Groups call for public action to defend water, climate, and Indigenous rights
K’JIPUKTUK / HALIFAX — On Monday, frontline water defenders shared stories of corporate trickery, modern impacts of colonization, and struggles to protect their communities from the expansion of a toxic industry. They were talking about the Alton Gas project.
“It’s no wonder that the government doesn’t want to consult with us — who would agree to this project?” said Sipekne’katik district war chief Jim Maloney, speaking about the inadequacy of consultation in general and with Sipekne’katik First Nation specifically. “This is not politics, this is for real. This isn’t just about the Mi’kmaq and our future, but everyone.”
The speakers, including Sipekne’katik elder Dorene Bernard, Truckhouse organizer Dale Poulette, and Maloney, described the project’s major threats to water, climate, energy, and Indigenous rights.
Dorene Bernard, who was been organizing water walks across Mi’kma’ki (the national territory of the Mi’kmaq, which includes Nova Scotia, PEI, and eastern New Brunswick) for several years, is concerned not only about the Alton Gas project, but the industry expansion that would follow it.
“We know that Alton Gas came here to build fracking infrastructure for fracked gas. They’re building two caverns now, but they have 15 more planned,” says Bernard. “This is not a one-time deal. If we let this happen, they’ll be back to build more caverns, and other corporations will come. What we do today is for the future generations.”
“Corporations like to do dirty tricks and schemes on First Nations, and just about everyone,” says Poulette, who 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.”
“The Indian Act band is a product of the federal government, not of the Mi’kmaq nation,” says Maloney. “We’re not too interested in the concept of being consulted as an Indian Act group. We need to be consulted as an Indigenous nation that signed a treaty with another nation.”
Local organizers are encouraging people to call Environment Minister Margaret Miller to demand that she stop the Alton Gas project.
“Under no circumstances should Nova Scotia allow new fossil fuel infrastructure to be built given the realities of climate change and the dwindling carbon budget,” says Robin Tress of the Council of Canadians, an organizer of the event. “We will stand with water protectors until we see this project stopped.”
Dorene Bernard – 902.758.5152
Jim Maloney – 902.440.3436
Robin Tress – 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 Monday night was part of a town hall tour to stop the Alton Gas project. The next event is on Thursday, March 30th in Antigonish at the People’s Place Library at 7 p.m. More events will be planned in the near future.