What’s all this? Elsipogtog FN and the Feds signed an MOU?

byline: Ann Pohl, May 10 2019, Bass River NB

Yesterday, May 9 2019, Elsipogtog Chief Arren Sock and the federal Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). In the words of the Minister, this is a “blank piece of paper” that only spells out “how we will work together.”

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There certainly was a LOT of media interest in this MOU signing!

It’s the morning after and can we all still respect ourselves?

My answer is yes, at least from the grassroots Sikniktuk/Kent County point of view. As Chief Sock said, raising high a known symbol for warfare – the hatchet – “we are not burying this yet.” Its hard to be certain what is going through the Puppet Master’s heads in Ottawa, but for her part Carolyn Bennett seemed sincere when she said, “We know we’ve got a lot of work to do to rebuild that trust.”

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Carolyn Bennett, Canada’s Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, at Elsipogtog First Nation on May 9 2019 for MOU signing.

Yes, there is a lot of work to do repairing this relationship… It has been continuously undermined on the Settler Government side since the British colonial government instituted a bounty payment for Mi’kmaq scalps back in the 1740’s. Then there are all the genocidal programs enacted during the past 150 years since Canada became its own nation, including residential schools… Inequitable child welfare and school funding, undrinkable water, murdered and missing mothers, aunties, daughters, and sons…

And, both leaders could have been mentally referencing how the federal government’s police force – the RCMP – aggressively backed an oil and gas corporation during the 2013 anti-fracking action here. The federal Civilian Commission got its first complaints about human rights violations by the RCMP six years ago, and the public still has not seen their report. Apparently, it has been languishing in “final edit” stage for months.

Here in Sikniktuk – the 6th District of Mi’kma’ki, which translates as the “drainage area” because of the vast wetlands, streams, creeks, and rivers that flow into the sea from this region – the Mi’kmaq Peoples and their non-Indigenous allies in all surrounding communities, stand by, watching to see how this all unfolds.

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Sikniktuk is the area in black bold outline;
taken from Elsipogtog’s Title Claim document.

As of yet, the text of this MOU has not been released (see Global), though it is fair to assume it will be available soon.

It is common knowledge that, under the Indian Act, every single member of the Indigenous community must be consulted on all matters pertaining to Title and Inherent Rights. These are held collectively by all members of the community, and the Indian Act does not authorize an Indian Act Band Chief – like Arren Sock – nor his Band Council – to alter these rights through their own action. These decisions must be made by the entire community. Chief Sock has previously demonstrated that he honours and understands how democracy is done, in how he strongly backed the community will around the fracking issue. Being a humble man, he would probably just say he was learning on the job…

For its part, since it opened its doors in 2014, Kopit Lodge has always maintained transparent practice.

As soon as lawyers talk with lawyers, etc., here’s betting that we will all see that MOU and know exactly what is in it. Besides, if all else fails, the Elsipogtog community is well-informed and legally adept, so someone will get a copy of the MOU through a freedom-of-information access request.

My own guess is that what is in that MOU is almost exactly what we heard yesterday: basically there are still two solitudes, talking across each other to their own constituencies, but trying to be polite and hoping valiantly for a miracle breakthrough in communication and understanding.

At the outset, the two national leaders had considerable common ground. “This signing demonstrates our commitment to working as partners…” was how Minister Bennett was quoted in The Toronto Star. Just a few minutes earlier, Chief Sock had said, “We have to work together in collaboration, and that brings us here today” (CBC.ca).

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Chief Arren Sock and Minister Carolyn Bennett after they have signed the MOU.

 

But then look at the fine print.

As she spoke to the media when the MOU was being signed, Bennett acknowledged the “trauma and damage” inflicted through colonization on Indigenous Peoples. She emphasized the federal thrust behind the MOU is to help get the Mi’kmaq out from under the Indian Act, and to “find solutions that will help close socio-economic gaps and advance reconciliation” (from The Toronto Star). Bennett stressed, repeatedly, the federal position that they seek to “renew their relationship based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership.”

For his part, Sock spoke on an entirely different rationale behind the MOU. He recalled the anti-fracking protests in 2013 and explained that “never again” should his community have to go through that.

“This is our land, and we decide what happens to it,” said Sock as he referenced the November 2016 Title Claim filed by Chief Sock, together with elder Kenneth Francis, a community volunteer and the Speaker for Kopit Lodge. This Claim, against the federal and provincial governments, is to gain full recognition through the courts that the Mi’kmaq have never ceded their territory or any of the inherent rights that arise from their territory. They seek this recognition in order to control any development in their region, so as to protect the water, forests, land and communities in Sikniktuk, which makes up roughly one-third of the province of New Brunswick. Both Francis and Sock are clear that they seek full recognition of Indigenous Title, not just for themselves and their children, but for all future generations of all Peoples and Life.

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Chief Sock crediting the valuable role of Kopit Lodge on advancing the Title Claim.

Furthermore, because “Politics is always in an electoral cycle, that comes and goes like the tides,” Sock said, he is confident in the enduring legacy offered by Kopit Lodge. Kopit Lodge is a grassroots community organization that operates at arms length to monitor and advise Elsipogtog politicians on management of resource extraction industries in their region. At the same time, the Kopit’ers work closely with a large and diverse set of allies in Sikniktuk and across the region.

Sock commented yesterday that proceeding through the courts to settle this Title Claim could become “a long and drawn-out legal battle” (ATV news video). He favours taking the MOU route for now, as it is best to try “to negotiate” – “we don’t want to go to court” if there is another way to the same end (see Global).

Although the federal and the provincial governments filed replies in 2017 denying the content of the Elsipogtog Title Claim, from early days the federal government said they would prefer to talk this through than go to court. Up to now, the province of New Brunswick has not come to the table to talk. One would think they are still hoping this issue will just go away… The only member of the New Brunswick government present at this MOU-signing event was our provincial MLA for Kent North, the riding where Elsipogtog is located. MLA Kevin Arnseneau, who is a member of the Green Party caucus in Fredericton, was an honoured guest at yesterday’s event.

“Today has the potential of making history for the Mi’kmaq People,” commented Arseneau afterwards to this reporter. “We will never be able to make up for 400 years of colonialism, but we sure can look forward in an honest and meaningful way. To do so, the provincial government must be part of these important conversations. Their absence was noticeable, and makes you think, do we actually have a Aboriginal Affairs Secretariat in New Brunswick? But it’s not to late to step up!”

For his part, New Brunswick’s Aboriginal Affairs Minister Jake Stewart told Fredericton reporters yesterday that his department had let discussions with the federal government and Elsipogtog lapse since last October, but Chief Sock, Chief Arren, did send me a request to be a part of the MOU on April 25th” (see Global). To explain why the province did not officially attend, Stewart offered, “I’m not sure that would have been enough time for us to really be a participant, but what I’m doing right now is looking at how we might be to participate in the process” (ATV news video). He said he’s told the premier about the request, and they will explore their possible involvement.

On why this MOU is important, once again the two leaders converged. Bennett said, “It used to be the People had to claim their rights, then had to go to court to prove their rights” (Global), But, by using the dialogical process set out in this MOU, “We’re saying no – we’re starting with the recognition of rights” and then working together to resolve “outstanding issues” (CBC.ca). Sock said, we are going to the table to “discuss how we can achieve reconciliation in a manner that recognizes and respects our title and rights” (Global).

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Kopit Lodge Speaker Kenneth Francis emphasizing that this process is to see if and “how the relationship between Elsipogtog and the federal government can be reconciled.”

