Category Archives: Nova Scotia

Ethan Hawke guest at event to protect the Gulf of St. Lawrence ~ The News

October 22nd, 2015

The News
October 22, 2015

Actor, writer and director Ethan Hawke is lending his voice to the efforts to protect the Gulf of St. Lawrence from off shore petroleum exploration.

Hawke, who owns property in Tracadie, Nova Scotia, is going to be a guest at a water ceremony and press conference where the Chiefs of the Paq’tnkek First Nation and the Mi’gmaq of Gespe’gewa’gi (Gesgapegiag, Gespeg and Listuguj) as they make an important statement on Monday that outlines the significance of the Gulf of St. Lawrence to both Nations and calls for immediate actions to Protect the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Mary Gorman, of Pictou County, has been a long time activist for the Save our Seas and Shores Coalition and said this event is significant.

“We’re very grateful to the Mi’gmaq elders chiefs and their councils for protecting the gulf of St. Lawrence from offshore oil and gas development,” Gorman said. “We never would have been able to keep the oil industry out of the Gulf of St. Lawrence for the past 17 years without the Mi’gmaq leadership.

She said it’s great to have the support of Hawke who is coming on his dime to the event.

This venue for the conference is of historical significance. The site was the location for the events that led to the Marshall Decision which gives aboriginal people the right to make a living from fishing and hunting as based on early treaties between the British and Aboriginal people.

It’s because of that right that the aboriginal community believes they should be heavily involved in consultation about projects that could impact the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Troy Jerome of the Mi’gmawei Mawiomi Secretariat said they are concerned because there are off shore petroleum boards that are being organized with the intention of looking at drilling off shore.

“This could totally disrupt our way of life,” he said. “We need to be consulted.”

He said they want to know what kind of effects the drilling could have. He also believes that more people throughout the Atlantic provinces need to know what’s going on.

“We think this kind of event and having a big name like Ethan Hawke could raise awareness,” he said.

The event will take place on Monday at 1 p.m. at 577 Summerside Road, Antigonish.

The water ceremony is held in each season to give offerings and honour the Mi’gmaq people’s relationship with the water, the fish, the land, and their resources.

The press conference will draw attention to the threat to the waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence posed by offshore oil and gas development.

The Leadership of the Innu and the Mi’gmaq of Gespe’gwa’gi formed a coalition in October 2013 to work together to protect the Gulf of St. Lawrence. This coalition was formed with the intent to speak with one voice to protect the Aboriginal and Treaty rights and title throughout the Gulf of St. Lawrence from potential hydrocarbon exploration.

Source: The News

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Environmental groups oppose changes in N.S. offshore assessment process ~ iPolitics

October 1st, 2015

Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition and Greenpeace Canada both oppose proposed changes which would scale back responsibilities of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and give the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board (CNSOPB) the power to conduct federal environmental assessments of projects in the region.

According to iPolitics, Keith Stewart, climate and energy campaigner with Greenpeace Canada said the change is a sop to the energy industry.

Keith Stewart, climate & energy campaigner with Greenpeace Canada. Credit: https://twitter.com/climatekeith

Keith Stewart, climate & energy campaigner with Greenpeace Canada. Credit: https://twitter.com/climatekeith

“This is about gutting environmental reviews in order to fast-track oil projects, as the Petroleum Board doesn’t have the expertise or the mandate to do a proper environmental assessment,” he said in an email response. “If you’re renovating your house, it might seem faster and cheaper to have your accountant double up as the architect, but then don’t be surprised when the fancy new addition collapses.”

 

 

 

Mary Gorman, spokesperson for Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition, expressed similar outrage in an email to iPolitics.

Mary Gorman, co-founder and spokesperson, Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition. (Credit: https://twitter.com/gorman_mary)

Mary Gorman, co-founder and spokesperson, Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition. (Credit: https://twitter.com/gorman_mary)

 

“Entrenching powers for industry controlled offshore petroleum boards into Canada’s Environmental Assessment Act is not responsible conduct and will not lead to a responsible authority,” Gorman said. “Rather, it deepens the conflict of interest that the C-NSOPB is already in, as both a promoter of offshore development while simultaneously protecting the environment.”

Save Our Seas and Shores expressed opposition to this change in a July 22/2015 submission to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.

