(MI’KMAQ’I, HALIFAX, Monday March 31st, 2014, Maritimes Energy Association Briefing) — Several Mi’kmaq women shut down a Maritimes Energy Association briefing held at the Westin Nova Scotian this morning around 8am, supported by a rally of over a hundred protesters. The NS Energy Minister intended to give a briefing on the Province’s plan to move forward on oil and gas projects to members of industry. Two banners were dropped from the hotel roof declaring Water Is Sacred and Stop the Energy East (pipeline), and an imitation frackwell was erected to show opposition to the controversial shalegas exploration process.
Eliza Knockwood, a Mi’kmaq woman and mother, silenced the crowded room of government officials and industry representatives with her drum to send the message that water is sacred. “Although the language of the Treaties do not capture the true beauty and spirit of my ancestors, it does show us what is important to them and how they lived in harmony with the natural environment.”
When Eliza attempted to speak to the room the host of the event aggressively demanded her silence. The host even went so far as to physically touch Eliza and attempted to grab her drum. The youth who were gathered outside simultaneously entered the hotel lobby in a show of support. Police quickly grabbed one young man, dragged him into the parking lot and placed him under arrest while several cameras recorded the incident.
“Only the Mi’kmaq people have clear title to Mi’kmaq’i.” states Elizabeth Marshall, a Mi’kmaq grandmother from the community of Eskasoni. “Any discussion regarding use of our lands without free, prior and informed consent is illegal, unconstitutional and against the spirit and intent of Treaty.”
The Mi’kmaq peoples have been very active in protecting their lands and waters against harmful extraction processes such as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and seek to continue mobilization against further developments on their territories. “We have a covenant with the Creator to protect the sacred and we take that responsibility very seriously.” says Marshall, and states she has been informed by Elders in her community to tell the Minister that the Mi’kmaq Nation does not accept the TransCanada Energy East pipeline into their territories.
Phil Fontaine, New Brunswick Power Authority board member and TransCanada consultant, was informed he is not welcome in the territory of the Mi’kmaq people. “He is not welcome here, and that snake that he is trying to bring into our territories is not welcome here either.”, asserts Marshall. Fontaine is an advocate for the Energy East pipeline project, a 4200 km pipeline intended to put countless rivers, lakes and lands at risk of contamination by expanding the Athabasca tar sands.
The disruption, which shut down the breakfast briefing, was supported by students, youth and environmental justice organizers from across Canada. “Projects like the tar sands and the Energy East pipeline are driving climate change and devastating communities,” said Robin Tress, an organizer with PowerShift Atlantic a youth climate justice summit that brought hundreds of young people to Halifax over the weekend. “We’re taking action today to show that we’re ready to stand with Indigenous communities on the frontlines of the struggle against affronts to their sovereignty and destruction of the environment.”
Fontaine has also been banned from Lakota territory for the same reason, as his appearances continue to be disrupted by Indigenous women speaking for the water, including recently in Winnipeg. Some communities have published WANTED posters to highlight their distrust for Fontaine and opposition to the tar sands mining project itself. This action supported by Idle No More.