Deer and pipelines make strange bedfellows but not in New Brunswick.
The Peace and Friendship Alliance is growing across this province due to the destruction of our forests and waterways by unregulated and unmonitored industry. Two trigger points stand out for the growth of this Alliance: the catastrophic loss of deer in our New Brunswick forests (one-quarter what it was 30 years ago) due to herbicide spraying and massive clearcutting; and the almost daily cheerleading for extreme oil & gas by our politicians and oil company owners such as Frank McKenna, prior to 2015 for shale gas fracking and now for the Energy East tar sands pipeline.
The setting for the Peace and Friendship Alliance meeting last weekend could not have been more beautiful, especially with the fall colours of New Brunswick in full bloom. And the pristine air, water and forest reminded everyone what we were protecting.
The 2nd Annual Strategy Weekend for the Peace and Friendship Alliance took place at Mount Carleton Provincial Park, a designated wilderness park in north-central New Brunswick. Elders from the Wolastoq Grand Council, representatives from Kopit Lodge and the New Brunswick Aboriginal Peoples Council, Maliseet people from Tobique First Nation, and their non-Indigenous allies from all four corners of New Brunswick took part in the strategy planning meetings. Representatives from all four New Brunswick chapters of Council of Canadians were present at the meeting (Fredericton, Kent County, Moncton, and Saint John).
Our mission in the Peace and Friendship Alliance is straight forward: to protect Mother Earth. The Alliance has been holding monthly meetings around the province for the last year-and-a-half, and our networks of people and groups are involved in many different campaigns. Many are protecting the deer population that has plummeted to low numbers due to the spraying and destruction of our natural forests, many are building opposition in their communities to the Energy East tar sands pipeline, and the Wolastoq (Maliseet) Grand Council and many of their allies are taking the government to court on November 30th to stop the snowmobile hub from being built right through Mount Carleton Park.
And all of us want to remove the capture of our government by large industry so that we can move this province forward with the huge job creation opportunities of sustainable forestry, local food production, clean energy, and building efficiency.
At the start of our meeting, we recognized that we were on unceded Wabanaki territory (1). The forest (including waterways) here in New Brunswick is part of the Wabanaki Forest. The title for this land was never given over to Canada, or to New Brunswick; it is not Crown land. This unceded land is not for the government and industry to destroy with glyphosate spraying, huge clearcuts, and tar sands pipelines.
The weekend meeting was a great success. All of the Peace and Friendship Alliance meetings are geared toward brainstorming and arriving at action items, but the results of this weekend exceeded our expectations.
We agreed on plans for province-wide community meetings, right-to-information requests, highway billboards, a monthly newsletter to highlight news such as forest spraying and Energy East, more fundraising for the Mount Carleton Park court action, support the adoption and implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP), help to publicize the crisis of our deer population, and help to publicize the aerial drone videos that lay bare the extreme devastation of our forest. The Alliance also agreed to build targeted networks that will help the peoples and individual groups achieve their separate, as well as common, goals.
On Saturday afternoon we took a break from our meeting to travel by car 15 minutes down the Park road to the bridge construction site where 6000-year-old artifacts were discovered just a couple of weeks earlier. Jean Louis Deveau led the group past Bathurst Lake on their way to Moose Brook.
At the location of the artifacts, Clanmother Sharlene Paul and Grand Chief Ron Tremblay, both part of the Wolastoq Grand Council, lead a ceremony to honour their ancestors who lived in harmony with this land.
During the ceremony, two bald eagles appeared overhead for several minutes. Clanmother Alma Brooks (Wolastoq Grand Council) remarked the next day how the eagles joined us during the ceremony, “The eagles were with us. They fly the highest of all. They are the only ones that can slip between the physical world and the spirit world.”
To highlight how we must prevent the destruction of their ancestors’ land and the forest which is home to the plants and animals, Alma Brooks added, “They need us now. They need our voice.”
It is important to understand that these artifacts were discovered during the construction of a wider bridge at Moose Brook to accommodate large snowmobile trail grooming vehicles. This and one other bridge are among the 12 components of the snowmobile hub planned for Mount Carleton Park – subject to a mandatory Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) – yet the government is pushing forward with the construction of these two bridges prior to the EIA, and prior to the hearing in Provincial Court on November 30th on this matter. Is the Government of New Brunswick acting in contempt of their own EIA laws, and in contempt of the judicial system? Stay tuned.
There were also two sunrise ceremonies over the weekend, both of which were conducted by Grand Chief Ron Tremblay. They were held beside our lodges and the shore of Lake Nictou.
The unspoiled beauty of Mount Carleton reminds us of what is being lost all around us. The loss of our wildlife, and the ever-increasing storms and extreme temperatures of climate change, are a wake-up call for action.
In the face of last Thursday’s report released by Oil Change International, many of us in the Alliance appreciate that we have no more time to wait to change our economy and society for the better. The study found that the greenhouse gases contained in all operating oil/gas fields and coal mines in the world would be enough to exceed average global temperature over two degree Celcius. In a compelling article by 350.org’s Bill McKibben in the New Republic, he lays out the findings very clearly: “If we’re serious about preventing catastrophic warming, the new study shows, we can’t dig any new coal mines, drill any new fields, build any more pipelines. Not a single one. We’re done expanding the fossil fuel frontier.”
It is clear that extreme oil and gas projects must not be built, including the Energy East pipeline, the oil-by-rail marine terminal at Belledune, New Brunswick, the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline, and the Dakota Access Pipeline.
The November meeting of the Peace and Friendship Alliance will be held in southeastern New Brunswick. It will be held in Sackville, New Brunswick on Saturday, November 5th. The meeting venue and other details will be announced later in October.
(1) PEACE AND FRIENDSHIP TREATIES
New Brunswick and Indigenous people in this province are bound by pre-Confederation treaties called the Peace and Friendship treaties. We are all treaty people under these legally-binding documents.
Before Canada was created, Nation-to-Nation treaties were signed by the British crown and the Indigenous people living on large portions of Eastern North America. The Peace and Friendship treaties were signed by Traditional Life Long Chiefs from the Eastern Waponahki (Wabanaki) Confederacy that includes Panuwapskewiyik (Penobscot), Aponahkewiyik (Abenaki), Peskotomuhkatiyik (Passamaquoddy), Mihkomak (Mi’kmaq) and Wolastoqewiyik (Maliseet).
The importance of these pre-Confederation treaties cannot be overstated. No treaties have ever ceded land away from the Indigenous people of New Brunswick, and all current treaties are protected in Section 35 of our Canadian Constitution.