According to iPolitics, the C-NSOPB will fill the role of the CEAA when necessary. As the government explains in its regulatory impact analysis statement, this is thanks to Bill C-22, which will allow the board to conduct these assessments. Then, C-NSOPB will perform the same functions as the National Energy Board (NEB), the market regulator for interprovincial and international pipelines and power lines, does for offshore projects everywhere except around Newfoundland and Labrador, where the CEAA will continue to conduct its assessments. The Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (CNLOPB) — that region’s equivalent of the CNSOPB — “is not yet in a position to assume this role,” the government says.

In the past, the C-NSOPB carried out these reviews under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, before its overhaul in 2012.

To read the entire iPolitics article, Environmental groups decry change in N.S. offshore assessment process written by Mackenzie Scrimshaw, go here.

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Tell the Petroleum Board to refuse Shell’s application to drill in Nova Scotia

August 16th, 2015

SumofUs petition Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board – sign now, to pressure CNSOPB to refuse Shell’s application

Shell wouldn’t have to cap an oil spill for 21 days? Outrageous.

This is Shell’s dream. The Canadian government just gave it permission to drill for oil off Nova Scotia’s coast — and the company doesn’t need to cap an oil blowout for 21 days.

Are they kidding? Shell will be allowed to freely spill oil into the ocean for three weeks — potentially wreaking environmental havoc on Nova Scotia’s amazing marine life, major fishing grounds, coastal communities and the Sable Island National Park Reserve, the world’s largest breeding colony of grey seals.

And it’s all so Shell can save a few bucks by not having to keep safety equipment nearby.

The U.S. requires oil companies to cap blowouts within 24 hours. Canada is giving Shell three weeks to bring equipment in from Norway after a blowout happens — 5,000 kilometres away.

Shell is gambling with our oceans to cut its own costs. But we have a chance to stop it. The Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board (CNSOPB) still has to make its final decision on Shell’s application. If we overwhelm it with objections, we can stop Shell.

Tell the Petroleum Board to refuse Shell’s application to drill in Nova Scotia.

Shell wants to drill up to seven exploratory wells — which are especially risky and prone to large spills — off the coast of Nova Scotia in the next four years. If a blowout did happen, it would be catastrophic for Nova Scotia’s major fishing grounds. Haddock, lobster and crab stocks would be at risk, as would whales, dolphins, sharks, sea turtles and hundreds of species of migratory birds.

When a spill happens, safety equipment would have to travel 5,000 kilometres or more just to cap the spill. And worse, some of the backup safety equipment is located in South Africa, a staggering 12,000 kilometres away.

BP’s DeepWater Horizon disaster taught us just how devastating a prolonged blowout can be for wildlife, habitat and livelihoods. But some believe a blowout in Nova Scotia could be even worse — because the oil wells would be in much deeper water and a much harsher environment, and because of a lack of technological capability on Shell’s part.

The SumOfUs community has stood up to Big Oil’s destruction of the environment, and we’ve had a major impact. Hundreds of thousands of us came together to stop Shell from drilling in the Arctic, and to demand that Chevron pay for its crimes in the Amazon. Now, let’s stand together to keep Shell out of Nova Scotia.

Nova Scotia Petroleum Board: refuse Shell’s application to drill in Nova Scotia!

Source:

Someofus logo

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More information:

Shell gets OK to take 21 days to cap blowouts off Nova Scotia coast, CBC News, 5 August 2015
Canada Gives Shell Permission to Leave Future Offshore Well Blowout Uncapped for 21 Days, the U.S. Gives 24 Hours, DeSmog Canada, 7 August 2015

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Entrenching powers of industry controlled offshore petroleum boards into CEAA dangerous precedent – Save Our Seas and Shores

July 22nd, 2015

July 22, 2015
John McCauley, CPA CMA
Director, Legislative and Regulatory Affairs
Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency
160 Elgin Street, 22nd Floor
Ottawa ON K1A 0H3
Tel.: 613-948-1785
Fax: 613-957-0897
Email: Regulations@ceaa-acee.gc.ca

Dear Mr. McCauley,

Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition, a coalition of fishermen, First Nations, environmental organizations, and concerned citizens has been advocating protection of the Gulf of St Lawrence from offshore oil and gas development for over fifteen years.

We are advocating this protection due to our Gulf’s extremely sensitive nature, counter-clockwise currents that only empty into the Atlantic once a year, winter ice cover and prime breeding grounds for over 2,200 marine species that spawn, nurse and migrate year round.

