Council to hold public forum with water protectors defending the Shubenacadie River

Sipekne'katik war chief Jim Maloney, water protector Dorene Bernard, Treaty Truckhouse organizer Dale Poullette, Council of Canadians organizer Robin Tress. Photo by Council of Canadians organizer Angela Giles.

The Council of Canadians has organized two recent public forums on the Alton Gas Natural Gas Storage Project in Nova Scotia (Alton Gas, Site C, and Indigenous Consent on March 21, and Stop Alton Gas Town Hall Tour - Halifax on March 27) and will hold a third public forum this evening in Antigonish. Halifax-based Council of Canadians organizer Robin Tress is both organizing and hosting these events.

Alton Natural Gas Storage LP, a subsidiary of Calgary-based AltaGas Ltd., wants to build underground caverns to store natural gas near the Shubenacadie River on Sipekne’katik territory near the rural communities of Alton and Stewiake, which are situated about 75 kilometres north of Halifax.

The outreach for tonight's public forum explains, "Mi’kmaq and non-Indigenous communities near the Shubenacadie River have been organizing resistance to the planned Alton Gas project for several years. This project would create massive underground natural gas storage caverns, see hundreds of thousands of tonnes of salt dumped into the Shubenacadie River in a matter of months, and would risk water contamination, methane leaks, and expansion of the fossil fuel industry in Atlantic Canada. The project was given the go ahead by the McNeil government despite a lack of consultation, multiple failures by the company, and clear and united opposition by the affected communities."

It also notes, "When confronted with their failure to gain consent for this project by the Sipekne’katik Band Council, the McNeil Government's lawyer declared the Sipekne’katik Mi’kmaq a 'conquered people', so their consent was not required for the project to go forward. A court decision on January 28th ruled otherwise, and has opened the way for Mi’kmaq and settler community members from across this province to speak out about protecting our rivers. The Protectors speaking tour focuses on how Alton Gas is a crisis at the intersection of movements to protect water, exercise Indigenous rights and culture, end further fossil fuel development, and strengthen public participation in environmental decision making."

The Stop Alton Gas Town Hall Tour features Dorene Bernard (Grassroots Grandmother, water protector, Mi'kma'ki water walk organizer) and Dale Poullette (Water protector, Treaty Truckhouse organizer). The public forum in Halifax on March 27 also featured Jim Maloney (Sipekne'katik war chief).

Local XPress reports, "Despite company assurances that gradually releasing 1.3 million cubic metres of salt into the river system over a two- to three-year period would not significantly change the salinity level of the Fundy tidal river, the Mi’kmaq and other project detractors say that it will negatively affect all of the fish and plant species in the river system. Poulette said a lot of projects will negatively affect the environment and the people if somebody doesn’t stand up against them."

That article adds, "Maloney said company musings about more than a dozen caverns on the 80 hectares of land purchased in Brentwood just do not make sense. 'For anybody to believe that you can put 20 caverns under the ground and pump that much salt into the river and everything would be good, it’s no wonder they don’t want consultation', Maloney said. 'Who would believe that? Homeowners and Mi’kmaq wouldn’t agree to it. If the fish could talk, they wouldn’t agree to it either.'"

And it notes, "Bernard said Alton Gas and other similar projects are forms of environmental racism. 'As women, it’s our cultural responsibility to protect the water for everyone', Bernard said. Her fear is that the Alton Gas project would lead to more caverns and possible fracking of gas in the Gays River area. 'We have to cut off the head of the snake now', she said. 'What we do today is for future generations. We don’t want their (Alton Gas) money, a million dollars for a hockey rink or an elders home. We want them to go.'"

For a blog about the Alton Gas, Site C, and Indigenous Consent public forum, please click here. For Tress' blog on the Alton Gas Town Hall in Halifax earlier this week, click here. To see the Facebook promotion for tonight's event, click here. For numerous blogs about the Alton Gas situation, click here.

The Council of Canadians has been working with allies in opposition to the Alton Gas project since November 2014.