APTN National News
Mi’kmaq grandmothers and grassroots people have given notice to evict Alton Gas from their territory.
Monday, on the eve of a court hearing spurred by the natural gas company’s application for an injunction, the Treaty Beneficiary Association of the Mi’kmaw People held a press conference in Halifax.
Mi’kmaq grandmothers Doreen Bernard, Elizabeth Marshall, and Mi’kmaq water protector and treaty scholar Michelle Paul explained why Alton Gas isn’t welcome in unceded Mi’kmaq territory.
“Mi’kmaq rights holders have never given permission for Alton Gas to operate in their territory and have voiced opposition to the project for many years, even occupying land at a ceremonial Treaty Camp and Truckhouse adjacent to the proposed brine discharge site,” Paul said Monday.
Paul also said Alton Gas would release approximately 10,000 cubic meters of salt brine into the river every day, and that “the work this company proposes will further damage the ecological balance of the Sipekne’katik River, threatening species that have lived alongside us for thousands of years.”
Marshall said the eviction notice has been sent to Alton Gas, but they have not received a response.
The notice states: “The eviction of Alton Gas is non-negotiable. The disturbance and intended harm to our Sipekne’katik River has cost enough time from the lives of our people, and it must not cost our next generations.”
The company is proposing to store natural gas in underground caverns along the Sipekne’katik river. Alton Gas plans to hollow out the caverns with salt brine, which it then plans to discharge into the river.
The protectors say the project would destroy the river’s fish and ecosystem.
Alton Gas stated in an email that they are in compliance with all federal, provincial and local requirements and the project will not harm the fish or the habitat. They say they will continuously monitor the salinity levels in the river.
But water protectors are not convinced.
They have resisted the project since 2014 and have remained at the site since 2016.
Alton Gas filed an injunction to remove those who continue to block access to the site. The company said they need to bring in heavy equipment to conduct maintenance and repairs to existing infrastructure; the electrical equipment was recently damaged by flooding.
The grandmothers and protectors say they will continue to protect the river for the next seven generations.
“Alton gas needs to google our history in upholding our treaty and our title,” said Marshall.
“They’ll find out that every single time that we have entered battle, with the oppressor—every single time, one hundred percent—we have won.”
The women say they are prepared to protect the river, regardless of the court’s decision regarding Alton Gas’s application for an injunction.