Given that the offshore oil and gas industry already has unfettered access to approx. 88% of East Coast waters, with only Georges Bank under moratorium, the fact that we are still fighting for the Gulf’s protection after all this time indicates the disrespect we feel our federal government has for the hundreds of coastal communities and multi-billion dollar renewable fishery and tourism industries in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador, who rely on our Gulf for its sustenance. We are growing tired of this disrespect, given that our livelihoods go directly back into our coastal communities and into municipal, provincial and federal coffers.

At this time, we are writing to comment on the proposed regulations that would make the Canada–Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board (the Nova Scotia Board) a responsible authority under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 (CEAA 2012).

In our opinion, entrenching powers for industry controlled offshore petroleum boards into Canada’s Environmental Assessment Act is NOT responsible conduct and will NOT LEAD to a responsible authority. Rather, we consider this a dangerous precedent.

We are profoundly discouraged that CEAA, a federal agency whose legislated mandate is to protect Canada’s environment (and the public interest) would consider such an ill-conceived notion. It is a step backwards. We urge you to reconsider these proposed regulations.

Do you remember the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon disaster?
Allow us to stir your memory:
pelican oilspill

Five Years After BP Spill, New Rules to Boost Safety -LA Times April 20, 2015: “On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 people in one of the nation’s worst environmental disasters. For 87 days, the country was transfixed by images of millions of barrels of oil gushing from the seafloor, coating marine life and soiling more than a thousand miles of coast from Texas to Florida.
The spill of 3.19 million barrels of oil into the gulf, an amount determined by a federal judge, upended how the federal government regulates offshore drilling… According to a study prepared by the Natural Resources Defense Council, more than $11.6 billion has been paid to individuals. Commercial fisherman could lose $8.7 billion by 2020 along with 22,000 jobs, and lost tourism dollars are more than $22.7 billion. “As many as 5,000 marine mammals may have been killed along with 1,000 sea turtles and nearly 1 million coastal and offshore seabirds, the environmental group said.”
“Before the disaster, the Minerals Management Service, part of the Department of the Interior, was the one-stop federal agency handling all issues related to natural gas and oil production on the continental shelf. It awarded leases, collected royalties, conducted environmental impact studies and carried out safety inspections — prompting complaints that its mission created CONFLICTS OF INTEREST. For example, how could the same agency seeking to increase oil revenue be trusted to strictly regulate safety, which could cut income?
A month after the disaster, US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar ordered that the agency be split into the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement and the Office of Natural Resources Revenue. Each arm focused on a different task, separating revenue from safety and both from leasing issues.
Separation is good for all of the agencies, said Eileen P. Angelico, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement. “I think it allows us to focus on our mission and to do it more effectively than before.””

Mr. McCauley, it is clear from these comments that separating its environmental protection from the same agency that promotes offshore oil and gas development has been good for the US.

Why won’t Canada do this? A separate safety regulator was recommended by the Offshore Helicopter Safety Inquiry in Newfoundland so why is CEAA apparently choosing to ignore Recommendation 29 of the Wells Inquiry?

It is our position that the proposed effort to entrench industry controlled boards into Canada’s Environmental Assessment agency is an initiative that will take us backwards, further weakening Canada’s environmental protection. Further, it will deepen and will make even worse the conflict of interest that the C-NSOPB and the Newfoundland Board (C-NLOPB) are already in.

We strongly oppose these proposed regulations.

Sincerely,
Mary Gorman
Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition

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Fishing Industry Raises Concerns over Oil and Gas in the Gulf of St. Lawrence

July 21st, 2015

Press Release, July 21/2015

In a powerful show of unity, First Nation communities and fishing industry representatives call on the Federal Ministers of Natural Resources, Environment, and Fisheries to suspend petroleum development in the Gulf of St. Lawrence until it can determine that these activities would pose no risk to commercial fisheries.

The Gulf’s Aboriginal Communities, Harvester, and Processor Associations, call on the federal government to hear public concerns and evaluate the risks of drilling in a semi- enclosed body of water that supports hundreds of coastal communities in 5 provinces.

