tar sands. We also took a look at the tailing ponds, and it was disturbing. Right in front of our eyes we could see all the toxins being released directly into the water. We also saw their ‘reclamation’ site, with bison that were right near the tailing ponds. Many of the oil sands were actually hidden, we only saw 3% of the destruction, and that alone scared the life out of us.
So after all that, we arrived in Simcoe County. The minute we arrived at the encampment for Dumpsite 41 a powerful spirit overcame us. We were staying in an encampment where people have been there since May 8th. The Gates to the Dumpsite are also currently being blocked 24 hours a day by the concerned citizens to prevent the construction. The unity within this community is a prime example of what needs to be done across this nation if not the world. It’s funny how our system works; that the real criminals of the world who are probably committing the most atrocious acts to humanity and Mother Earth are seen as the heroes of society. Yet, the very people who are standing up for not only their basic human rights, but ours as well are seen as law-breakers and criminals.
We then moved on to Ottawa, where we marched with the local citizens to promote peace and put a stop to nuclear weapons. Ironically, on the day of the Hiroshima bombing, the Canadian military put together a show called “Fortissimo” to show the great work that the military has done for our country. Sadly, thousands and thousands of people showed up. However, the people that marched to remember the civilians that died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were down to only a few dozens.
“Happy, Sad, Accomplished, Appreciative, Courageous, Compassion, Naïve, Powerful, Understood, Humble, Capable, Peaceful and love,” are just a few of the things we were feeling. Honestly, when we go back home, we don’t think we can ever be the same people we were. Maybe it’s because when you listen to a person telling their story with tears, there’s this part of you that you can’t ignore; some call it compassion, your gut feeling, some say it’s just humanity. But whatever it is, it’s there, and we should follow it, and so that’s what we’re going to do.
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