Three women arrested a week ago at an Alton Gas construction site in Colchester County have filed a land claim to property at the site and are seeking a stop-work injunction against the company until their claim is heard.
“We are going forward with aboriginal title,” Madonna Bernard told reporters outside Nova Scotia Supreme Court.
“We are filing for an injunction against Alton Gas to halt all operations while we handle our unceded Mi’kmaq territory land claims.”
Lawyer Michael McDonald, who is a member and employee of the Sipekne’katik band, told the court that the land claim is based on a 1752 treaty with the Crown.
The 1752 Peace and Friendship Treaty signed by the chief of Shubenacadie and the governor of Nova Scotia promised the Mi’kmaq hunting, fishing and trading rights in exchange for peace. The title claim concerns the 16-hectare Alton work site on Riverside Road, near Fort Ellis.
The three Mi’kmaq women — Bernard, Darlene Gilbert and Paula Isaac — had been camped out at a straw-bale house constructed in the fall of 2017 without company consent inside the Alton Gas main gate. They were arrested last Wednesday for contempt of a court order, a March 18 temporary injunction that ordered Dale Andrew Poulette, his partner Rachael Greenland-Smith and others and their belongings be moved away from the main gate.
The straw-bale house was bulldozed by the company on Tuesday.
Bernard, Gilbert and Isaac signed an undertaking Wednesday to honour the injunction to stay away from the work site that is adjacent to the Shubenacadie River estuary. They had already vowed to stay away from what they refer to as the company “play pen,” an 875-square-metre piece of property that is fenced in about 30 metres beyond the company main gate along Riverside Road. The company set that location aside for those opposed to the project as a designated protest area.
A hearing for a permanent injunction to keep protesters off the riverside property will be heard in August.
The company, a subsidiary of AltaGas, plans to draw 10,000 cubic metres of water daily from the estuary, pump it 12 kilometres to a second, 80-hectare Alton site on Brentwood Road, near Alton, to flush out two giant underground natural gas storage caverns. The residual brine — 1.3 million cubic metres of salt — would then be pumped back to the estuary for gradual discharge into the tidal river.
The Mi’kmaq water protectors say the salt discharge will poison the river and kill fish and other marine life. The company contends that the gradual discharge over a two- to three-year period will not significantly change the salinity levels of the tidal river.
Lori MacLean, an Alton spokeswoman, said Tuesday that the company is continuing to prepare the river work site near Stewiacke, to safely access it to get ready for the river brining process. That’s the work that an injunction sought in relation to the Mi’kmaq land claim would stop.
Justice Gerald Moir will consider the contempt of the temporary injunction against the three women on Aug. 15 and four December dates have been scheduled to deal with the title claim.