Groups call for public action to defend water, climate and Indigenous rights
MAHONE BAY – Just in time for the election, frontline water defenders will gather this evening to talk about the major changes needed to defend land, water and our collective rights in Nova Scotia. They will share stories of corporate trickery, modern impacts of colonization and struggles to protect their communities from the expansion of a toxic industry. They will be talking about the Alton Gas project.
The speakers, including Sipekne’katik elder and pipe carrier Alan Knockwood, Treaty Truckhouse resident Dale Poulette, and treaty rights-holder Michelle Paul, have been working across Nova Scotia to educate people about the project’s major threats to water, climate, energy, and Indigenous rights.
“The only thing we gave up when we signed the treaty was war,” says Knockwood. He argues that Mi’kmaq have the right and responsibility to act as stewards of the land, but that right is consistently overlooked by the provincial and federal governments in approving dangerous and unsustainable projects like Alton Gas.
“This is as much about Alton Gas as it is about decolonization,” says Paul. “Things like Alton Gas get approved after consultation, but that consultation is done through Indian Act structures. The people being consulted are not the grassroots rights holders. Canada needs to decolonize its idea of consultation, and who needs to be consulted in projects like these.”
“Corporations like to do dirty tricks on First Nations, and just about everyone,” Poulette said at a town hall in Halifax. He has lived beside the Alton Gas site for eight months and was part of the fracking resistance in Elsipogtog. “It’s hard to stop these guys without allies, so we’re looking for more allies to help us fight these corporations. They come here for our natural resources, and we’ll fight them with prayer and with information.”
Local organizers are encouraging people to participate in the many efforts to stop the Alton Gas project by joining the Peace and Friendship Alliance, a group of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people working together for reconciliation, decolonization, and protection of our shared waters. The Alliance meets next on June 4 at the Treaty Truckhouse.
“Alton Gas exposes the many issues with the way Nova Scotia currently handles environmental, water and rights issues. It’s a perfect example of why our next government needs to implement an Environmental Bill of Rights as a tool for environmental justice,” says Robin Tress of the Council of Canadians, an organizer of the town hall tour.
Robin Tress, firstname.lastname@example.org, 902-223-8526
More information on Alton Gas:
The proposed natural gas storage project would involve creating underground salt caverns near Stewiacke, and discharging the resulting salt brine into the Shubenacadie River. While the provincial government has approved this project, neighbours have been fighting to stop it since 2012. In 2016, Sipekne’katik launched a legal challenge at the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia on the grounds of the Crown’s failure to consult. In January 2017, the court found in Sipekne’katik’s favour and required further consultation by the province.
The panel discussion on Friday night is part of a town hall tour to stop the Alton Gas project. There have already been town halls in Halifax, Antigonish and Sipekne’katik, with more to come.