Assembly Speaks Out About Sipekne’katik’s Involvement in Consultation on the Alton Natural Gas Project
January 22, 2016
The Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs (Assembly), which represents 12 Mi’kmaq communities and is the governance structure for the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia, wishes to address public statements recently made regarding their position on the Alton Natural Gas Project. On March 5, 2013 Sipekne’katik withdrew from the Assembly’s Consultation Process.
In 2014, when consultation began on this file, the Chief of Sipekne’katik remained an active member of the Assembly.
“Consultation is a two-way street; it’s important that we are a participant,” said Chief Paul Prosper, Lead Chief of the Assembly’s Energy Portfolio. “How else will we know what is happening in our traditional territory? Consultation is how we fight for accommodations to address the concerns of the Mi’kmaq. It’s a formal way for us to have a voice in projects in our traditional territory.”
Two Councillors from Sipekne’katik attended the November 2014 meeting of the Assembly to ask for support and called for this project to be halted. The Assembly agreed and consultation took place under the protections of the Consultation Terms of Reference.
“The Assembly offered that Sipekne’katik take the lead on this file,” stated Chief Prosper. “They advised us they were not ready nor did they have the technical expertise to do so.”
The Assembly passed resolutions and had ongoing, in-depth discussions on this project on a number of occasions. One of the resolutions, which included a vote by Chief Copage, insisted on an independent Third Party Review to look at all of the documents and data associated with the project, for potential environmental risks. This Review, in turn, forced the Proponent, the Province and Department of Fisheries and Oceans to the table.
Sipekne’katik requested and received funding directly from the Province of Nova Scotia to do their own consultation. Sipekne’katik’s technical representatives remained active members of the technical review and Chief Copage continued to participate in all Assembly discussions on this project. The Mi’kmaq Peer Review Committee, who reviewed the science/data on this project, included representatives of both Mi’kmaw conservation organizations, Kwilmu’kw Maw-klusuaqn Negotiation Office (KMKNO) and Sipekne’katik. All parties, including Sipekne’katik identified concerns, made inquiries, and reviewed the documents and data.
During the process, Sipekne’katik made a decision to stop responding to the Province and the Proponent. This does not mean that consultation did not occur; in fact, a lack of response could be interpreted as having no concerns. The decision of Sipekne’katik Chief and Council to not respond was irresponsible.
“The Assembly committed to oversee the extensive work that needed to be done. We pushed the Province further than they normally would have gone with environmental protections,” said Chief Prosper. “We saw that changes were made to the project design and operations to avoid any impacts or damage. We successfully argued for a more extensive operational shutdown during spawning seasons to protect all fish species, including striped bass. These are all significant accommodations.”
The Assembly does not grant approvals for projects. They review projects to ensure that Mi’kmaw Rights and Title and the environment are protected. Approvals are granted by the Province, not by the Assembly, nor by KMKNO.
“The KMKNO team has undertaken an immense amount of research on our behalf. Despite what has been said in the media, they take direction from the Assembly; not the other way around. The Assembly and KMKNO work together, always in the best interest of the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia, to ensure that our Mi’kmaw Rights, Title and traditional way of life are protected,” concluded Chief Prosper.
For more information contact:
Crystal Dorey Communications Officer
Mi’kmaq Rights Initiative
Phone: (902) 843-3880
E-mail: [email protected]