“The government is ignoring that the Gulf of St. Lawrence is partially landlocked and one of the most sensitive and productive marine breeding regions in Canada with over 2,200 marine species that spawn, nurse and migrate year around. Due to the sensitive nature of the St. Lawrence it unlikely that a billion dollar fishing industry could withstand oil and gas development,” says Marilyn Clark, executive director of the Nova Scotia Fish Packers Association.  Although Strategic Environmental assessment (SEA) have been undertaken by both Newfoundland and Quebec, these inadequate assessments failed to look at the Gulf as a whole, she said.

“We know there is very little capacity to respond to an oil spill due to high winds and counter clockwise currents that only empty into the Atlantic once a year, leaving NS, NB, PEI, QC and NL coastlines vulnerable to contamination. Despite this, the environmental assessment process has been downgraded to allow companies to drill exploratory wells without consulting people depending on these waters for their livelihoods,” states fisherman Leonard Leblanc of Cheticamp, Nova Scotia.

Spill simulations undertaken by the Rimouski Institute of Ocean Science demonstrate that fish and plankton critical to the Gulf’s food chain would have to migrate through oil at both the Laurentian Channel and Straight of Belle Isle, which are entry and exit regions critical to the Gulf’s entire eco-system.

Even Corridor Resources, who wants to drill at Old Harry, acknowledge in their EA report that: “There are environmental and technological constraints to response and cleanup. High sea states and visibility are examples of typical environmental constraints, while technological constraints include pumping capacity of oil recovery devices and effectiveness of chemical dispersants.” Furthermore, several months of ice coverage in the winter escalate these important limitations.

Nearly two years ago, First Nations formed the Innu, Maliseet and Mi’gmaq Alliance and signed an agreement to protect the Gulf from Oil and Gas Development. They have recently renewed this commitment and reiterated their request for a 12 year Moratorium.

To date, they have yet to be consulted on the Old Harry project.

“Quebec’s Environment Assessment (SEA) detailed many gaps in knowledge and understanding of the Gulf of St Lawrence.  We have existing Aboriginal rights and constitutionally protected Treaty Rights as recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada. We will do all that is necessary to protect our way of life and prevent any exploratory plan to be carried out in the Gulf,” explains Troy Jerome, Executive Director of the Mi’gmawei Mawiomi Secretariat.

In the event of a spill, Canadian law demands a company to have a measly 1 billion dollars of compensation monies. This is deeply inadequate when you consider that Gulf fisheries are worth more than one billion each year. Investments in boats, licenses, and fish plants dependent on renewable resources for their operations are worth far more than these proposed damages. The BP Macondo disaster cost BP over $40 billion dollars so far and could cost the company over $60billion due to ongoing litigation.

“How do you quantify damages to living species that have been around for thousands of years if you are not even taking into account ecological value?” asks Clark. “In short, the Gulf of St. Lawrence fishing industry will accept no less than a full, independent expert review panel, acting in the 5 provinces, as is warranted by public concerns in section 38 (2) b of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act”, she concludes.

For further information contact:

Marilyn Clark 902.774.0006 (French/English)
Director Nova Scotia Fish Packers Association

Troy Jerome 506.759.2000 (French/English)
Executive Director
Nutewistoq, Mi’gmawei, Mawiomi Secretariat

Leonard LeBlanc 902-302-0794 (French/English)
Gulf Nova Scotia Fishermen’s Coalition

Ian MacPherson 902-566-4050 (English)
PEI Fishermen’s Association

Jean-Pierre Couillard 418-269-7701 (French)
Association des Capitaines Propriétaire de la Gaspésie

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Groups band together to fight oil exploration on Gulf of St. Lawrence ~ APTN news

July 21st, 2015

July 21, 2015

by Danielle Rochette

APTN National News

Eighteen organizations spread out over four provinces are banding together and calling on the federal government to stop any kind of oil exploration work in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

The group sent a letter Tuesday to Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford, Fisheries Minister Gail Shea and Minister of Environment Leona Aglukkaq. [See press release here]

“As fisheries representatives active in all parts of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, we are writing to inform you that we will oppose any petroleum development in the Gulf of St. Lawrence without prior consultation and a thorough understanding of the impacts to our seafood industry,” the letter states.

It’s not clear who penned the letter.

The Nutewistoq M’igmawei Mawiomi Secretariat is one of the organizations that is part of the coalition.

The group pointed out that the process that will allow companies to explore for oil, will also allow them to circumvent the environmental or consultation process.

