KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – As we reported earlier, the Nova Scotia Utilities and Review Board (NS-UARB) is deciding whether to extend a construction permit for the Alton Gas underground storage caverns to 2023.
One of the issues the Board is pondering is consultation with Mi’kmaq treaty holders, including Sipekne’katik.
Alton Gas has argued that the issue of Indigenous consultation is already before the Minister of Environment, and that the UARB should just allow that process to play out rather than engage in a duplicate process.
A letter written by Pink Larkin lawyer Balraj Dosanjh on behalf of Sipekne’katik takes strong issue with this reasoning.
Dosanjh reminds the Board that the band hasn’t heard from the Minister ever since the Nova Scotia Supreme Court quashed the decision by the province’s environment minister to dismiss the appeal of the First Nation in January 2017.
The province never supplied the documents that the band needed, the Court found at that time.
Ever since, a new appeal by Sipekne’katik to the department of Environment has been in limbo.
“To date, the Minister has not released a new decision on the appeal. Thus, we are now approaching more than three years since Sipekne’katik first sought recourse for the issue of inadequate consultation on the Alton Gas project,” writes Dosanjh.
The letter emphasizes that “the Alton Gas project area was historically, and continues to be, extensively used by the Mi’kmaq. Traditional use activities are undertaken by the Mi’kmaq throughout the Alton Gas project area and surrounding vicinity both currently and in the past in a most significant manner.”
The band is worried about the damage that Alton Gas could do to its economy and traditional lands.
“With respect to the seriousness of the potential adverse effect to Sipekne’katik’s rights from the Alton Gas project, the project not only impacts Sipekne’katik’s fishing rights and the ability to earn a moderate livelihood through the exercise of established treaty rights, it also threatens Sipekne’katik’s domestic economy, cultural and social life as the community uses and depends on the Shubenacadie and Stewiacke river and the surrounding lands as a source of food, for spiritual practices, and for medicinal, ceremonial, conservation and cultural knowledge purposes,” the letter states.
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