FORT ELLIS, N.S.
Under a clear blue sky and with a brisk November breeze chilling the air, federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May stood beside the Shubenacadie River and offered a promise.
“I want to make it really clear, the Green Party of Nova Scotia and the Green Party of Canada stand in solidarity with you,” she told a group of Mi’kmaq individuals and other supporters opposed to the Alton Natural Gas Storage project.
“We may not be here again on the river bank with you but we’re going to be with you in spirit and I’m gong to keep working on this with you,” she said. “I just want to make it really clear. This is not just a visit. This is a commitment.”
May, who is also MP of the Saanich-Gulf Islands riding in B.C., was in Nova Scotia to attend the funeral of Rudy Haase, known as the “godfather of land conservation," who died in August at age 95.
Her visit to the Fort Ellis site, which is part of the Alton Natural Gas storage project, was organized by members of the Nova Scotia Green Party as a sign of solidarity to the aboriginal group of peaceful protesters who have been occupying the property as part of their indigenous rights.
Alton Natural Gas is planning to create several large caverns from natural salt formations in nearby Alton. The company plans to dissolve the salt by injecting water into the formations and pumping out the resulting brine to holding ponds alongside the Shubenacadie River at Fort Ellis. The diluted brine is then to be released back into the Shubenacadie estuary.
Those opposed to the project, however, have expressed concerns about the potential danger to fish populations and the water itself though the release of high levels of salt into the estuary.
“There are serious environmental concerns about the change in plans, how much mixing of this brine takes place before it gets dumped in the river,” May said, following her participation in a sacred ceremony on the banks of the Shubenacadie River.
But of equal or greater concern, she said, is what she perceives as a lack of respect to the First Nations people.
“Fundamentally I’m here because Canada is now pursuing and agreeing to support and enact the principles of the United Nations declaration of the rights of Indigenous people. And this is a project that went quite far without any consideration of the rights of indigenous people. And as such I believe the federal government needs to look at this and pursue the violation of treaty rights and the violation of the principles of the United Nations declaration, which Canada now supports.”
See ‘PROJECT’, A3
Project expected to cost $130M
So far approximately $69 million has been invested in what is anticipated to a $130 million project, according to figures contained in the company’s newsletter.
The storage project has been billed as a way for Nova Scotians who use natural gas to save money, because of gas that would be purchased in large quantities during summer months when prices are cheaper and stored for release in the wintertime.
Company spokeswoman Lori Maclean disagreed with the sentiment that the rights of the Mi’kmaq people have not been considered during the lengthy process.
“There is ongoing engagement with the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia regarding Alton, including discussions with Sipekne’katik First Nation,” she said. “In fact, the Mi’kmaq led an independent science review of the project in 2015. Alton accepted all of the recommendations from that review. Two Mi’kmaq Ecological Knowledge studies, both conducted by a Mi’kmaq company, have also been completed for Alton.”