ANTINGONISH – Frontline water defenders shared stories of corporate trickery, modern impacts of colonization and struggles to protect their communities from the expansion of a toxic industry on Wednesday. They were talking about the Alton Gas project.
The speakers, including Sipekne’katik elder Dorene Bernard, Truckhouse organizer Dale Poulette and earth scientist Carrie-Ellen Gabriel described the project’s major threats to water, climate, energy and Indigenous rights.
“Corporations like to do dirty tricks and schemes on First Nations, and just about everyone,” says Poulette, who has lived beside the Alton Gas site for eight months and was part of the fracking resistance in Elsipogtog. “We fought alongside lots of allies to stop fracking in New Brunswick, and we need allies here too.”
“Alton Gas is an experiment, just like residential schools were an experiment. We won’t be experimented on anymore,” said Bernard. “They’re building two caverns now, but they have 15 more planned. And now they’re offering millions of dollars to our community – we know this isn’t the end, it’s just the beginning of Alton Gas’s plan.”
“The threat of climate change is on our doorstep,” says Gabriel. “We must to move to a low or no-carbon energy production system, and projects like this, have a list of associated environmental problems which must be very carefully considered. The potential contamination of the groundwater, of wetlands, of farmland – this is a mess, really.”
Local organizers are encouraging people to call Environment Minister Margaret Miller to demand that she stop the Alton Gas project.
“This project demonstrates the extreme need to improve the way people and communities are included in resource development decisions, and the need to really adhere to the principle of free, prior, and informed consent,” says Robin Tress of the Council of Canadians, who moderated the event. “We will stand with water protectors until we see this project stopped.”
The proposed natural gas storage project would involve creating underground salt caverns near Stewiacke, and discharging the resulting salt brine into the Shubenacadie River. While the provincial government has approved this project, neighbours of the project have been fighting to stop it since 2012.