“Given that exploratory drilling has been downgraded to a simple ‘screening exercise,’ which does not necessitate consultation with existing users, we demand that the Old Harry prospect be put to a full review panel as is warranted by public concern under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act” the letter states.

A Mi’kmaq group out of Quebec is already lobbying the Quebec government to put in place a 12-year moratorium on exploration work in the Gulf. [See APTN story here: Nations band together to fight future oil exploration in Gulf of Saint Lawrence]

There is also a coalition made up of environmental groups and First Nation communities fighting any kind of oil work. They’re concerned that thousands of fisheries and tourism jobs will be at stake if there is a spill in the Gulf.

“We would also like to remind the federal government that the Gulf of St. Lawrence is a common body of water and that spills occurring in one area cannot be contained by provincial delineations,” they say in the letter.

The Gulf waters touch five provinces, Quebec, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Source: Groups band together to fight oil exploration on Gulf of St. Lawrence – APTN National news

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Save Your Beaches from Off-Shore Oil Development ~ Antigonish event, January 30th

January 27th, 2014

This month’s Sustainable Antigonish forum features a free public presentation – “Save Your Beaches from Off-Shore Oil Development” with guest speaker Mary Gorman, of the Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition.
Location: Community Room of the People’s Place, Antigonish, NS.
Time: 7:00 pm

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Coalition member is guest presenter at national Citizens Climate Lobby conference

November 17th, 2013

Mary Gorman – screenwriter, founding member of Save our Seas and Shores and grand prize winner of the Green Heroes Award was invited to present at the Citizens Climate Lobby first national conference. This recognition by a national NGO is an important breakthrough for our work in protecting the Gulf. Kudos to Mary Gorman!

New Glasgow News
Sueann Musick
November 14, 2013

MERIGOMISH, NSMj w signs – Mary Gorman will be taking her concerns over climate change and its effect on the ocean to a larger stage this weekend.

As founding member of the Save Our Seas and Shores coalition, Gorman will be a guest panelist at the Citizens Climate Lobbyists first national conference on Sunday in Gatineau, Que.

CCL is a growing organization of local volunteers in the United States and Canada in favour of a revenue-neutral carbon tax to help decrease the high amount of carbon emissions.

“The oceans are vast carbon sinks,” said Gorman. “In the 200 years since the industrial revolution began, our oceans have absorbed about 30 per cent of the carbon dioxide (CO2) released into our atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuels. Carbon dioxide dissolves in the surface water and forms carbonic acid, lowering the pH of ocean waters. The more CO2 the oceans absorb, the more acidic they become. There are serious concerns about the ability of marine ecosystems to adapt to acidification. Organisms that form calcium carbonate skeletons and shells will be greatly limited in their ability to form these outer protective shells. Commercial species such as lobster and shellfish are vulnerable to this impact.”

Gorman said the economy cannot continue to exist if government leaders ignore climate change. For example, she added, the Calgary floods and the recent typhoon in the Philippines are perfect examples of enormous costs if we don’t acknowledge that the climate is changing.

“What are natural disasters costing us?” she asked. “It is dumb economics to ignore our natural world. It is a giant credit card that is maxed out,” she said. “We can’t borrow anymore and we aren’t even making minimum payments.”

She said the conference is a good chance for her to inform people on a national level about the fragility of the ocean as well as share her views on the opposition to drilling in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

The Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition says the Gulf of St. Lawrence’s multi-billion dollar renewable fishery and tourism industries deserve protection. The group wants the government to place a moratorium on oil and gas exploration so that these industries are not in jeopardy like those hurt in the Gulf of Mexico this past summer.

Other guest panelists at the conference include Dr. Shi-ling Hsu, author of The Case for a Carbon Tax, Sam Daley-Harris, founder of the anti-poverty organizations Results and current CEO for the Centre for Citizen Empowerment and Transformation as well as Celine Bak, president of Analytica Advisors and co-lead of The Canadian Clean Energy Coalition.

Cathy Orlando, national manager for Canada’s Citizens Climate Lobby, said Gorman was invited to be a guest speaker at the national conference because she supports a carbon tax and it will allow her to speak about her concerns in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

She said a carbon tax is levied on the carbon content of fuels such as coal, gas or oil and the extracted revenue is collected by the government and returned to Canadian citizens in the form of rebate cheque.

