Time for a sec­ond look

Nova Sco­tia’s new en­vi­ron­ment min­is­ter should re­con­sider our po­si­tion on Alton Gas.

The Coast - - VOICE OF THE CITY SHOPTALK - BY MICHELLE PAUL AND SADIE BEATON

Last week, news came down that we have a new en­vi­ron­ment min­is­ter: Gordon Wil­son has re­placed Mar­garet Miller.

We wel­come a fresh set of eyes on this im­por­tant file. Min­is­ter Wil­son ar­rives at a crit­i­cal time to do right by Mi’kmaq com­mu­ni­ties deal­ing with en­vi­ron­men­tal racism—from Pic­tou Land­ing First Nation’s long strug­gle to make North­ern Pulp ac­count­able, to the de­ba­cle that is the pro­posed Alton Nat­u­ral Gas Stor­age pro­ject.

Just be­fore her de­par­ture, Mar­garet Miller re-af­firmed Alton Gas’ industrial ap­proval, as­sert­ing that con­sul­ta­tion with Mi’kmaq rights hold­ers had been “suf­fi­cient,” and that the science demon­strates “no im­pact” to the Sipekne’katik (Shube­nacadie) River ecosys­tem. Both of these as­ser­tions are flawed in our view.

Mi’kmaq rights hold­ers have never given con­sent for this pro­ject. Rights hold­ers (along with Nova Sco­tians liv­ing nearby) weren’t no­ti­fied, learn­ing of Alton Gas’ plans only af­ter they saw pipe be­ing laid across High­way 2 in 2014, seven years af­ter the province approved the pro­ject. Nearby Sipekne’katik First Nation ap­pealed the pro­ject’s industrial ap­proval to the Supreme Court of Nova Sco­tia, ques­tion­ing the province’s con­sul­ta­tion, and as re­cently as April 19, the Assem­bly of Mi’kmaq Chiefs stated, “The Assem­bly does not sup­port the Alton Gas pro­ject.”

The con­tin­u­ous pres­ence of Mi’kmaq wa­ter pro­tec­tors at the river since 2014 fur­ther in­di­cates the re­solve to ex­pel Alton Gas from our ter­ri­tory. This was un­der­lined by an evic­tion no­tice from Mi’kmaq grand­moth­ers dated March 11 and the ar­rest of three grand­moth­ers for pro­tect­ing the river on April 10.

When it comes to the science, who could be­lieve a pro­ject propos­ing to dump up to 3,000 tonnes of hard salt and other min­er­als into an es­tu­ar­ine river ev­ery day for years on end would have “no im­pact”? The sci­en­tific stud­ies un­der­pin­ning pro­vin­cial ap­provals have been paid for by Alton Gas leave many im­por­tant ques­tions unan­swered.

Wa­ter pro­tec­tors had to use Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion re­quests to con­firm what they had known all along: The brine that Alton Gas pro­poses to dis­charge is a dele­te­ri­ous—“caus­ing harm or dam­age”—sub­stance.

The grow­ing num­ber of Nova Sco­tians who sup­port the wa­ter pro­tec­tors’ po­si­tion should of­fer Wil­son pause. A Su­mofUs pe­ti­tion has col­lected over 17,000 sig­na­tures so far, and we’ve also re­ceived state­ments of sup­port from the Angli­can Dio­cese of Nova Sco­tia and PEI, The Avon River Her­itage So­ci­ety, the Ecology Action Cen­tre and the Sis­ters of St. Martha in Antigo­nish. Ellen Page has also been us­ing her plat­form to show the world that the Nova Sco­tia govern­ment con­tin­ues to be com­plicit when it comes to en­vi­ron­men­tal racism.

We trust that min­is­ter Gordon Wil­son will take a sober sec­ond look at this Al­bertabased com­pany’s ef­forts to push for­ward a reck­less fos­sil fuel pro­ject that has nei­ther cred­i­ble science nor Mi’kmaq grand­moth­ers or rights hold­ers—not to men­tion nuns!—on their side.

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