Environment Media release

Press release: Treaty rights holders slam Premier McNeil during NS ‘Open for Business’ talk in Toronto

Press release

May 23 2018


Free, prior, and informed consent of Mi’kmaq required before megaprojects can go ahead

(Toronto) – Water protector and Mi’kmaq Elder Dorene Bernard did not mince words during a speech by Premier McNeil this morning. The premier’s talk was entitled ‘Open for Business: Nova Scotia on the Move’, which Bernard says is a blatant glossing over of the Indigenous right to free, prior, and informed consent.

“We’re only open for business if treaty rights holders give their free, prior, and informed consent,” says Bernard. “That consent doesn’t come from the KMK termination table, it comes from the people and the traditional governments.”

Bernard has been working to protect water from fossil fuel projects in Sipekne’katik, the district of Mi’kmaq territory centred on the Shubenacadie River, for years. Alton Natural Gas Storage as well as BP’s offshore drilling projects are of huge concern to her as they threaten drinking water and the sacred Shubenacadie River, and the oceans respectively.

“I’m proud to have grassroots grandmothers confront Premier McNeil about how he is totally ignoring our treaty rights,” says water protector and grandmother Patsy Stephens, who stood with Bernard at the talk. “We were not consulted in any way on Alton Gas, BP, or many other destructive projects that impact our treaty rights in the name of economic development. Mi’kma’ki is not for sale.”

Alton Gas proposes building two underground salt caverns, which would involve dumping thousands of tons of salt brine down the Shubenacadie River every day for over a year. This threatens the fish in the river and the people who depend on that fish for food, ceremony, and livelihood. BP has begun drilling offshore Nova Scotia despite the risk assessment that led to that project’s approval recently being called “not valid” by one industry expert.

These projects are opposed by many people and community organizations, including the Council of Canadians. Mark Calzavara and Rachel Small accompanied Bernard and Stephens to Premier McNeil’s talk in solidarity with their efforts to defend the treaty rights of the Mi’kmaq nation.

“Our federal and provincial governments regularly make decisions based on what is best for corporations, not for the people they’re meant to represent,” says Council of Canadians organizer Rachel Small. “It’s clear that every day communities carry almost all the risks of projects like Alton Gas and BP’s offshore drilling, and these communities don’t stand to benefit in the long term.”


There are two videos of this intervention available here and here.