Oil: First Nations Coalition Born

Above: Photo: Pedro Ruiz – Le Devoirleaders Innu Nations, Maliseet and Mi’gmaq say they want to speak with “one voice” in all records related to the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Photo: Pedro Ruiz – Le Devoir.
This article was translated by computer, please excuse any errors.

Concerned about the willingness to open the Gulf of St. Lawrence oil exploration, three indigenous nations announced Tuesday the formation of a coalition which has as its mission to “protect” the marine environment against the “risks” posed by the fossil fuel industry. They believe that governments must give their voice before making any decision.

Leaders Innu Nations, Maliseet and Mi’gmaq say and want to speak with “one voice” in all records related to the Gulf of St. Lawrence but particularly in regard to the expected sector companies wishing to exploit any oil or natural gas opening.

The three nations also recently signed a memorandum emphasizing the importance of “priority water protection and promote sustainable development of coastal indigenous communities in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. ” Particular, they argue that “an environmental disaster in the Gulf could have devastating impacts on fish, herbs, foods and animals” that are part of their livelihoods.

“Small reserves that the federal government has cut for Innu nations, Maliseet and Mi’gmaq from their vast territory are found around the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Quebec, Labrador, on the island of Newfoundland, on Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, argued the chef Jean-Charles Piétacho, on behalf of the Innu Nation in Quebec, in a statement.

However, beyond these lands, nations have always used and occupied the waters of the St. Lawrence, exercising their aboriginal rights and treaty rights, and their title they have never sold. “These rights means that the federal and provincial governments have a duty to consult and accommodate us to avoid any infringement of our rights. All threats of violations of our rights require our consent, “added the great Head Anne Archambault, on behalf of the Maliseet Nation.

An unknown Gulf

The Le Marois government has not said whether he will allow oil companies to carry out work of exploration in the marine environment, the Quebec side of the maritime boundary. But different PQ ministers and the Prime Minister have already indicated on several occasions the opening of Quebec. The other two main parties represented in the National Assembly are also looking for fossil energy in the heart of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

For the moment, no oil or gas field has been discovered, despite years of research. And more data are lacking to understand the environmental risks.

A strategic environmental assessment report on the Gulf, released in September, shows. This document of 800 pages stresses the continued “many gaps” in the current state of knowledge about the ecosystem. Deficiencies concerning the exploration and exploitation technologies, components of the physical, biological and human, as well as “potential environmental effects of exploration and development activities, as well as spills.” It ignores for example how to get oil “when there is the presence of ice.

“We know relatively little about the “current and changing of the environment by  to climate change.” We lack the data to properly assess the movement and use areas of endangered species. And scientists do not yet understand the phenomenon of acidification and hypoxia waters of the St. Lawrence.

The Environmental Assessment produced by Genivar also insists on the need to consider the Gulf of St. Lawrence as one Feature. At present, Newfoundland conducting its own environmental assessment, without partnership with Quebec. However, the structure of Old Harry targeted by the oil industry, is riding on the maritime border between the two provinces. In case of spill, five provinces may be polluted.