Experts believe the extra tax will force users of these fuels to cut down on their consumption in order to save money, alternatively looking at more natural sources of energy.

She said members at the conference and those of the CCL will be lobbying members of parliament to instate a carbon tax in Canada.

“Political will is keeping this from happening,” said Orlando. “There is a lot of fear in what a carbon tax will entail, but we know that we can have a low carbon economy and everyone can come out ahead.”

http://www.ngnews.ca/News/Local/2013-11-14/article-3481780/Local-coalition-member-attending-national-conference-on-climate/1

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Farley Mowat vs. the zombies: game on ~ Michael Harris, iPolitics

July 16th, 2013

By Michael Harris
iPolitics Insight
Jul 14, 2013

Farley Mowat and Mary Gorman (Credit: CineFocus Canada)

Farley Mowat and Mary Gorman (Credit: CineFocus Canada)

“I am on permanent call by God.”

That is how Farley Mowat at 92, bearded, blue-eyed, and bemused, describes his presence in the waiting-room of eternity.

This should be a time to make morning tea for his wife, Claire, listen to the bullfrogs harrumphing in the two ponds on his 200-acre sanctuary in River Bourgeois Cape Breton, and reflect on the closet-full of books in his study, all 44 of them, that he has written over an extraordinary life.

Instead, he has donned his literary armour and is riding out to face yet another dragon threatening the beauty and balance of nature – a proposed deep water oil-drilling operation in the heart of the Gulf of St. Lawrence – a project given the innocuous name “Old Harry.”

“I am doing this against my will in a way, getting involved at this time in life when I might get the Big Call tomorrow.  But the bastards who have set this thing in motion are taking a perverse pleasure in doing it and must be opposed.  They have decided to call their development “Old Harry”.  The great swindle, you know, to give it a nice name that conjures up Uncle Harry.  I suspect that they don’t know that in literature, ‘Old Harry’ is a synonym for the devil.”

Metaphysical resonances notwithstanding, the five provinces that border the proposed development would have hell to pay if there were ever a spill like the one that occurred in the Gulf of Mexico at BP’s Deep Water Horizon rig.

That’s because the channels and straits that make up the Gulf of St. Lawrence move in a counter-clockwise fashion, which means that the vast area is only flushed into the wider ocean once a year.  Spilled oil would ride the mostly landlocked Gulf currents for a long time.  That would put thousands of species, some of them already endangered, like the Blue Whale, at greater risk.

Making matters potentially worse, the site of the proposed development is the deep Laurentian Channel, the main artery in and out of the Gulf for 2,200 marine species – including Blue whale, Right whale and Leatherback turtle.

In Canada’s pending Gulf War, Farley Mowat, lone-wolf and single-handed crusader, has a strong ally this time.  Mary Gorman, a lobster fisherman’s wife turned unpaid activist, has been battling to protect the Gulf of St. Lawrence for 25 years.

“I like her because she’s got guts,” Mowat says, “and I trust her instincts. Mary is a daughter of the Gulf, one of the animals who lives here. She senses what is coming”.

In 1988, Gorman led the Battle of Boat Harbour to stop a local mill from dumping 26 million gallons of effluent into the Northumberland Strait near Pictou Landing First Nations community.

“I like her because she’s got guts,” Mowat says, “and I trust her instincts.  Mary is a daughter of the Gulf, one of the animals who lives here.  She senses what is coming.”

With Elizabeth May, she co-founded the Save our Seas and Shoreline Coalition to challenge oil and gas leases that had been granted off the pristine shores of Cape Breton Island.

Gorman says that the federal government has literally passed responsibility for protecting marine habitat to the very people who favour development, virtually erasing the line between industry and government.

“How did the protection of marine habitat end up in the hands of the offshore petroleum industry?” Gorman asked. “As it stands now, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Environment Canada have signed memorandum of understanding with offshore boards deferring DFO and EC’s marine protection to these boards.”

(In April 2011, Gorman was voted a Canadian Green Hero.  A documentary produced by Cinefocus Canada and based on Gorman’s fight to protect the Gulf of St. Lawrence will air on TVO on July 16 at 7:30 pm and again on July 21 at 8:30 pm.  Mowat appears in the film.)

