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Week-long blitz to educate politicians on Alton Gas issues kicks off today

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Today is the first day of a week-long social media and letter writing campaign to educate provincial and federal politicians on the risks posed by Alton Gas to the Shubenacadie River and the Bay of Fundy.

The focus is mostly on federal ministers. The importance of treaty rights and the duty to consult with indigenous stakeholders are also part of the message.

Feds ignoring their responsibilities

“This campaign is to make sure that all politicians involved will know about Alton Gas,” says Cheryl Maloney, a Sipekne’katik band councillor.

“We think the federal ministers have been ignoring their responsibilities to aboriginal peoples,” Maloney tells the Nova Scotia Advocate. “These federal duties are to uphold the honour of the Crown and to protect aboriginal rights.  Instead, when we ask them to get involved, all  we get is a  standard response that it is not their business.”

“There are serious treaty concerns that don’t get any attention from the feds. They just let the Province do as it wishes, and we think that is really dangerous,” says Maloney.

At issue is Alton Natural Gas Storage plan to create large caverns to store liquid gas near Stewiacke. While creating the caverns the company will dump brine in the tidal Shubenacadie river.

A river at risk

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Many residents, fishers, biologists,and members of the Sipekne’katik Band are opposed to the project because of  concerns about the brittle ecology of the river. Residents also worry about the risks of living in close proximity to potentially explosive supplies of liquid gas stored underground.

The group that opposes the Alton Natural Gas Storage project has set up a teepee frame on a small island in the Shubenacadie River to mark it as traditional Mi’kmaw territory, and has set eel traps to assert Mi’kmaw treaty rights.

The group has also constructed a Treaty Truckhouse nearby, in accordance with rights protected in the treaties.

Residents and members of the Sipekne’katik Band strongly feel that no meaningful consultation on the project ever occurred. Construction is well advanced, and the release of brine into the river is set to start soon.

Species at Risk issues ignored

Each day, starting this Tuesday, will target a different provincial or federal politician who is (or rather should be) involved in the Alton Gas file. For instance, today is provincial premier Stephen McNeil’s turn.

Tomorrow it’s the (federal) Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ (DFO) turn.  DFO is ignoring the risks posed by the Alton Gas project to the critical habitat for Inner Bay of Fundy salmon, for all intents and purposes an endangered species, Maloney charges. That designation has been in the works for years, but DFO is dragging its feet.

Also targeted are the federal ministers Environment and Indigenous and Aboriginal Affairs, as well as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

A facebook event page lays out the schedule and explains the messages tailored for each politician. Contact information for the politicians is also included.

For  general updates and events along the Shubenacadie River, join the River Defenders’ official facebook page.