When Kenneth Francis, Speaker for Kopit Lodge, took his turn at the microphone, he said what every local resident present wanted to hear: “This is about protecting the land and the water… It is not a negotiation process where Title could be extinguished. The land is ours.” Kopit Lodge supports the MOU so that we “have this respected.”

What are Elsipogtog allies thinking so far? Debbie Hopper is Chair of the local Kent County NB Chapter of the Council of Canadians, whose members were shoulder-to-shoulder with the Mi’kmaq People of Elsipogtog in 2013. She commented, “I feel proud to stand with Kopit Lodge through all these years.”

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Members of the Kent County Council of Canadians and MLA for Kent North Kevin Arseneau at the close of the MOU signing, together with
Kopit Lodge leaders Serena and Kenneth Francis,
Minister Bennett, and Chief Sock.

Hopper continued, “Kopit’s mission is to protect the water. I have watched both provincial Liberal and Conservative governments make devastating decisions about “Crown Land,” which was originally all Indigenous land. These government decisions enabled corporations to put our water in serious jeopardy. I have faith in Kopit Lodge’s core values to act as stewards and conserve the land for the next seven generations. The way New Brunswick is going right now, our forests will be gone long before then and that will add enormous pressure to climate collapse. We all need Indigenous traditional values protecting our future!”

Stay tuned. This is only the beginning. As Chief Sock said during the meal after the signing, “The hard work is about to start.”

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Violence during this unnamed grandmother water protector’s arrest on Aboriginal Peoples Day in 2013 is just one of many outstanding complaints. All area residents will be watching how this MOU unfolds. We stand united to protect the water!

To send us comments on this article, please write to coc.kent.county.nb@gmail.com.

 

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SOLIDARITY from Sikniktuk Mi’kma’ki to Wet’suwet’en Territory

The so-called dangerous RCMP “precedents” in Wet’suwet’en are actually standing operational policy.

by Ann Pohl, Part 2 of 2
The people in the photo above are the stragglers who were still around when we remembered to take a photo.
NOTE: Most photos in this blog are poor quality. Except where otherwise credited,
they are
screenshots from this video OR this video.

 

Responding to the Call:

From the moment of the Wet’suwet’en call-out for international solidarity actions, we Sikniktuk water protectors knew we had to do something.

What the Wet’suwet’en were going through, on the opposite coast of Canada, was all too familiar to us. It is wrong. Both their territory and ours are unceded. In both cases the Indigenous People’s were saying “no” to the proposed industry on their lands. In both cases there are several Supreme Court of Canada decisions that specifically establish the rights of Indigenous people to protect the resources on these unceded territories. We both met unconscionable aggressiveness and disrespect from the RCMP. These are just of few of our similarities.

This solidarity message from Unist’ot’en meant a lot to us, back in 2013.

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We faced the RCMP as corporate enforcers for the fracking company SWN Resources Canada everyday, for seven months, in Kent County NB/Sikiniktuk Mi’kma’ki, (aka “Rexton” or “Elsipogtog”). Things got especially rough in mid-October, which is when this message arrived.

In the first few weeks of our protracted defence of our water, back in June 2013, we met local RCMP on the frontline. Then we started seeing RCMP troops coming in from outside Sikniktuk. Here is a map of our Mi’kmaq district, from  this Radio-Canada link). 161109_lm5tg_territoire-revendication_sn1250

The local RCMP officers were back at the station. Scuttlebutt, aka “mocassion telegraph” or “grapevine news”, was that it was too hard for local RCMP to meet their extended family and neighbours on the frontline. The official line was they were needed for “regular duties.”

The imported RCMP troops chased us around for months. In mid-October, with days of precision planning including the apparent use of provocateur agents and infilitrators, the RCMP servants to the government of New Brunswick and SWN invaded our non-violent camp on Route 134 in Rexton. They said it was to enforce SWN’s corporate civil law injunction based on a SLAPP suit and extraordinary claims for damages.

Actually the RCMP invasion was all about rescuing the SWN “thumper” seismic testing truck that was being held behind a barricade by peaceful water protectors. The purpose of that equipment was to find the best place to start drilling, in order to frack for shale gas. Our primary strategy since June was non-violently resisting, by standing or sitting in front of the trucks, to stop the company from collecting this data.

When they invaded our camp on October 17, 2013, the RCMP imported 200 or so tactical and riot control RCMP. They came from at least four different divisions, if we go by their different outfits.

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There were issues about RCMP conduct from the get-go. Based on these, the Civilian Commission mandated to review and report on RCMP complaints struck a Public Interest Investigation by the end of July. Complaints sky-rocketed after October 17th.

As the Commission’s investigation got underway, they met stalls and run-arounds, blank responses and inconsistencies. These raised more questions, and the Chairperson of the Civilian Commission filed his own complaint to the RCMP. “The December 17, 2014, Chair-initiated complaint will examine the conduct of those members who responded to, or managed the response to, the Kent County shale gas protests in 2013, including a policy and practice perspective,” says their website.

Countless people were “caught and released,” driven away from the protests and let go, sometimes in difficult circumstances. Over a hundred people in all were arrested. Some served jail time. Many were released on “conditions” that required them to stay away from protests, even our events and meetings. More than two dozen were actually named in the two SLAPP suits that formed the legal basis for the injunctions. Many of us SLAPPed had to countenance the threat of losing what we own, to make up for SWN’s so-called “damages” due to our resistance.

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My SLAPP suit paperwork. 22 other people also got this.

None of us can forget how the RCMP acted and manipulated, the dehumanizing and viciousness. As the resistance built, the Indigenous water protectors led the way, and bore the real brunt of the resistance at the hands of the RCMP and the rest of the “justice” system.

For all of us, especially the Acadians and Anglo settlers in our unified movement, this was an eye-opener, about how the Corporatocracy of Canada operates. Those who still had some faith in our “democracy” (where politicians respond to grassroots peoples’ views) were deeply shaken in 2013.

In response to the call for action from Unist’ot’en last week, we immediately decided to gather mid-day on the road by the RCMP station in Richibucto. This station is closest to where the massive RCMP invasion of our water protection movement happened a little over five years ago.

Outside the RCMP station, January 8, 2019

While it was clear why, when and where we would rally in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en People, what we would do was not. We did not expect many people. In this sparsely populated rural area, many people live close to the edge financially and do not have gas money to spare. The plan was for midday on a Tuesday. It was -20C outside. There was no way we could build a fire to stay warm in front of the cop shop!

But, the real reason we did not expect many people goes much deeper. To this day, many of our water protectors are still affected by the “state” coming down so heavy on them. To say our communities were traumatized and embittered by all of this is not an overstatement.

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For starters, I had not notified the RCMP of our intent to gather at their station. So, there we were, in their parking lot with banners, signs and flags. I knew we had to go into the station and explain why we were outside. I expected no trouble with this. Though some newbies cycle through this RCMP detachment, the regulars at this station live and work in this area. These are our local guys. The ones we call for domestic, vehicle, theft, and other issues. It was their water and communities we were protecting, as well as our own. …In their hearts, they know this.

My worldview insists that inside everyone there is a conscience, though sometimes this is turned off by training, or by bitter experience. Above all, we had to try to communicate somehow with the RCMP so they could feel what their actions do to people. They must not be allowed to avoid understanding the consequences of their actions. This is the only way we can hope to rehumanize some of them, to reclaim them for the hard immediate work we have as a species, which is to change our behaviour, to save our single and only beloved shared planet.

I asked the first half dozen arrivals: who wanted to go in with me? All seemed willing. As the cleansing Smudge passed, I became fully aware that each of us had something important to say to the RCMP about why we were there. I proposed we all go in to do that.

