KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – It is clear that since it took power the provincial government hasn’t made many friends among people who are dealing with pollution, students struggling to get an education, and Mi’kmaw water defenders who want to see the treaties honoured.
About a hundred demonstrators gathered outside Province House this afternoon, as MLAs returned for the start of the fall sitting.
Protesters talked about Alton Gas, Harrietsfield water quality issues, concerns about the the Avon River, turbines in the Bay of Fundy, the Pictou Pulp Mill, glyphosate spraying, clear cutting, offshore oil exploration, but also rising tuition fees, workers rights, and that list goes on.
Stacey Rudderham, a vocal (and victorious) opponent of the Fall River Quarry, is one of the many grassroots activists who was behind today’s rally.
“We tend to look at all these issues as segregated, and I believe that is an intentional tactic on behalf of government to prevent the true issues behind all these causes to be understood,” Rudderham told the Nova Scotia Advocate.
“Today we all come together united to show that we are all in this together and that it’s time the province starts treating citizens differently. We are tired of being ignored,” she said.
No to all the decisions they make without consulting us
“We are here to let the government know who holds the real power, that power lies with the people, and the people say no to Alton Gas, no to glyphosate spraying, no to cuts to healthcare and education,no to all the decisions they make without consulting us,” said Michelle Paul.
Paul, a Mi’kmaw water defender, has been active in the fight against plans by Alton Gas to dump large amounts of brine in the Shubenacadie River. Paul is also here to defend the treaties, and the province’s obligation to engage the Mi’kmaq nation in genuine consultation in cases such as Alton Gas.
“All the territory you see is all Mi’kmaki. It is all unceded territory. Treaty law supersedes any other law,” said Paul. “What that means is that what is written in the treaties still holds today.”
Eventually things have to change, people have to listen
Colin Hawks, a resident of Brentwood who lives in close proximity of the Alton Gas caverns, also feels left out and ignored by the government.
“We should have a say about what goes on in our communities and affects our daily lives. Money seems to override rights any concerns about right and wrong,” Hawks told the Nova Scotia Advocate.
Hawks believes the Alton Gas project is in trouble, and he hopes for a happy ending to the nightmare that started when the Alton Gas trucks started barreling down his rural road unannounced three years ago.
“Eventually things have to change, people have to listen. This is not a good project for the province, and it never was. And that applies to most projects. These projects are not for the people, they’re for the companies to make a profit,” he said.
“We’re all asking for justice, whether it is environmental justice or justice in education, it is all part of this vision for a more just and equitable Nova Scotia,” said Charlotte Kiddell, chairperson of the Nova Scotia chapter of the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS).
“This government has shown utter contempt for Nova Scotia students, by deregulating tuition, by blocking legislation to combat sexual violence on campus, and by investing no new money in student assistance. We’re here to hold them accountable,” she told the Nova Scotia Advocate.
Among the speakers were Gary Burrill, leader of the provincial NDP and two members of his caucus. Burrill told the crowd that the party will reintroduce both the Environmental Bill of Rights and the private member’s bill that deals with environmental racism at the earliest opportunity.
Dave Gunning talked about Northern Pulp and the damage it has done to his community and to the residents of Pictou Landing First Nation.
“I talked to an elder who was swimming in Boat Harbour the day the mill started operating back in 1967, and within 48 hours the seal and the fish washed ashore dead on the banks of that 400 acre body of water,” Gunning said.
“Northern Pulp uses about 90 million litres of water every 24 hours. When Northern Pulp tells you that they are passing federal water guidelines, they tell the truth, but only because they dilute the chemicals to such a high extent, said Gunning, who added that for all of HRM daily water consumption is about 113 million litres.
“All of us have one thing in common,” Gunning said. “The Department of Environment is ineffective, and we don’t understand why that is.”