Northwestern Ontario gets a fair amount of coming and going by small aircraft, float planes and helicopters, often taking fishermen to remote wilderness adventures, but also mysterious flights such as prospectors or mineral exploration outfits, taking care to see they are not followed as they disappear into the bush. Back in the late 60’s, folks in Red Lake, Pickle Lake, Sioux Lookout began to notice that a lot of these comings and goings involved single young men with short hair and shiny shoes. We ordinarily associate these (youth, short hair, shiny shoes) with police who think they are ‘under cover’, and there was some question as to what kind of a big crime bust could possibly be going on.
At the same time, Local bush pilots flying to and from remote reserves or exploration sites began to notice lines cut for long ways through the bush far from any development, and clearings here and there, mostly near rivers, some big enough to hold a landing strip. Somewhere along the way, somebody hooked these observations up with the NAPAWA/Grand canal proposal, and concluded the young men were not police at all, but the American Military doing field investigations in preparation for diverting our northern rivers.
A lobby group called ‘Dam the Dams’ was formed here in NW Ontario, (I joined, I think it was $10 at the time). They made an effort to lobby the province and feds to stop the project, and to publicize the goings-on. The province piously denied any such happenings and the press lost interest. After a while, the young guys with short hair and shiny shoes disappeared, and Dam the Dams lost momentum and disappeared.
When governments want to announce something with minimum publicity, they do it late on a Friday, preferably before a long weekend so it is old news by the time our intrepid newshounds are on the job. Sometime in the late 70’s Leo Bernier, Minister of Natural Resources, made just such a semi-hidden, weekend statement in the Ontario Legislature. He said that indeed the American Army Corp of Engineers had done some survey work on our big northern rivers, but that was all in the past and not part of any ongoing project.
This statement generated a brief flurry of publicity, but not the outcry one might expect – there ought to have been howls of ‘invasion of our sovereignty’, and ‘treason’, but there was not, the press was remarkably muted on the subject. Of course ‘if it didn’t happen in Toronto, it didn’t happen’ would be a factor. Also northern Ontario is regarded by our mainstream press as a deserted wasteland where nothing interesting could possibly happen – remember the 14-truck crash this winter which left one truck perched high on a rock cliff – that picture would have been on the national news for at least 48 hours had it happened with a hundred miles of Toronto. Being in the north, it didn’t make any newscast at all. Still, it seems more than these factors would be involved in that deafening silence about this covert invasion of Canadian sovereignty.
Very suspicious. And NAPAWA/Grand Canal was not forgotten.