We entered the RCMP detachment station in Richibucto, a large group, overfilling the waiting room lobby. (Eventually there were twenty of us.) I walked up to the recpetionist’s window and explained we were the people rallying outside with the signs and all, and we would like to speak with the most senior person in the station.

A few moments later, Cpl. Dan Melanson came into the lobby and introduced himself. I said we were gathered outside in solidarity with the non-violent Wet’suwet’en water protectors and land defenders, and presented him with the pre-invasion statement from their Clan Leaders.

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Wela’lin APTN reporter Angel Moore for being present and tweeting this photo.

He said that “over here in New Brunswick, we do not know too much about this issue.” I said his heavily militarized riot and tactical RCMP colleagues in British Columbia had just forcibly entered Wet’suwet’en unceded territory to enforce an corporate injunction. This news took many of us here in Kent County/Siknitktuk back to 2013, when we experienced the same thing. We had come to share what we feel about this.

We agreed to talk while standing in a circle in the lobby. I asked him to make notes of what we said, and pass these up the line of command., explaining we want to hear back from the leadership in the RCMP what they have to say about the points each of us would be making. He agreed to do that. Cpl. Melanson has since emailed me to say he has done as requested, and will get back to me when they get back to him. I am not holding my breath, but I do hope we will hear something back. Maybe even create an opportunity to speak with the regional commanders. Meanwhile I have asked Cpl. Melanson to send me the list of points he included in his internal memo. I have not yet heard back from him...

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borrowed from Isaac Murdoch, chi miigwetch

As the early-birds among us entered the RCMP station, APTN reporter Angel Moore tweeted, “Protectors say people are passionate… Emotions are high, most of the protectors were here in 2013 at the anti fracking protests, and those who were not here remember.” Following is what we said to Cpl. Melanson…

Shame on Canada!

One of our group shared that “Criminal law is designed to control the poor, and corporate law is designed to protect the rich.” The RCMP are supposed to deal with criminals and public safety. Canada’s national police force has no business enforcing a private company’s interim injunction on unceded Indigenous territory. The RCMP knew this in early October 2013, but forgot it two weeks later. (For more on this and related points, see this critique I wrote about Bill C-51, especially point #3.)

In the case of the Wet’suwet’en People, there are clear legal reasons why it was wrong for the RCMP to invade their territory to push them out of the corporation’s way. Two Supreme Court of Canada decisions support the rights of the Traditional Clan Leaders to exercise jurisdiction over their original homelands, from “mountaintop to mountaintop” (the Tsilhqot’in Dcision), as recorded in traditional stories and songs passed down over the generations to hereditary leaders (the Delgamuukw Decision).

Talking with Cpl. Melanson, some of us observed that the current Canadian government, led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, consisently says it supports the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. (A CBC news report covered the spectacle Canada made at the UN plenary session in 2016, when it officially adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.) The invasion of Wet’suwet’en territory on January 7th, and the continuing occupation of their territory by the RCMP, violates more than a dozen Articles of that Declaration, including Article 30 as the RCMP acted as a military force in this instance, and when here in Sikniktuk in 2013.

Another opinion offered to Cpl. Melanson is that The Indian Act Chief and Council have no jurisdiction beyond their reserve boundaries, so all the spin about how the RCMP are just enforcing “the screenshot at 2019-01-14 08-32-54rule of law” is bogus. The tired old argument about the “rule of law” surfaces whenever politicians and police act on behalf of corporations to repress peaceful dissent. Clearly, the “rule of law” was on the side of the Wet’suwet’en (SCC decisions, limitations of The Indian Act politicians, UNDRIP).

Dogwood says it clearly:

“Under The Indian Act, elected councillors only have jurisdiction over reserve lands – the tiny parcels set aside for First Nations communities that are administered much like municipalities. That’s not where this pipeline would go.

“What is at stake in the larger battle over Indigenous rights and title are the vast territories claimed by the Crown but never paid for, conquered or acquired by treaty. In Wet’suwet’en territory, those lands, lakes and rivers are stewarded by hereditary chiefs and their relatives under a governance system that predates the founding of Canada… History will not look kindly on politicians who condone the use of force against local people on behalf of a multinational oil and gas consortium.” (my emphasis)

Prime Minister Trudeau was quoted saying the use of RCMP was “less than ideal” but justified by the “rule of law.” Tanya Talaq tore strips off Trudeau, in the Toronto Star on January 10th:

Let’s unpack that. A ‘less than ideal situation’ is missing the sale on three-ply Kleenex and having to settle for two-ply. A ‘less than ideal situation’ is locking your keys in your car. The arrests of 14 people by heavily armed RCMP officers over adherence to Indigenous human rights and land title? ‘Less than ideal’ doesn’t capture it. As this week again showed, the Trudeau government’s relations with Indigenous communities are nowhere near ideal.“

West Coast Environmental Law’s recent blog about the RCMP invasion of Wet’suwet’en Territory takes up the question of “the rule of law”

Respecting the rule of law is indeed important, but it can’t be selective. To truly uphold the rule of law, the constitutional recognition of Aboriginal title and governance must be meaningfully applied in Crown decision-making, before crucial decisions are made about Indigenous territories… The Crown’s resistance to concluding agreements that meaningfully recognize title and rights, while making important decisions unilaterally in the meantime… is clearly incompatible with commitments at the federal and provincial levels to rights recognition and reconciliation.”

According to the Prince George Daily News, the RCMP are now planning to set up a temporary detachment in the area at the centre of this controversy. If feelings are running high, as they did here in 2013, this could lead to whole new crisis.

In fact, the rule of natural law that underlies all of the resistance. That is why the Wet’suwet’en want no pipelines on their territory, why we refuse to allow fracking shale gas here in Sikniktuk, and substantially what motivated each of us to be present in the  Richibucto RCMP detachment last week.

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There are huge social issues around our planet. Most are connected to the looming environmental collapse due to climate issues. Climate scientists’ international organization, the IPCC, recently released a report that says we have 12 years to limit climate catastrophe. 6,000 peer reviewed works are referenced in their report. “At the current level of commitments, the world is on course for a disastrous 3C of warming,” perhaps even more. (With our tarsands, melting icecaps, thawing muskeg, leaky pipelines and transportation systems, massive frack fields and hydro dams, monoculture tree plantations, 3 coasts of rising seas, abuse of salt waters, mega-agriculture, etc., Canada has a huge role in causation and vulnerability to disasters.) Even though change is slow, and many appear deaf to the facts, the IPCC report authors believe that “the increasingly visible damage caused by climate change will shift opinion their way.” Here in Kent County/Sikniktuk, we are already seeing the chaos and damage, and this is intensifying.

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A young man from Saint John addressed this with Cpl. Melanson in a passionate intervention. Over the next dozen years or so, an extraordinary amount of damage will continue to be wrought on our planet. When it finally sinks in that Indigenous Peoples and non-Indigenous environmentalists are correct about the urgency of changing course to address climate change, “You and fellow officers in the RCMP will realize that you made a huge mistake helping to force through all this fossil fuel industrial development and infrastructure. You will come and want to join us then. Of course, we will welcome you. But the question individual officers need to ask themselves now, before it gets to that point, is ‘Which side of the history we are making right now do you want to be recorded as being on?’ “

Shame on the RCMP!

One person of blended settler and Anishinaabe heritage, but living in Kent County, said he goes into schools ls to teach children about culture and worldview. “The first of the seven sacred Grandfather teachings is respect. How can we respect the RCMP when they don’t even respect the people they are sworn to serve? With the children, I have no choice except to speak the truth, that we obviously can see with our own eyes. Who do they serve? Why do they disrespect the First People of Turtle Island, with their actions? These questions must be answered so we can have confidence in those that are here, supposedly, to protect and serve all of us.”