As for Gorman’s question, Farley Mowat thinks he knows why government has abdicated protection of the environment to bodies representing the petroleum industry. Sipping his illicit glass of chardonnay (his doctor has forbidden it), he says something has gone wrong with our national fermentation process; instead of wine, we are now producing vinegar as a country.

“Under the current system, the environment and resource development cannot be reconciled.  The ones in power just don’t think the right way.  It’s as if we are being governed by an alien species.  It’s as if something rises from the Ottawa River and affects them all.  They become zombies.”

Nor does Mowat believe that the anti-environment phenomenon is exclusive to the Canadian government.

“Governments worldwide do their best to diminish it, belittle it, until it gradually melts away.  The policy now is to crucify the environment.  Peter Kent wasn’t even a good illusion of an environment minister.”

Our interview is put on hold with the arrival of Mark, who is in charge of maintenance at the local fishplant.  Farley tells him about the electrical switch that needs fixing and the gaps around the upstairs windows that are letting the ants in.  As they talk, I take a slow inventory of the room full of memories of the author’s life – shells, bones, a silver mermaid, and the light fixture in the living room which has a desiccated hornet’s nest where the light bulb should be.  Before he leaves, Mark comments on Farley’s list of tasks.

“As you always tell me, this house is rotting from the top down.”

My puckish host returns seamlessly to the matter we had been discussing.  To make his point about how governments work to discredit environmentalists, Mowat talks admiringly of his friend Paul Watson, who is now a fugitive from international justice.  The author says the warrant against Watson from Costa Rica is trumped up with the connivance of Japan and countries like Canada.

“All he tried to do was keep the Japanese from whaling in protected areas.  Now there is an Interpol red alert on Paul and he is a stateless person sailing on the high seas in the South Pacific.  The only place he can land is deserted atolls inhabited by hermit crabs.”

But there was one other place he did land while he was being pursued and before he took to sea – the farmhouse looking out to sea from a hill on Grand Gulley Road at River Bourgeoise – the Mowat retreat.

We walk into his main-floor writing room (a stately Underwood manual typewriter commands the desk)  and I stop in front of a faded wanted poster, front-on and in profile, of Farley Mowat hanging on the wall.

“No one in Canada knows this but I entertained Paul when the authorities were looking for him and didn’t know where he was.  The same authorities, I might add, who used to listen to my phone calls when they saw me as a ‘left-wing rebel.’  I just laughed about it and said ‘Good morning chaps’ whenever I used the phone.”

We walk into his main-floor writing room (a stately Underwood manual typewriter commands the desk)  and I stop in front of a faded wanted poster, front-on and in profile, of Farley Mowat hanging on the wall.  He laughs and tells me that it was Jack McClelland’s idea after Mowat was prevented from entering the U.S. on a book tour.

“Oh yeah, Farley My Discovery of America!  They let me into Siberia to talk about my work but not the United States.  I wrote the thing in three weeks.  Fastest book I ever wrote.”

There is a dinner of home-made quiche and a salad made from greens from the Mowats’ fenced garden on the hillside, and a little of the forbidden chardonnay.  Sea-shell pink peonies pose lavishly in their vase.  I mention the photograph of Pierre Trudeau and Mowat in the living room.  There is always a story.

“You know Pierre and Margaret came to visit us in the Magdalen Islands.  He was travelling quietly that day – showed up in an ice-breaker and came ashore by helicopter.  Margaret was pregnant with Justin.  Just before dinner, I asked Pierre if he wanted to walk the grounds.  I had half an acre planted in hemp seeds given to me by the mayor of Port Hope.  Trudeau knew what they were but made no comment until I asked him what he thought of the grounds.  “It’s a fine garden, Farley, but isn’t it time you cut your grass?”

Before I left, my host asked simply “Care for something to read?”  I was escorted back into his study, where he opened the closet door where his books stood in a long, lovely line.  I chose And No Bird Sang, his reminisces of the war when Captain Mowat bedevilled authority.

The war goes on and he still does.

Michael Harris is a writer, journalist, and documentary filmmaker. He was awarded a Doctor of Laws for his “unceasing pursuit of justice for the less fortunate among us.” His eight books include Justice Denied, Unholy Orders, Rare ambition, Lament for an Ocean, and Con Game. His work has sparked four commissions of inquiry, and three of his books have been made into movies. He is currently working on a book about the Harper majority government to be published in the autumn of 2014 by Penguin Canada.

