“Food doesn’t grow on runways”, “You can’t milk planes”, “Thanks Land
Over Landings – Love, Children of the Future” – These were just a few of the
messages written on the signs being carried down Brock Road in North Pickering
on the morning of March 2nd, 2012. That day marked the fortieth
anniversary of a peaceful protest against an airport that would cover thousands
of acres of Ontario’s best farmland.
On March 2nd, 1972, a passionate group of local men and
women rose up to begin the battle against the airport. They had no idea that
four decades later they would still be fighting.
Alongside fellow advocates at a recent gathering, I listened to
several of these courageous people with awe and respect, grateful for all that
they’ve done to protect the beautiful land my Aunt and Uncle have called home
for 38 years.
This issue is huge. It will not only impact a few local farmers but
the future of all of Ontario, especially Toronto, and potentially the world. Remember
that talk about the need to eat locally at the Earth Day assembly? Well, I
don’t think paving 11 000 acres of farmland right next to Canada’s largest city
is going to help with that!
“What’s going to really need to happen is that Toronto gets behind
saving this property because this is a jewel of a piece of land that can feed
Toronto forever,” said Bill Lishman, one of the original advocates against the
airport. A secure food source next to Toronto isn’t just a nice idea; it will
soon be necessary.
In 1972 the Federal Government expropriated 30 square miles of land
for the airport. Since then, parts have been protected but approximately 11 000
acres are still being threatened.
North American agriculture requires 1.2 acres of land per person per year to feed us, but by 2050 only 0.6 acres per person. In the future, food security will be a major issue all over the world; for many, it already is. Millions of people in the world are dying
of starvation right now and meanwhile our government is planning to pave over
11 000 acres of farmland for an unnecessary airport. As demonstrator Bob Almack said, “God only gave us 3% of our land mass as class one and two (good quality soil for
agriculture). We’ve lost half of it. We need to draw a line in the sand.”
There are also many other reasons why this airport is a bad idea. The
Pickering Nuclear Power Station is just one minute’s flying time away from the
proposed main flight path, creating an avoidable danger. The airport would cost
millions if not billions of taxpayers’ dollars. It would be right next to Rouge
National Park, a nature preserve and home to the Toronto Zoo and its precious
inhabitants, and it would pollute our fresh air and water resources. Furthermore,
the land is covered with historic buildings, dating back to the 1840’s, and
holds our peoples’ history and heritage.
Remember the song Big Yellow Taxi by Joni Mitchell that goes “Don’t it
always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone …”?
Well, we need to avoid that situation in Pickering. We need to fight for this
land before it’s too late