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To serve corporations and protect their assets.

This man also mentioned community relationships. “Do you know the history of this region? Do you realize that your Acadian ancestors were helped to survive by the Mi’kmaq people in the 1700’s in particular? How could you justify what happened in 2013?” Someone else mentioned the Peace & Friendship Treaty, the only treaty ever signed by the Mi’kmaq. It talks only about how nations of Peoples should get along with one another, no mention of surrendering land, title, or guardianship.

Several people emphasized that we pay the salaries of the RCMP, who are meant to serve and protect everyone, not to serve and protect the corporations above all else.

At least three of those present had read the recently published book, Policing Indigenous Movements. A Mi’kmaq water protector said that it was “very disheartening” to learn the extent to which people like him are considered national security threats and what the state is doing based on that conviction. A non-Indigenous person said it was really embarassing that the RCMP had this attitude. Here is a link to an article, called Why the RCMP may not be a neutral player in the Wet’suwet’en anti-pipeline dispute, in which one of the scholars who wrote this book is interviewed. Cpl. Melanson was one of the people who wrote down the title of this book. Someone commented they hope he finds time to read it.

Mi’kmaq persons who were present at the RCMP invasion in our region in 2013 told Cpl. Melanson that many other people from Elsipogtog wanted to be there with us talking to him and rallying in support of the west coast water and land protectors. However, they were afraid to attend. Several commented that it was very good to have non-Indigenous allies present there with them.

Workers can refuse to work if the conditions are unsafe, so the question was raised, “Can the members of the RCMP refuse to work if they are being asked to do something they think is not ethical?” Cpl. Melanson seemed to find this profound, and perhapssad. The community membnr who raised this suggested that, given the serious deep environmental and climate issues humanity is facing, supporting pipeline infrastructure construction by oppressing non-violent defenders and protectors is unethical.

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One of the grandmothers recounted a dream she just had. Her mother was dragged from her bed by an RCMP. She asked Cpl. Melanson, “When will the violence against us stop? Our ancestors are crying, our children are hurting, and I am not sure if you can do anything about it, but I really hope you can be a voice in someone’s ear.”

A non-Indigenous grandmother said that the world is in such a perilous situation environmentally that it is simply incomprehensible how the RCMP can justify to themselves that it is ok to promote further fossil fuel development. “It used to be that as a grandmother I would be thinking, should I start an savings plan to help with my grandchild’s education? Will they want to go to university? What will they do when they grow up? Now I think, will my grandchild have a planet on which to have a future?

Another grandmother said, “We are all concerned about future generations. The land doesn’t belong to the corporations, yet the RCMP protects them, while we pay your salaries with our taxes.”

A man commented that “we are tired of being bullied by you.” Another man followed this thread, saying we know what happened here in Rexton. The special RCMP who came here did what they are trained to do. It seems many come from families where you were brought up to hate, and went in all psyched up, to beat the crap out of Indigenous protectors. What you should have been doing is protecting the people who want to protect the water. It is your water too.”

screenshot at 2019-01-14 08-29-13The observation was made that the RCMP are always in the middle of whatever brutal measures Canada is trying to force on Indigenous Peoples, and also have enough rotten apples in their own ranks that they are also mired in their own controversies about Indigenous Peoples. Cpl. Melanson assured us that the people he works with have good intentions and attitudes, but he said racism can crop up in any group. A community member said the RCMP must not allow themselves to be used in this way, and “to make your own definition of what is ethical behaviour.”

The topic of the Civilian Commission’s report came up. Here we are five and almost one-half years after the Public Interest Investigation was launched and we still have no report. Numerous news stories and reports coming from Wet’suwet’en describe that they are going through the same traumatic brutality and callousness we experienced, see: First Nations arrested at B.C. checkpoint accuse ‘over-equipped’ RCMP of excessive force, also: People arrested at Gidimt’en anti-pipeline camp allege inappropriate use of force. no-fracking-health-yellow-8.5-150x150

On January 14th, the New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance issued an Open Letter to New Brunswick MP’s. They appear to have new information about the Civilian Commission report:

“The actions in question [in Wet’suwet’en] resonated strongly* with those of us in New Brunswick who experienced the similar action of the RCMP raid on Elsipogtog over five years ago… with government employing the RCMP as an enforcement arm of fossil fuel interests; elevating commercial interests via an injunction over the larger and fundamental issues of civil rights, indigenous rights and international obligations at play.

“We have two requests to make of you. The first is to make the federal government aware of our position and our support for the We’suwet’en Clan Leaders…

“The second request is for you and the federal government to put pressure on the RCMP Commissioner to release the CRCC investigation report on the events at Elsipogtog… It has been over 5 years in preparation, and via our communications with the CRCC we know that it has been completed and is only awaiting a decision to be released.” (my emphasis)

Hopes were expressed in front of Cpl. Melanson that we might see this report during our lifetimes. While it was felt that rank and file RCMP might be very interested to read and learn from this report,it was observed that sreluctance to allow this report to see the light of the day could well emanate from state security personnel (elected, uniformed, civilian) who believe their own hype that Indigenous rights activists, defenders and protectors are terrorists.

The report would almost certainly challenge the dominant narratives about who is wrongright as well as critique official justifications for use of extraordinary measures. The underlying question of whether the RCMP should enforce private corporate civil court injunctions will have to be addressed as well. n this report.

Another topic that was mentioned by several people was the RCMP protocol of excluding media. Here in Kent County/Sikniktuk it appeared almost accidental that the media could not get to the protest sites, where water protectors were preventing SWN Resources Canada from using their seismic testing equipment. A combination of RCMP tactics – ranging from kettling the protestors and protectors, to creating barricades so no cars could pass through, to using the draconian terms of the second injunction to prevent reporters from stopping anywhere near the SWN equipment – all served to create a media exclusion zone. As person who often did media liaison work, I frequently heard reporters complaining they could not get to our sites to cover the stories.

On the morning of the actual invasion, October 17, 2013, the only mainstream media that could enter the zone sealed off by the 200 or so militarized RCMP was the one reporter who came in with them, an “embedded” reporter from Sun News, who told only the RCMP side of the events. All alternative coverage came from social media, although early on the Halifax Media Co-op correspondent was able to send out some reports, until he was detained by police. A reporter from APTN found his way in at some point. Our area is not like the Wet’suwet’en Territory, in that there are multiple methods of access if one has the right vehicle, friends, and knowledge of the trails.

The outrage about this strategy being used in Wet’suwet’en is encouraging. When it happened here in Sikniktuk, it was hardly mentioned in amongst all the other concerns. Now we see the issue rising above the din.

The international Committee to Protect Journalists saying, “Authorities in Canada should immediately end the arbitrary restrictions on journalists covering the police breakup of the pipeline protest. Journalists should be able to freely cover events of national importance, without fear of arrest.” Apparently an RCMP spokesperson said the “temporary exclusion zone” was established to ensure public safety. It is worth noting that this is what RCMP commanders told me when I complained about the exclusion of media here in 2013. I argued that the presence of media would help ensure public safety, as we the public were the ones in danger from the company’s private security as well as those RCMP members with less self-control.

APTN reported that neither their news crew not the Vancouver CBC TV crew could enter, and NDP MP Nathan Cullen was also prohibited from accessing the site. As soon as the tactical/paramilitary RCMP force arrived on site, all social media feeds and posts are the Camp went silent. APTN also reports that an RCMP spokesperson said the police had nothing to do with the sudden, timely disruption of communications. However, Tom Henheffer, vice president of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), told APTN that this tactic “is very commonly employed and is very difficult to fight against… it takes too long for a journalist to get a lawyer, go to court to get an order to allow them to get on to the site.”

