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Alton Gas ignores supreme court ruling, continues work without indigenous consultation

The Council of Canadians has learned Alton Gas appears to be working on site this week, despite a Supreme Court ruling in Nova Scotia overturning their industrial permit while they consult with Sipekne’katik First Nation.   

A large hole in the ground has appeared at the Alton Gas site and workers have been seen on site this week, raising questions about whether the company is doing work during the court-ordered consultation period with Sipekne’katik First Nation.   

After six years of Mi’kmaq-led resistance to the Alton Gas natural gas storage project, the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia determined that the province did not adequately consult with Sipekne’katik First Nation. In March 2020, the Supreme Court ruling overturned the provincial approval for the project and ordered 120 days of consultation to begin after the COVID-19 crisis has eased.  

Mi’kmaq water protectors, grassroots grandmothers and their allies, say that this means all work on the project site must stop until consultation is complete.  

“The judgement to go back and consult properly acknowledges the proper process was not followed in the first place. The permits should not have been granted and the work should not have been done. Alton Gas should not be on site, working right now. Ignoring our inherent rights to the land, water and use, and our protected rights in the constitutions has to stop!” says Ducie Howe, Sipekne’katik band member. “We are tired of our rights being trampled by Alton Gas and the province of Nova Scotia.”  

Water protectors informed Nova Scotia Environment’s (NSE) Inspection, Compliance and Enforcement unit when they noticed work being done on site and asked NSE to send an inspector. NSE declined to send an inspector after Alton Gas’s CEO told NSE that the work happening on site was merely maintenance work and did not fall under the Industrial Approval in question in the Supreme Court Decision.

“Earlier this year, water protectors revealed that the Alton Gas project was out of line with conditions, regulations and legislation like the Fisheries Act. We have no reason to trust the company to be honest in its self-reporting now,” says Robin Tress, campaigner with the Council of Canadians. “That’s why we’re asking the province to send an inspector to the site. NSE has the responsibility to enforce the conditions of their permits and to respect Indigenous rights, not to do what is best for this corporation.”

“Nova Scotia needs to do its due diligence when it comes to our inherent rights,” says Howe. “We are asking them to send an inspector to the Alton Gas site, and for band members to observe that inspection.”

Water protectors are asking for NSE to suspend Alton Gas’s industrial approval until consultation is complete, a demand in line with the March 24 Supreme Court ruling.