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Together, we’re creating offshore resistance everywhere

In response to the Maritimes Energy Association’s conference on October 2-3, where BP and a number of other fossil fuel companies funded conversations about ‘setting the stage’ for our energy future, we hosted a number of events to show that offshore drilling should be part of our past, not our future.

This included a rally outside the conference, two public forums in Mahone Bay and Halifax, and a kayak flotilla. I think this series marked a moment of growth in the movement to protect offshore Nova Scotia for a few reasons. First, the tourism industry showed up like never before. Companies are speaking out, and Mayor of Mahone Bay David DeVenne spoke in defense of the industry. Second, we learned a lot about the links between the need to stop offshore drilling and Indigenous struggles for sovereignty and the ability to exercise inherent rights. Last, we remembered that creativity is a critical part of every successful movement.

From the flotilla in Lower Prospect (photo credit Chelsea Fougere).

On Thursday morning in Mahone Bay and Lower Prospect we organized a flotilla alongside five local kayaking companies – Cape Lahave Adventures, Candlebox Kayaking, East Coast Outfitters, Pleasant Paddling, and Lunenburg Kayaking Adventours. Not only was this so. much. fun. but it was one of the first times that tourism operators spoke up about the risks offshore drilling pose to their industry. Each of the kayak companies named different reasons for participating in the flotilla: worries about an oil spill ruining the quality of life for locals and the beauty that draws tourists to the coast, concerns that continuing to develop fossil fuels is the wrong move to make in a climate changed world, and feelings of being overlooked by the government.  Read more of their thoughts here.

This flotilla reminded me of the importance of creativity and joy in the movement. Sometimes our work is very focused on research and communication and tasks that involve sitting in front of a computer for long periods of time. This is not always the case, though – true community organizing requires that we find ways to meet people where they are and find ways to go somewhere together. In this case, that looked like getting in kayaks and appreciating our beautiful coasts together!

The Mahone Bay flotilla, photographed from the air (photo credit Gavin Hatheway).

See more photos here!

Mayor of Mahone Bay David DeVenne brought another perspective on the impact of tourism on the local economy, and the risks that offshore drilling poses to Mahone Bay and nearby towns. On the topic of offshore drilling, he says, “This town is able to survive because of the tourism and the tourism flows from the ocean. If the ocean is uninhabitable or displeasing to people because of an oil spill, our economic viability is gone.

Mahone Bay town council recently passed a resolution to send a letter to Dominic LeBlanc, the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, expressing concern about BP drilling for oil and gas offshore of Nova Scotia and calling for public consultations on the matter. Mayor DeVenne told us that “town council thought it was time to offer a critical comment on the process that was followed to get the point to where the approval was issued.”

You can see Mayor DeVenne’s speech in Mahone Bay here

We also learned some new perspectives on the links between the struggle for Indigenous sovereignty and revival and the struggle to protect our oceans. Marilynn-Leigh Francis has been fishing for over 20 years, and in the last few years as been doing so under inherent Indigenous rights to fish (read: without a permit from the colonial government. Read more about her struggle here). She fishes with love, integrity, truth and understanding of Spirit, and does not take her responsibility to protect and defend Mother Earth lightly. She spoke in Halifax on Thursday evening and explained how her inherent right to fish is being threatened from every angle, physical and political.

To defend her inherent and treaty right to fish is an act of defiance against the neoliberal colonial systems that allow offshore drilling to go ahead without public consultation or true grassroots Indigenous consultation. She sees it as her duty to protect her ‘First Mother’, Mother Earth, and to exercise her rights. This act of resistance is an affirmation of who she is as an L’nu, and is an act of defiance against the colonial state that enables offshore drilling and the trampling of Indigenous rights. You can watch her speech here (it starts about 25 minutes in to the livestream recording).

It’s really worth watching the recording of Marilynn-Leigh’s speech! She’s a powerful and grounded speaker.

First Nations bands have been consulted to some degree about offshore drilling in Nova Scotia, but these band governments are a product of the Indian Act, a colonial piece of legislation. It is critical for activists working on climate and social justice work to understand that while band governments can be instruments for the defense of Indigenous rights, they are not always so. The traditional governments of Indigenous nations look and operate significantly differently than band governments do, and at this time in Mi’kma’ki these traditional governments are still being revived, after hundreds of years of colonial suppression. As activists and organizers we must continue to support Indigenous communities in resistance, and use critical thinking about how and when we engage with different parts of Indigenous communities. After our own critical thinking process, we’ve chosen to work with Marilynn-Leigh Francis and her mother Marilyn Francis (and others) as we see our struggles as intricately linked, and we’ll continue to go through this critical thinking process about how to continue engaging with different communities as we carry on with the offshore drilling campaign.

Since these things have changed and these new perspectives have been added to the already rich movement to stop offshore drilling, I’m left wondering what is next. Some great ideas and questions were raised throughout these events: Will the municipalities that already are speaking out about drilling push other municipal governments to speak out as well? How can we connect with more fishers to strengthen the movement and have their voices heard? How will we influence our MPs before the next federal election? How can we continue to support Indigenous people fighting against yet another assault to their inherent rights to be L’nu on this land?

Stay up to date about our work to stop offshore drilling and protect offshore Nova Scotia by visiting canadians.org/offshore-drilling. Sign the petition and order a lawn sign to show your support for a just, sustainable future free from offshore drilling!