Ricochet media editorialized “We are gravely concerned by the RCMP’s decision to bar journalists from the site of yesterday’s raid, and their continued refusal to allow media access to the area today…. The right to freedom of the press is guaranteed in our constitution and the right of the public to know is fundamental to our democracy. …We note with concern that the department of public safety and the minister responsible for the RCMP, Ralph Goodale, have referred requests for comment to the RCMP, describing the exclusion of media as an “operational matter.” …this precedent must not be allowed to stand. It seems clear that the RCMP’s intent was to limit reporting from the site, rather than to safeguard the well-being of journalists. This is consistent with” an APTN report on “internal RCMP and government documents,” which “show ‘police are not assessing Indigenous protests in Canada based on factors of criminality but are more concerned about the protestors’ ability to gain public support.’ “

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While we could argue that the “precedents” were set here in Sikniktuk, or least the mechanics tested here, on January 8th many of us raised the same points as the three organizations above.

An elder and community leader from Elsipogtog told Cpl. Melanson “Canada has abandoned you. Trudeau’s comments made that clear. He is saying the federal government has nothing to do this, like Pontius Pilate always washing his hands, always washing his hands. Trudeau might want to wash his hands but I will not allow him. This is going to fall hard on the RCMP. I very strongly condemn the invasion of a sovereign nation by the RCMP on behalf of Canada.”

Look at us. We are not terrorists.”

In some ways, the time we spent in the Richibucto RCMP detachment lobby was like being in the opening round of a Restorative Justice Circle. Cpl. Melanson stood in for the entire RCMP force, as we shared our feelings from 2013 and strongly criticized the repeat operation that had taken place on Wet’suwet’en territory since the court appoved Coastal GasLink/TransCanada’s interim injunction.

One person who was present with us said, “What made it good for people was that RCMP Daniel seemed to truly listen and also that no one was rushed. Although we were in RCMP facilities, the lack of a desk between us made for a feeling of equality, as in a true, be it impromptu, round table discussion. …And afterwards, the warmth and sharing of the round dance, the Honour Song…..will stay in my heart, also, just so you know.”

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Credit to Ernesto Carranza, Miramichi Leader

Another person said, “They are trained to look like they are listening and to stay patient. I have a hard time trusting that anything improved will come from this, because all my life and in my work I have seen how they “act” with Aboriginal people.”

As much as we have trust issues with the RCMP, they have them with us. Another of our people commented, “Notice how he was standing with his back to the interview room and the door was cracked open? We did not have to ask him to take notes. In the interview room there is a camera and recorder of voice, and probably there is something like that in the lobby too.”

The reporter from the Miramichi Leader newspaper was perhaps more objective. He wrote, “Melanson stood in a corner and listened to protesters…” He quoted the Cpl. Saying, “I will relay these concerns up and for me that’s all I can do right now… We can take in the concerns of the community, actively listen, and see if those concerns make it to the right people.” The news story continued: Cpl. Melanson acknowledged he had worked and lived in Richibucto for the last six years, was also in Rexton during the protests, and said he doesn’t want that situation to occur ever again.” (my emphasis)

In my view, committed as I stubbornly am to non-violence, the only way we can change things in human relationships is through changing understanding, through person-to-person conversation. What we did was important in general, but specifically for a community like ours which has been through exactly the same thing as happened in Wet’suwet’en territory last week.

For more than an hour, every time I looked at Cpl. Melanson, he looked very emotionally affected. Take a look at these images. You can also see more of him in the videos linked at the top of this blog, from which these still were taken.

What I saw each time I looked at him was he was often reflective and looking somewhat sad, or as if aching inside to be hearing all this. Down. At times his body seemed limp. Never angry. Sincere mostly. No doubt he must also have been frustrated by some recounts and comments that were harsh but he made no effort to argue. Only once did he try to correct (and that was me!). Perhaps he was even a bit grateful to finally have the chance to listen to us. As we were leaving, he shook my hand and said he was happy to have finally met me in person. I think there were others in the room he must have felt the same way about, as there were at least five others present who were centrally involved in organizing and speaking publicly in 2013. Odd that it took this long to start the conversation. That shows our lack of imagination as well as their limitations.

We are talking about doing something like this again. Personally, I am daydreaming about traveling across Canada, mobilizing local Indigenous-Settler alliances to go into cop-shops everywhere and try to get someone to sit down and talk with us. We have planet to save, and that starts with each of us.

A Final Word on “Reconciliation”

At the outset, I explained to Cpl Melanson we are here in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en People because we know that they are going through. The APTN reporter who was present with us tweeted me saying, “What happened yesterday was illegal.” And also tweeted Melanson responding. “I will let my superiors know.”

A strong and committed water protector pointed out to Cpl. Melanson that after all that was done by the company and the government, much of which the RCMP had to get their hands dirty carrying out, “It did not work. There are ongoing community tensions, and really you ended up creating more resistance” because of the force’s appalling behaviour.screenshot at 2019-01-14 08-34-13

For me, I have been involved in citizen activism for peace and disarmament, anti-racism, civil rights, and international solidarity my entire adult life. In 1990, I was drawn into Indigenous human rights and solidarity work by the obvious injustices occurring at Oka/Kanehsatake. “Oka” was followed by the Old Man River, Ipperwash, Gustafsen Lake, Burnt Church, Elsipogtog, and now Wet’suwet’en. Personally I was only directly involved in solidarity work on a couple of these issues but I do know that the responses from the authorities to each of these have come from the same play book, albeit more sophisticated each iteration. It is no wonder to me that frustration is growing. Yes, of course, as my friend said, what the RCMP is doing is not working and it is only building more resistance and public support because it is so wrong.

Ellen Gabriel, always a respected speaker for the Kanehsatake Mohawks, commented on social media last week:

“We’ve been asked hundreds of times about lessons learned from the “1990 Oka Crisis.” Obviously Canada decided its lesson was to increase military training to its police forces.

“The “Kanehsatake Seige of 1990” included the status quo of Canada discriminating against the Haudenosaunee – People of the Longhouse – in fact making Indigenous traditional governments illegal. Canada deals only with the band councils it created and which it claims are the only ‘legitimate ‘ entity. So almost 29 years later people are now asking what is the difference between traditional governments and band councils.”

Gabriel’s answer is simple:

“One survived colonization. The other embraces it. The Two Row Wampum is the way to understand this. One path upholds Onkwehón:we culture, customs, law, and governance. The other path upholds the colonizers’ values and laws. There is no prejudice against those who chose the colonizer path, but allow those who choose traditional governance a voice and right to protect our ancestral heritage and human rights. Skén:nen.”

Few people realize Canada has signed many international human rights treaties and is required by some of these to report regularly to the UN Human Rights Committee on compliance issues inside Canada.

Even fewer people realize that Canada’s treatment of Indigenous persons inside Canada has long been an ongoing concern for the esteemed human rights experts at the UN. Canada is trying to get an seat on the Security Council of the UN, which it lost during the Harper government period, in large part because of that regime’s handling of Indigenous rights issues domestically. So there is some potential leverage there, because the UN human rights experts welcome “shadow reports” from informed citizens and groups, who may speak of things that the nation-state (in this case Canada…) does not wish to make public. 9200000010157436

As well, there is an “Optional Protocol” procedure which allows specific urgent specific human rights violations to be brought directly into the UNHRC apparatus, provided the claimant can convincingly assert that their own rights have been affected. Because Canada is eager to impress the UN, these are tactics worth considering.

