Replanting Ontario’s Wild Rice and Connecting New Canadians with Green Jobs

On today’s show we visit the Curve Lake First Nation in Ontario to speak to a man who is working to replant the area’s once abundant wild rice, and pass on traditional harvesting techniques to a new generation. We also talk to FutureWatch, a group that’s trying to address barriers faced by new Canadians looking for jobs in the environmental sector.

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Wild rice. Photo by LexnGer.

Everyday we hear stories about people polluting rivers, chopping down sacred forests or pushing species to the brink of extinction. Such stories make it easy to lose faith in humanity. Never fear though – correspondent Chris Chang-Yen Phillips brings you a story about James Whetung, a member of southern Ontario’s Curve Lake First Nation, who is trying to give something back to the environment for a change. Wild rice is considered a sacred part of Anishinaabe culture, but was virtually wiped out in waterways in Ontario in the 20th century. James Whetung is working hard to replant beds of wild rice in lakes in his area, and teach others how to harvest it again. Tune in to find out more on why he is trying to revive this plant’s place in the watershed, and in his community.

More on this story: Visit Our Table, Trent Arthur Interview with James Whetung, Northumberland Today (p. 25)

For new immigrants to Canada, and foreign-trained professionals working with environmental expertise, it can be a challenge to find employment. How can businesses, government departments, settlement organizations and community and environmental groups work together to better connect newcomers to green jobs? Kathryn Lennon speaks with Eduardo Garay, a program director of FutureWatch Environment and Development Education Partners, about an upcoming forum held to discuss these issues.

If you are in the Guelph or Toronto area and are interested in sharing ideas on how the settlement sector and the environmental sector can work together, then you can attend FutureWatch’s Second Annual Regional Forum titled “Bridging the Gap”. It will happen in Guelph on January 31st and in Toronto on February 22nd.


Keystone Pipeline: The Obama administration last Wednesday rejected the Keystone KL crude oil pipeline proposal. Whitehouse spokesperson Jay Carney blamed the Republicans for imposing a February deadline on the administration’s review of TransCanada’s plan to build the 2700 kilometre pipeline.

More on this story: Vancouver Sun

Activism in Columbia: The Regional Movement for the Defense of the Territory launched a regional strike in Huila, Colombia on January 3 to protest the destructive impacts of the Quimbo Hydroelectric Project. The multi-stakeholder coalition is also protesting the  entering of UK-based petroleum company Emerald Energy into the biodiverse mountaintop ecosystem of the Páramo of Miraflores.

More on this story: Upside Down World, Paro Regional, You Tube

Promising Future for Seaweed: Researchers at Bio Architecture Labs  and the University of Washington in Seattle have taken the first step to exploit the natural advantages of seaweed. They have built a microbe capable of digesting it and converting it into ethanol or other fuels or chemicals.

More on this story: Bio Architecture Labs, E. Coli, Science Report, Scientific American (1), Scientific American (2), Scientific American (3), Scientific American (3), Pacific Northwest National Laboratory



  1. The “wild rice” that James Whetung talks about is not the wild rice his uncle harvested nor is it the rice that grows in Rice Lake. It is more commonly called “water oats” which is an invasive species in the Kawartha Lakes. Water oats is native to the northern United States, well south of the Great Lakes. James’ dream of acres of rice is a nightmare for hundreds, thousands of people. Planting this is a selfish act that detracts from the economy of the area in which he lives. He should be ashamed!!

    No community, aboriginal or other, can return to the way life was in the past. We must look forward, not back. I am as old or older than James and sometimes wish for what I think of as a simpler life, but that would deprive my children and grandchildren of their way of life, which is, I hope, a better life. Surely that is what he hopes for his descendants. The planting of the water oats is not in the best interest of his community, nor any other group. Do not support this initiative based on a sentimental, melancholic attitude.

  2. I am disappointed that Terra Informa did not do more research before publishing this article and interview. Mr. Whetung is not “re”planting as rice weed did not exist previously in the areas he is seeding and was never “wiped out” because it never existed. It is not native to many parts of Pigeon Lake and the rice weed has all but eliminated weeds and other plant life that have grown there naturally for many many years. The affects on the fish population are only beginning to be seen. Mr. Whetung is taking advantage of the water depth in this area that is conducive to seeding and growing wild rice. The provincial, federal and local governments along with many area residents, all have significant concerns with this planting that is done by one, and for the financial benefit of one, on federally owned waterways. It is not permitted by law and is having serious consequences. I cannot walk onto a piece of Parks Canada land and plant my own crop of corn, for example. This is no different. See You should research your stories better.

  3. sickened by this interview with James Whetung. The interviewer listens idly as James describes ignoring Federal Directives to not plant wild rice in bodies of water controlled by Federal Jurisdiction. These directives exist for several reasons, one of which is that other shoreline residents, people who pay higher property tax rates to live on the lake may not want a giant rice bed in front of their house. Where is the line of questioning that raises that question? So James can use any body of water he likes as his own personal farmland and the interviewer doesn’t bat an eye. A ridiculous interview that gives far too much credence to the whims of one man. James Whetung is not god, and you would’ve done well to come at this interview from another perspective in addition to the one where you blow sunshine up his a**.

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