Sierra Club of Canada Media Release

Friday, May 18, 2001 - For Immediate Release

Elizabeth May Celebrates End of Hunger Strike!

Elizabeth May, Executive Director of the Sierra Club of Canada, ended a seventeen-day hunger strike at noon today. The action was aimed at focussing government attention on the need for immediate relocation of families living in the neighbourhoods adjacent to the infamous Sydney Tar Ponds, Canada’s worst toxic waste site.

Ms. May’s hunger strike ended after a statement issued by Health Minister Allan Rock’s office earlier today committed the federal government to the following four steps to be undertaken immediately:

“I do not consider this a victory because I was not fighting anyone,” May said. “I was placing my trust in Ministers Rock and Anderson do the right thing.”

Ms. May spent each weekday day during the hunger strike in front of the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, speaking about the Sydney Tar Ponds with media, politicians, political staff and many well-wishers. "I want to thank all of the people from across Canada who have supported me and prayed for this,” said Ms. May. “It may not go as far as we had wished for, but it is a federal commitment to a process to remove all affected residents from danger, including those in Whitney Pier, Ashby and the north end neighbourhoods."

“We have made significant progress. We must continue to work to ensure that the Province of Nova Scotia is on-side and that not another baby is born on Tar Ponds soil,” said Ms. May. "This will require our continued vigilance and the support of concerned citizens from across Canada."

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Related links:

May 7, 2001: Sierra Club of Canada Executive Director on Hunger Strike Over Government Inaction on Sydney Tar Ponds
(transcript of May 7, 2001 television interview)

May 18, 2001: Related news coverage and video clip at

For more information contact:
Sierra Club of Canada, 613-241-4204

Statement released by Health Minister Allan Rock’s office earlier today follows:

May 18 2001


Sidney Tar Ponds

On April 25th , after preliminary test results showed high levels of contamination on public lands adjacent to the homes of the residents, the Joint Action Group (JAG) issued motions asking for more soil sampling and a chronic health risk assessment, and for relocation, in 3 to 6 months, of the residents of the three streets involved in the initial testing.

In response to the JAG motions, Ministers Rock and Anderson instructed their officials to work with their provincial and municipal counterparts to develop an action plan to address the JAG’s concerns. Ministers Rock and Anderson have proposed a plan that would see the following steps taken:

First, the immediate commencement of soil sampling and analysis on residential property as well as blood and hair analysis of the residents.

Second, design will be undertaken immediately for a chronic health risk assessment.

Third, meetings will be immediately organized with the residents affected and the JAG at which external and government scientific experts will explain the preliminary findings and the proposed plans and counselling services would be offered.

Fourth, officials will immediately begin the process of developing relocation and remedial contingency plans concurrently in case the testing of the residential properties indicates contamination levels and exposures that pose a health risk to residents of the area tested.

A letter was sent from Ministers Rock and Anderson on May 14 to Nova Scotia Ministers Muir and Russell outling the proposed plan.

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