HALIFAX: Three First Nations’ Chiefs have called for a moratorium on oil and gas development in the waters and on the shores of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, areas they say could be endangered and that could infringe on their rights.
Chiefs representing the Innu, Maliseet and Mi’gmaq Nations, whose communities straddle the borders of Québec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia gathered in Halifax to call on the federal and provincial governments to conduct an integrated environmental assessment for the Gulf as a whole before considering any exploration.
“All of us, Innu, Maliseet and Mi’gmaq, depend on the waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence for our livelihoods,” said Chief Jean-Charles Piétacho of the Innu community of Ekuanitshit in Québec.
As the Chiefs spoke in Halifax, where they were meeting for the Assembly of First Nations annual general assembly, boats belonging to the Mi’gmaq of Gespe’gewa’gi (Gaspé) were set to arrive at the proposed drill site at Old Harry and leave a buoy to mark their presence.
“Our intention is to show that together, we own and occupy the Gulf,” said Chief Claude Jeannotte of the Mi’gmaq community of Gespeg in Québec.
Currently, the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (CNLOPB) is conducting the environmental assessment of an exploration well proposed at Old Harry, a location only 80 km from Québec’s Magdalen Islands. The federal government will soon allow oil and gas activities in the western part of the Gulf to be decided by a joint body to be formed with Québec that will have jurisdiction over waters from Anticosti Island to the Lower North Shore, including a few kilometers from the Island of Newfoundland. The southeastern Gulf is the responsibility of the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board.
A report published by Québec in 2013 concluded that a catastrophe on the scale of the Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico is “plausible” if oil and gas exploration or development proceeds in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
“The Gulf is a unique and fragile ecosystem,” said Chief Candice Paul of the Maliseet community of St. Mary’s in New Brunswick. “The Innu, Maliseet and Mi’gmaq peoples have depended on the Gulf since time immemorial and we will not stand for its destruction.”