The UN also has Special Rapporteurs who handle key human rights files. The Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples submitted a report in September 2018, called Attacks against and criminalization of indigenous peoples defending their rights. In the section called “Root causes and drivers behind attacks and criminalization,” she notes:

“The intensified competition over natural resources led by private companies, at times with government complicity, has placed indigenous communities seeking to protect their traditional lands at the forefront as targets of persecution…

“Disregard of indigenous rights of traditional lands ownership breeds tensions, subsequent violence and criminalization, as indigenous peoples become trespassers or illegal occupants of their own lands, subject to criminal charges… and removal from the lands they rely upon for their livelihoods, social and cultural cohesion and spiritual traditions. In the worst instances, escalating militarization, compounded by historical marginalization, results in indigenous peoples being targeted under national security acts and antiterrorism legislation, putting them in the line of fire, at times literally, by the army and the police (A/HRC/24/41/Add.3).

“The priority of indigenous peoples is the protection of their traditional lands, territories and natural resources. Indigenous peoples question a purely commercial development model which disregards their rights and causes irreparable harm to the environment and the natural resources they depend on for their survival.”

In the concluding observations of her report, the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples says,

“States carry the primary responsibility for ensuring that indigenous peoples are able to safely exercise their rights… Large-scale development projects are major drivers fuelling the escalation of attacks and the criminalization of indigenous peoples. The frequent undertaking of such projects without genuine consultation or measures to seek the free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous peoples concerned must cease…

The Special Rapporteur recommends that civil society continue to provide support and legal advice and facilitate the sharing of experiences in relation to protection measures for indigenous people.” (my emphasis)

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Credit to tweets by Angel Moore at APTN for this image.

We are civil society – all of us. This document is an attempt to do some of that sharing. I do think it would be useful for solidarious settlers to go in and talk, like we did, heart-to-heart, with local RCMP personnel in your area. We must make these conversations happen. Forget the politicians, they are all front men for the corporations. Talk to your local cops. I am not sure who said this, probably many wise revolutionaries, but we cannot change society until we bring the military and police on board.

I give the last words to Niigaan Sinclair, columnist at the Winnipeg Free Press, because just as here in 2013…

“The non-violent actions of Indigenous peoples at Unist’ot’en and Gidimt’en camps is an invitation to conversation. It is Canada who orders police and guns and ends any dialogue. It is Canada perpetrating violence and arresting people on their land. It is Canada forcing people to accept what they don’t want.

“That’s not a “nation-to-nation” relationship… The biggest challenge facing reconciliation is how Canada and Indigenous peoples share and listen to the other’s perspectives… Canada wants to tell Indigenous peoples who should sit at the negotiating table. When Indigenous peoples send representatives Canada doesn’t want to speak to, the RCMP is dispatched…

Who, this week, was ready to talk — and who brought the guns to the meeting?”

(my emphasis)

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Send reply comments to me at coc.kent.county.nb@gmail.com.
Wela’lin, merci, thanks. M’sit nokmaq. We are all related.

*Note: that link takes the reader to Part 1 of my report on our rally at the Richibucto RCMP detachment. This is Part 2, dealing with what took place in the dialogue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Improving the proposed Federal Environmental Legislation (Bills C-68 & C-69)

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Submission regarding Bills C-68 and C-69 to:

  • Honourable Ministers Jim Carr, Marc Garneau, Dominic LeBlanc, and Catherine McKenna, and to the Standing Committee of Parliament on Environment and Sustainable Development.  

From:

  • Ann Pohl, on behalf of Kent County NB Chapter, Council of Canadians (coc.kent.county.nb@gmail.com — March 15, 2018)

 

During the various stages of consultation on revitalizing and reorienting the Acts contained in Bills C-68 and C-69, members of our chapter of the Council of Canadians participated in three public sessions and submitted several related briefs to government.

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Our Neighbourhood

These new Bills were introduced in the federal parliament on February 6 and 8, 2018. More recently the Government of Canada made a call-out for comments on C-69 in particular, saying submissions should be filed with the Standing Committee as soon as possible. However, we also have some concerns about C-68.

We have taken every opportunity to understand what is envisaged by the Bills. In general we are pleased to see a number of proposals for positive initiatives, but there are substantial gaps and some serious concerns. Here then, in point form, are our comments for how to improve these proposed Acts to provide the quality of environmental protection and management that our grandchildren need.

Concerns about the Review Panels

  1. The Impact Assessment Agency (IAA) is supposed to be able to independently evaluate proposals based on science, traditional/community knowledge, and other factors. Conflicts of interest may well undermine these good intentions because Bill C-69 authorizes at least one member (possibly more) of the Canadian Energy Regulator (CER), Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), and/or Nova Scotia or Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Boards to sit on the IAA’s review panels. For example, CER has no requirement to consider climate pledges or cumulative impacts: there is not one mentions of climate change in the entire proposed CER Act in Bill C-69. Each of these agencies is supposed to provide the IAA with a roster of panelists to choose from, putting their experts inside the decision-making process to advocate/lobby for the energy industry. This opportunity, this place of honour, is not extended to environmental organizations.
  2. The Government’s promotion of this legislation has stressed that there will be one process for all assessments. Yet, this does not seem to be the case.
    • It appears that not all proposals relevant to the offshore petroleum boards will be required to go through the CCEA impact assessment process: the NS and NL/LB offshore boards will also continue their own assessment processes. Although Bill C-69 gives the CER and IAA their own multifunctional mandates and scientific capacities, the offshore boards’ mandates narrowly and clearly favour offshore oil and gas development with no meaningful checks and balances for impact on the environment. Effectively, they have greater authority and autonomy through Bill C-69.
    • Furthermore, the Bill empowers the Minister to substitute provincial processes that he or she deems to be “equivalent” for the proposed new federal IA process.
  1. The new IAA will continue the faulty but cost-saving practice of relying on industrial proponents to research, report on and advise government on the relevant environmental concerns in their projects, and how to address these issues. To stretch an analogy we have used many times before, this is akin to asking the fox to report on the structural concerns related to a proposed hen-house, and how to address these matters.

Discretionary Power of “The Minister” in proposed new Acts:

  1. Although hearing panels can identify adverse impacts, the Minister (or Cabinet, or “Governor in Council”) retains very broad discretionary powers under Bills C-68 and C-69. Some specific reasons for concern about this in regards to the IAA include:
    • It appears the Minister can invoke a very broad “public interest” determination to short-cut to approval at various stages of an Impact Assessment. the Minister’s uncircumscribed power to determine what is relevant in making her or his decision totally undermines the pledges this government to restore public trust, ensure transparency/accountability, and ensure that decisions are based on valid information. As it stands, political considerations could quash all indicators of what is truly in the public interest, allowing for a decision that is instead in the interest of corporations but would be terrible for the environment and population health.
    • The IA process addresses only major projects designated by regulation or Ministerial order. Smaller projects that may cause dire local or ecosystem impacts are not going to be caught through this mechanism, moreso because it appears the Bill allows the IAA to forego impact assessment for designated projects based on Minister’s discretion. As well, the timelines for public input are quite restrictive.
    • It is not clear at all how regional, strategic assessment, and public input will influence minister’s determination, and the Minister is not even required by the proposed legislation to respond to these inputs.
  1. While many of the changes in Bill C-68’s rewrite of the Fisheries Act are excellent, there is a fundamental weakness in the vague wording that the Minister “may or may not” (emphasis added) consider: “(a) the application of a precautionary approach and an ecosystem approach; (b) the sustainability of fisheries; (c) scientific information; (d) traditional knowledge of the Indigenous peoples of Canada that has been provided to the Minister; (e) community knowledge; (f) cooperation with any government of a province, any Indigenous governing body and any body — including a co-management body — established under a land claims agreement; (g) social, economic and cultural factors in the management of fisheries; (h) the preservation or promotion of the independence of licence holders in commercial inshore fisheries; and (i) the intersection of sex and gender with other identity factors.” All of these are crucial factors that must be considered in all cases where they are relevant, and most likely that would be virtually all cases. A simple change to “the Minister will” is imperative.
  2. Given the complexity of Bill C-69, it is not clear if this issue of broad discretionary power is also a concern in regards to the new proposed Canadian Navigation Protection Act. If so, that must be addressed as well. However, it is noteworthy that the Minister (in this case, of Transport) will have discretionary powers to act directly in regards to obstructions in navigable waters. Is this a new power, previously absent? Perhaps we are being too presumptive, as the example given by the government is sunken ships, but would this also include the right to take whatever steps are necessary to remove water protectors who are exercising their rights to peacefully assemble in the water?
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Walk to Protect the Water, Sikniktuk Mi’kma’ki, Fall 2016

