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News brief: Public rallies call for Liberals to abandon secretive efforts to sell Owls Head Provincial Park

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KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – I can’t say it enough, a tiny group of activists deserve a lot of credit for keeping the secretive delisting and potential sale of Owls Head Provincial Park in the news, even at the height of summer.

Today the Save Owls Head group did it again, organizing three public rallies, in Wolfville, Annapolis Royal and Halifax. The rally at Victoria Park in downtown Halifax drew at least 300 people angry enough about the potential sale to sacrifice part of a beautiful summer weekend. Passing cars and buses honking in support provided a steady background chorus throughout the event.

Unfortunately, my usually trusty recorder decided it had enough sometime mid-rally, so I am writing this short news brief partly from memory. 

A large Mi’kmaw contingent attended the rally, including grassroots grandmothers Doreen Bernard, who opened the rally with prayers, and Elizabeth Marshall. Marshall, who is from Eskasoni, has been vocal in her opposition to the sale.   

“Crown Lands belong to L’nuk for our benefit and harvesting rights. Rankin wants  to sell or give these Crown Lands to his billionaire friend… Rankin, his Liberal golfers & his billionaire friend need to prepare for the Mi’kmaq people, the coming generation who are coming into fruition, they are going to assume their title of Crown lands, they will assume title and will occupy the coastal lands your military and RCMP drove our grandfathers from,” Marshall recently stated on Facebook.

With a provincial election less than two weeks away both Gary Burrill, leader of the Nova Scotia NDP and Jessica Alexander, interim leader of the Green Party were warmly received.

Burrill committed that a NDP government not only would stop the sale of Owls Head, it would also ensure no other park that is pending protection would be sold in secret. And an NDP government would move Nova Scotia towards protecting 25 per cent of our land and water by 2025, and 30 per cent by 2030, in line with international commitments, he said.

“Owls Head provincial park was designated by means of an extended process of consultation, involving over 1000 public submissions over a series of years, which were completely thrown out the window with one secret Liberal cabinet decision. It’s environmentally wrong. It’s democratically wrong. And I think it’s important for us to register clearly that it’s morally wrong as well,” Burrill said.

Alexander, whose party also opposes the sale, was joined by sometime Nova Scotia Advocate author Lilly Barraclough, who reminded people of the Green commitment to surrender stewardship of so-called Crown Lands to the Mi’kmaw people. 

See also: Lily Barraclough: Why our votes matter this provincial election

Among the many other speakers were wildlife biologist Bob Bancroft, lawyer Jamie Simpson, Tynette Deveaux of the Atlantic chapter of the Sierra Club, and many more.

I also spoke briefly with Lindsay Lee, one of the longtime Save Owls Head organizers.

“There are so many parks, nature reserves and wilderness areas that are awaiting park designation across Nova Scotia. We don’t realize that our parks are at risk, and that makes it even more dangerous. You too could wake up one day and the park down the road could be sold off, behind closed doors without any any public notice,” Lee said.

Pamela Baker, who spoke after my little recorder abandoned me, lives near Owls Head and who made several excellent points. 

I am paraphrasing, but basically Baker asked, with all the Eastern Shore foggy days and the blackflies, the rainy days, and the short Nova Scotia summer, how can anybody suggest that golf course jobs are truly what is going to solve the employment problems we have here? 

That’s a really good question.

See also: Doing activism right: ‘When it comes to Owls Head, joining a Facebook group is just the beginning’

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