TOM AYERS Cape Breton Bureau
Published October 22, 2015 – 11:28am
Oscar-nominated actor, writer and director Ethan Hawke is expected to attend a Mi’kmaq water ceremony on Monday at Paq’tnkek First Nation to support an aboriginal call for a moratorium on oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
“Ethan Hawke has some land in that area down there,” said Troy Jerome, executive director of the Mi’gmawei Mawiomi Secretariat.
“That’s why we were able to convince him to come out and do something with us, because he knows the area right there and he knows about the issue with the Gulf.”
Paq’tnkek Chief Paul (PJ) Prosper will host the secretariat — a group representing three First Nation communities along the Gaspe peninsula — along with Nova Scotia supporters and Innu and Maliseet from around the Gulf, at the ceremony at 1 p.m. on Summerside Road in Afton, Antigonish County.
That is near the site where the late Donald Marshall Jr. was arrested for eel fishing, an affair that ended with a Supreme Court decision in his name that confirmed the aboriginal right to fish.
This week, Shell Canada received approval to begin exploratory drilling off the southwest shore of Nova Scotia, while Corridor Resources, a Halifax junior exploration company, still has an interest in oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Aboriginals aren’t opposed to all petroleum exploration and drilling, said Jerome, but the waters of the Gulf need to be protected to ensure the aboriginal right to fish is not harmed.
Also, the entire region’s economy depends on fishing and tourism, which would be threatened by oil and gas development, he said.
“The Gulf is a very unique ecosystem, as opposed to other bodies of water, so I think there’s a hook there to say that (exploration) could happen in other areas, but in the Gulf, if there is some kind of accident out there, it’s going to devastate the whole economy, right from Halifax all the way to Gaspe and Newfoundland.”
The secretariat is backing a call made last year by Mi’kmaq chiefs and others for a 12-year moratorium on exploration in the Gulf and asking government regulators to commission an independent study of the entire Gulf region, instead of requiring companies to conduct limited studies within a smaller radius from potential exploration sites.
It is also hoping to raise awareness of the issues in the Gulf, where the counterclockwise current could carry pollutants around the shores of the four Atlantic provinces and Quebec, said Jerome, and sea ice in winter could make any cleanup difficult.
And at least three provincial regulatory bodies cover oil and gas development in the Gulf.
“We see this whole Gulf exploration happening under a shroud,” said Jerome. “They’re doing it in public, but the public doesn’t know that they could have a say about what’s happening.
“No one’s drilling right now, and we’re trying to make sure that no drilling occurs. The Mi’kmaq proposed a 12-year moratorium and people came back and said, ‘Why a 12-year moratorium?’
“For us, it’s quite clear that the Gulf is one large ecosystem, and you cannot study it by going to the Newfoundland portion and studying that, going to Quebec and studying that portion, and studying the Nova Scotia portion.”
Source: Chronicle Herald