What Is/Is Not Protected in the Proposed Canadian Navigable Waters Act:

  1. Notwithstanding the issue of Ministerial discretion (mentioned above), the new Act does not restore protections to the vast majority of Canada’s waterways. The first problem is the Act’s definition of what is “navigable waters.” The usual understanding is that navigable waters are any river or lake deep enough to float a boat, but the new definition has four criteria that serve to seriously constrict the application of the Act to only specific navigable waterways. For example, it seems that a stream flowing through privately held extraction industry land might not fit the definition and therefore would be exempt from this Act’s protections, regardless of its potentiality to cause great bioregion damage if used for some industrial purposes.
  2. The proposed new Act sets out three categories of development that may take place on a waterway: minor works (that get approval without public input if they meet the established critieria); major works (dams, etc.), and works which are proposed for a lake or river on the Schedule of Navigable Waters. Only a few waterways are included in the current proposed Schedule of Navigable Waters, and it is incumbent on individual Canadians or over-stretched civil society and environmental organizations to apply to restore protections to the thousands of lakes and rivers navigated in Canada.
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2 & 1/2 years ago: restore protections to EVERY lake and river.

Fisheries Act:

  1. Bill 68 sets out many positive aspects to this new proposed Act. The best part is that considerable meaningful protection is being extended to fish habitat — not just the habitat of food fishery fish, but all fish. Also included are a number of pathways for implementing these protections.
  2. Nonetheless, broad discretionary powers are available to the Minister, in a government department which has historically had major issues regarding public dialogue and engagement. Only “large-scale” projects will require a review. Worse still, there is a continued reliance on “Letters of Advice,” which have been identified as a signficant pathway for avoiding a bona fide assessment, and a matter of concern for many years among environmental organizations.
  3. Given the fragile state of many fish stocks and marine creatures in general, as well as the declining health of salt water environments around the planet, including notably the Gulf of Maine, it is essential to stay up-to-the minute on scientific and traditional knowledge and observations. For that reason, this Act should include a commitment to report on state of fish and fish habitat on an annual or biennial basis.

Public Participation:

  1. Although the issue of who has “standing” has been resolved in regards to the proposed CER, and there is a promise that the public will be allowed to participate earlier in the IA process, there is almost no detail on how the government will extend the rights to the public to participate in the various agency reviews, or along the steps of the IA process. All that the Minister is so far required to do is to provide “an opportunity to the public to participate” during the planning stage of an IA, and in any regional or strategic assessments (which are not fleshed out in the Bill, and remain “discretionary”). The IAA has some power to decide on participant funding if it has a budget to do so, but it is not evident if there is a similar provision for reviews done by other agencies, for example the offshore petroleum boards. It seems like this aspect has not been fully thought-out by the government. To restore public trust, more detail and certainty about the public’s rights and opportunity to participate is required.
  2. The “public registry” is a great proposal. Once it is up and running, this will be very useful to all those who are interested in a project or a bioregion’s health, provided that the public is aware of its existence and has good access to it. However, it is imperative that the registration system ALSO requires notifications from proponents directly to all affected populations rather than simply relying on an online registry.

Sustainability Criteria and Strategic Assessments:

  1. Other analysts have commented on definitions that are absent from these Bills. We note the definition for “sustainability” is so vague it could not be used to clarify any issue. For example, why does this definition not include the concept of ecosystem or bioregion? Fix this, or we will all be going the long, expensive way around, using the courts to detail these definitions.
  2. Similarly, there is very little useful detail on the proposed optional or discretionary regional or strategic assessments, although for the latter there is a federal government policy and process in place that has been standing still for almost a decade now.

Addressing the Climate Crisis

  1. The words “climate change” appear exactly four times in Bill C-69 – and only in the IAA Act. The first is in the title of the federal Minister McKenna; the second in the preamble to the Impact Assessment Agency Act; the third is in the list of “considerations” relevant for an impact assessment; and the last is in the list of factors for the Minister to keep in mind when making a “determination.” This is shocking considering that climate change is definitely the hugest environmental issue of our time, related to almost all other environmental and population impact and health issues.
  2. Between 2004 and 2009, the federal civil service developed this tool for strategic assessment (see references below), so it already exists. The standard for measurement is also available (Paris Agreement). In June 2017, the government of Canada undertook to begin Strategic Assessments on major environmental issues, and commited that the first one would address climate issues. The language in Bill C69 is vague on Strategic Assessments and gets us no closer to the task and completion of this initial climate strategic assessment. Time to get it going on this Climate Strategic Assessment now! This assessment would and must set the context for all the work done through impact assessments, panel reviews, Ministerial discretionary orders, regulation-based approval processes. Flowing from this, federal legislation can more effectively move urgently towards the 100% clean energy economy that will ensure survival for some life on our planet.
  3. Bill C-69 falls short in not creating an arms-length independent centre with a specific mandate for energy data collection, information and education. Despite much discussion about this prior to and throughout the consultation process, there is no plan. This data would enable viable scientific forecasts about what energy production is needed for the “national interest.” It is also crucial for monitoring Canada’s success in dealing with climate protection promises and goals.
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Mandi’s contribution to our chapter’s Earth Day 2017 youth art exhibit.

Indigenous Peoples’ Rights to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent:

  1. Nowhere in these Bills is there reference to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which Canada has agreed to uphold and implement at all levels. This includes of course the principle of free, prior and informed consent in all stages of the impact assessment process. Good words are spoken but the legal requirements to enact this commitment, within the proposed legislation, are absent.
  2. If the CER is mandated to deliver on Indigenous (Aboriginal) consultation duties, will this hold up at the Supreme Court?

Putting the Money where the Mouth Is:

  1. We regret that we have not done a comprehensive review of what got funded and what did not in the federal budget for 2018. It appears that a considerable amount of money has been set aside to restore much-needed scientific, conservation, and enforcement capacity to the Departments of Fisheries and Oceans and of Environment and Climate Change, which were gutted of this expertise during the 10 years of the Harper government. If this money is spent for this purpose, great news!
  2. Funds are also needed for climate change research (and the database mentioned above), as well as strategic assessments of major industries such as fossil fuel hydrofracking, tar sands extraction, majors dams, methylmercury pollution associated with clear-cutting, drinking water aquifer and other source inventory, and water export impacts on Canada’s drinking water supply, as well as reinstating fresh-water and science research programs cut from federal departments, etc. When the government commits these funds, alongside the improvements to this legislation under discussion, as suggested above and by other environmental and population health organizations, then we will know that our grandchildren’s futures are more secure.

Risky and contentious deep water offshore fossil fuel exploratory drilling, by BP, south of Nova Scotia, was approved by Minister McKenna only a week before Bills C-68 and C-69 were introduced in Parliament. Elements of this proposal underscore many concerns we present in this submission. Thank you, merci, wela’liek for taking the time to review our concerns set out in this document.

