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Kent County chapter at Mikmaq weir-building action to defend the Shubenacadie River

Photo: A warning sign intended to keep people away from the Alton Gas construction site on the Shubenacadie River.

The Council of Canadians Kent County chapter and Halifax-based Council of Canadians organizer Robin Tress are defending the Shubenacadie River today.

The Facebook promotion for the action notes, “Please join the Mikmaq community, fishermen, neighbours and friends for two days of resistance to Alton Gas. We are asking everyone to come out and join us for boating, canoeing, fishing, asserting and defending treaty rights, but most importantly protecting the Bay of Fundy and its rivers, streams and species. We need lots of help with preparations for weir building. The weir will eventually be used to count and monitor species in the bay and assist in our research team in establishing base line science for our own conservation efforts.”

While Alton Gas and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans say they have conducted studies and that no species at risk are likely to be harmed by the project (that will discharge salt brine into the river), Isabelle Knockwood of the Sipekne’katik First Nation and Cheryl Maloney have concerns. CBC reports, “Maloney said she and local fishermen believe that some of the research was done at times when certain species of fish weren’t spawning, and not in all areas of the river. Her group intends to start collecting fish samples and doing their own research.”

Kent County chapter activist Ann Pohl has posted, “Which of our best friends and family will we find here? Beautiful day. Looking forward to doin’ the right thing while seeing the reportedly amazing Tidal Bore on the Shubenacadie, oh and maybe getting into the water — its still very warm in places!”

On September 2, Pohl, along with Indigenous land defenders, allies and friends, were in Fisheries Minister Dominic Leblanc’s constituency office in Shediac, New Brunswick demanding that he protect the Shubenacadie River as a critical bass and salmon habitat. If this designation were granted under the Species at Risk Act, it would stop Alton Gas from dumping the salt brine in the river.

Yesterday, CBC News reported, “On Thursday, representatives from Fisheries and Oceans Canada visited the site with members of the Sipekne’katik First Nation. …Mark McLean, the manager for the department’s fisheries protection program, was on the team that visited the site. He said the department already has a substantial amount of data on the salmon and striped bass in the river. But McLean said his department does not get the final say on whether the project goes ahead. McLean said the federal government could continue to make the community’s concerns known to the regulator, which is the provincial government.”

Despite the Trudeau government declaring this past May that it would fully adopt and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, there is also no indication from the federal government that it will respect the right to free, prior and informed consent in this situation.

The project tramples on the treaty and fishery rights of the Mi’kmaq community. The Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs has demanded that the project be stopped because “meaningful consultation has not taken place”. In January of this year, the Council of Canadians expressed its support for a letter that was sent to Premier Stephen McNeil highlighting that the Sipekne’katik and Millbrook First Nations planned to hold a referendum on the issue. In late May, the Council of Canadians participated in the Mi’kmaki Water Walk 2016 that started at the mouth of the Shubenacadie River and concluded where the river flows into Grand Lake.

The Council of Canadians has been opposing for the past two years a plan by Alton Natural Gas Storage LP to store natural gas near the rural community of Alton, which is situated about 75 kilometres north of Halifax.

The company, a subsidiary of Calgary-based AltaGas Ltd., has proposed creating storage facilities for natural gas by drilling three wells in underground salt caverns. The idea is that the wells would be used to store natural gas to hedge against higher natural gas prices in the winter. The project would also include two 12-kilometre pipelines. One would be used to pump water from the Shubenacadie River estuary to flush the salt out of the caverns (to make way for the gas to be stored) and the other for transporting the resulting salt brine mixture into storage ponds that would be built beside an estuary in Fort Ellis (and then discharged back into the river).

#StopAltonGas #EveryLakeEveryRiver