Harvest Ontario Walk to Stop HWY 413

What does a group of grandmothers and ‘others,’ a leading Canadian environmental advocacy organization, and a community climate group have in common? Turns out, quite a lot. Grand(m)others Act to Save the Planet (GASP), Environmental Defence (ED) and Mississauga Climate Action (MCA) are joining another dozen environmental groups to walk, or bike, the proposed Hwy 413 route that spans 59 kilometers.

Harvest Ontario Walk (HOW) is the brainchild of Susan Berry. The chair of HOW told Rabble.ca she was inspired to organize the October 1 walk because she grew up near Hwy 407 and saw the way development really only served developers. According to Berry, “There are so many better ways to creatively build housing and protect our waterways, food security and endangered species.”

Berry wants a future for her children that’s free of a carbon-producing disaster built on prime farmland and the beautiful Nashville Conservation Reserve. To that end, participants will have the opportunity to tell the federal government that Ontarians are asking for a full Federal Assessment of this critical infrastructure project in the form of a video of the peaceful protest that will be shared with MPs.

A map of the proposed route of Hwy 413. Credit: OpenStreetMap Project.

The proposed highway will cut across 2,000 acres of prime farmland and up to 400 acres of the Greenbelt. Its construction will hurt food security as well as the climate crisis.

Prioritizing Walkable Neighbourhoods

The groups want to draw attention to the fact that sustainable transportation and walkable neighbourhoods need to be prioritized over building outdated highways that only increase congestion, cause more environmental damage and undermine the social determinants of health.

ED commissioned a report, Paving Paradise: The Impact of Highway 413 on Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Air Pollution and Suburban Sprawl, to understand the impacts of Hwy 413 on climate change and the health of people, communities and sensitive ecosystems.

Bottom line, the highway will enable developers to abandon sustainable, dense, vibrant cities for sprawling car-dependent subdivisions forcing residents to travel even further by car to get to what they need and where they want to go. That means the potential destruction of sensitive archeological sites on land that has been inhabited by the Huron-Wendat.

The highway would bisect the sensitive headwaters of four watersheds within Mississauga of the Credit First Nation’s territory and impact ceremonial and burial sites.

A loss of 2,000 acres of Class 1 and Class 2 farmland when food production is under attack from climate change, development, and disruption to food supply chains due to COVID and ongoing global conflicts. This not only threatens local food security, it also impacts Canada’s food sovereignty.

By 2050 the additional 17 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions will result in $1.4-billion in damages from pollution. Meanwhile drivers using the 413 will save on average 30 to 60 seconds per trip.

More insidious is the fact that Hwy 413 will literally pave the way for more suburban sprawl resulting in even greater traffic congestion and the demand for more highways.

GASP members engage in political action that shines a light on the intersectionality of the climate crisis and the disproportionate carbon contributions of wealthier Baby Boomers.

GASP members work with people of diverse ages and backgrounds in what they call, “the fight for our lives.” According to co-founder Carole Holmes, “Urban sprawl planning had its heyday in the ‘70’s when the devastating impact on the environment was unknown. Today we are in a climate crisis. Now we know, the 413 does not make sense.”

Holmes went on to say, “$10-billion for a new highway when our healthcare system desperately needs it does not make sense.”

Berry wants participants to have fun and connect in a COVID-safe way that celebrates nature, outdoors, health, and the good things that grow in Ontario.

The route has been divided into manageable sections covering Halton, Brampton, Caledon and Vaughn. There will also be a farmers’ market and rally at the Brampton Fairgrounds where walkers and cyclists will end their journey and celebrate with supporters.

GASP co-founder, Lorraine Green observes, “Ontario is ours to protect for our children and grandchildren. They should be able to experience the beauty of our lush forests, fields, farms, and wildlife, which will be lost if HWY 413 is built.”

For more information about Harvest Ontario Walk, see October 1 Walk Through. •

This article first published on the Rabble.ca website.

Doreen Nicoll is a freelance writer, teacher, and social activist.