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St. Lawrence oil and gas well proposal has Farley Mowat ‘hopping mad’ – Gloria Galloway, Globe and Mail

July 16th, 2013
July 14, 2013
By GLORIA GALLOWAY
Globe and Mail

Farley Mowat is hopping mad: a pox upon the oil companies for sinking wells in his beloved Gulf of St. Lawrence

There is no denying the amount of fight still left in Farley Mowat. Just let him get going on the “evil forces” who are sacrificing the environment in their lust for oil.

The writer, conservationist and conversationalist, who completed what he declared to be his final book nearly three years ago at the age of 89, is irate. A proposal to put an offshore oil and gas well in the Gulf of St. Lawrence will not go away, and Mr. Mowat is aghast at the depths of human folly.

Back in 1984, he wrote a book called Sea of Slaughter that detailed a litany of environmental wrongs in the gulf and on the Atlantic seaboard. The looming development, known as the Old Harry Prospect, holds the potential to unleash more of the same, Mr. Mowat said this week in a telephone interview from Cape Breton, where he and his wife, Claire, spend their summers.

“I was so appalled by what I discovered when I wrote this book, I could hardly believe that human beings could be so thoughtless, so destructive, so devilish, just plain devilish, all in pursuit of money,” he said of Sea of Slaughter. “It took me five years to write the damn thing, and I have never been able to fully reread it since, I get so upset about it.”

The spit and vinegar that surfaces whenever Mr. Mowat broaches environmental matters is what prompted those who oppose drilling in the gulf to enlist him in their effort – that and, of course, his literary celebrity.

The Old Harry is a 30-kilometre stretch of the Laurentian Channel off the southwest coast of Newfoundland that could be the largest untapped oil and gas reserve in Eastern Canada. Corridor Resources, a Canadian oil and natural gas company, has held licences to assess its potential since 1996, and wants to drill an exploratory well by 2014.

The name Old Harry was taken from a settlement on the nearby Magdalen Islands. “The oil companies mistakenly – and I think this is wickedly sardonic – have called it Old Harry because they liked the sound of Old Harry. It has such a familiar, pleasant, uncle-y name,” Mr. Mowat said. But Old Harry is sailors’ soubriquet for Satan, he said. “They don’t realize that, what they are doing, is they are calling their company after the devil’s own domain.”

Mr. Mowat is one of the subjects of Tuesday’s season-ending episode of Cinefocus Canada’s Green Heroes, a TVO series that profiles environmental luminaries. Another is Mary Gorman, the fisherman’s wife turned activist who conscripted Mr. Mowat in her fight against the Old Harry.

Ms. Gorman and her Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition have been challenging the project with everything they can muster, arguing that a spill in the Gulf of St. Lawrence could cause a disaster on a scale even larger than the explosion at the Deepwater Horizon rig in 2010 that killed 11 people and spewed oil into the Gulf of Mexico for 87 days.

Mr. Mowat and his wife summered near the Old Harry Prospect for several years, so when Ms. Gorman called for help three years ago, “I consulted myself and decided I owed something physically to that region,” he said. His environmental foundation donated some money to the cause. And he lent his own voice in opposition.

After the Deepwater catastrophe, “the almost certainty that it would happen again sooner or later in the Gulf of St. Lawrence was really enough to fire me to passionate action,” Mr. Mowat said, although he concedes he may not be responding now with the vigour of his earlier years. “At 90, when this all started, I was reaching my peak. And now I have passed that.”

It is true that, when he talks to a reporter, he has to sit to collect his thoughts. He also is unavailable in the afternoons because he likes his naps. But don’t think he is ready to lie down in the face of what he considers to be environmental sin.

“Not only did Farley fight for Canada in World War Two, he has been fighting ever since to protect our world’s vast oceans that were once brimming with wildlife,” Ms. Gorman said. “He will go down in history, not only as a literary icon, but as one of the world’s earliest and bravest environmentalists, who understands how dependent we humans are on healthy oceans, for oxygen and for life on earth.”

Corridor opted not to comment on the statements Mr. Mowat made for this article. Who wants to challenge Farley Mowat at 92?

But Mr. Mowat does not need an opponent in his ring to come out swinging.

“We don’t need any more oil than we’ve got,” he said. “We’re up to our ass in oil of one type or another – fracking and bracking and all the rest of it – and freight cars full of it coming down on little Quebec towns.”

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