References:

Blakes’ Business Class. Federal Government Overhauls Canadian Environmental Legislation

Canadian Environmental Law Association. The Federal Government’s Proposed Impact Assessment Act: Some Forward Progress, but Changes Needed to Ensure Sustainability.

Council of Canadians: Cautions to consider as Trudeau government tables water and energy project review legislation; Will today’s announcement usher in new legislation to protect every lake and every river?; Cautions to consider as Trudeau government tables water and energy project review legislation; (NWT Chapter.) Letter on C-69 to federal environment minister Catherine McKenna.

DeSmog Canada. ‘We’re Under Assault’: Feds Quietly Approve Deepwater Oil Drilling Off Nova Scotia.

Environmental Defence. WATCH: Putting all projects to the “Climate Test”

Government of Canada: Strategic Environmental Assessment; Environmental and Regulatory Reviews: Discussion Paper; (Department of Fisheries and Oceans) Better Management of Projects; Bill C-69.

Lawson Lundell LLP. Canada: Impact Assessment Agency – An Overview

Parliament of Canada. Bill C-69 House Debate.

West Coast Environmental Law Association: The problems with the new Canadian Navigable Waters Act; Sweeping new federal environmental law bill contains promising changes, say environmental lawyers

World Wildlife Fund – Canada. Impact Assessment Act needs to do more to safeguard nature.

York Faculty of Environmental Studies. (Sustainable Energy Initiative.) Has Trudeau Delivered? A Discussion of Bills C-68 and C-69

 

 

What is Happening with Adam Capay?

For immediate release: November 6, 2017

More than five years have now passed since the event that led to Adam Capay’s solitary confinement for more than 1500 days. When this came to light, it was front page news. Now the silence around Adam Capay is deafening. There were reports he would have a hearing for a “stay” in May. That was postponed.

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From Howard Sapers’ report on Segregation in Ontario jails (March 2017).

What is happening with Adam Capay? As he is seemingly still on the remand side of the system, he will not be getting the therapeutic services he needs to recover from the abuses done to him through the torture of his confinement. When will he have his ‘day in court’? When will he be released? After release, will he get the aftercare he needs? What is being done now in Ontario, and across Canada, to ensure this never happens again?

“The penal system had the opportunity to practice real reconciliation by handling Adam Capay’s case with fairness, timeliness, and compassion, all of which are essential for a young Indigenous offender from a rural, isolated community where poverty and residential school syndrome are widespread. Instead, the system aggravated his mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health with four consecutive years of solitary confinement. The silence around these official abuses continues to this day,” said Ann Pohl, on behalf of the Kent County NB chapter of the Council of Canadians. “Our chapter calls on the media to continue reporting on Capay. This young man’s plight must stay in the public eye.”

“Upholding human rights is a core concern for all members and supporters of the national Council of Canadians,” said Pohl, “but our chapter also has two specific reasons for speaking up on this matter. Firstly, Capay’s horrendous treatment brings to mind and heart the tragic story of New Brunswicker Ashley Smith. Smith’s death clearly showed the failure of Canada’s prison system to address the needs of a teenager with mental health issues. As with Capay, Smith was extensively held in segregation.”

“Secondly,” continued Pohl, “during our anti-fracking actions in 2013 we saw that Indigenous and non-Indigenous people are not treated the same in the judicial system and, after incarceration, Indigenous persons are often not accorded the human dignity and respect guaranteed to all Canadians. The many human rights critiques regarding Indigenous overrepresentation, harsher sentencing, and lack of supports are valid. Capay’s situation is clearly a worst case scenario, but international human rights bodies’ and Howard Sapers’ reports make clear it is not unique. We hold the government to account on these issues by demanding justice for serious cases like this one.”

Media refer: Ann Pohl: 506-521-0465

BACKGROUNDER

Who is Adam Capay?

One year ago, Canadians learned that Adam Capay, an Indigenous young man from the Kejick Bay community in the Lac Seul Reserve, had been held in solitary confinement at the Thunder Bay Jail for over 1500 days, much of it continuous. The 170-bed facility was built in 1926, and Capay’s plexiglass 5’x10′ cell was on a windowless floor. Overhead lights were left on 24 hours per day. Anything beyond 15 days in solitary confinement has been strongly condemned as torture by the international human rights community.

The public learned about this after Renu Mandhane, head of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, inquired about Capay during a tour of the facility. Capay had great difficulty speaking to Mandhane: it was reported that Capay spent much of his time “drifting in and out of consciousness,” being constantly hungry. He got out into the yard only once or twice a month, and had no contact with other people. He was being held far from his home community so family and friend visits were very rare for cost reasons. Apparently Capay only saw a psychiatrist when the system needed authorization for his continued segregation, which was under-reported dramatically at 50 days. Capay bore evidence of considerable physical self-harming activity on his wrists and scalp.

What has happened to Adam Capay since October 2016?

To date, he is still in captivity, awaiting trial. In November 2016, Capay was moved to the troubled Waypoint Centre in Penetanguishene, the only secure facility in Ontario for forensic mental health assessment of adult males. By March 22nd, he was back in Thunder Bay. Thunder Bay NewsWatch reported, “A psychiatric assessment has been completed, but details of that evaluation are under a publication ban,” as Capay appeared in court via video conference. His lawyers made an “application to drop the prosecution,” which was scheduled to be heard on May 23 at the Thunder Bay Courthouse.

There has been no news on the psychiatric assessment or Capay’s lawyers’ request to stay the prosecution in light of the Charter violations created by the prolonged delay in processing Capay’s case, the unfathomable duration of his time in segregation, and more.

Change is needed in Ontario’s prison system

In his Spring and Fall 2017 reports, Ontario’s Independent Advisor on Corrections Reform Howard Sapers calls for the fastest possible action on the extensive overuse of segregation. This is not caused by prison population growth: in the past decade, Ontario’s prison population dropped 11% but the number of inmates held in segregation went up 24% and segregation cells occupied by “prisoners with mental-health issues increased from 32% to 45%” in the past year alone.  Sapers states that 1,300 prisoners spent 60 or more days in solitary in 2016, “including five who had been isolated for more than three years.” It is evident that Sapers has looked into Capay’s situation – in fact this case was the impetus for his appointment and mandated terms of reference. His final (September 2017) report outlines major steps to address the abuse of prisoner segregation, as well as discussion on over-incarceration and other issues specific to Indigenous prisoners.

News reports on October 3rd say that Ontario will introduce a bill to address these issues this fall, but no such bill has yet seen the light of day.

Apparently there are several lawyers involved in this case. According to news reports cited below, apparently Capay’s primary lawyer is Anthony Bryant: 416-927-7441, and another lawyer on this case is Karen Symes: 416-628-3753.

RELEVANT READING:

Indigenous people overrepresented in justice system a ‘sad reality’: Jody Wilson-Raybould: http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/indigenous-people-overrepresented-justice-s

Lawyers for Adam Capay apply to have murder charge stayed:  http://www.cbc.ca/beta/news/canada/thunder-bay/adam-capay-murder-stay-application-1.3996963

Fifty-two months of torture and the four men responsible:
http://www.macleans.ca/news/canada/52-months-of-torture-and-the-4-men-responsible/

Why Adam Capay has spent 1,560 days in solitary:
http://www.macleans.ca/news/why-adam-capay-has-spent-1560-days-in-solitary/

Ontario jails’ love of solitary confinement shows what a disaster they are: 
http://ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/reevely-ontario-jails-love-of-solitary-confinement-shows-what-a-disaster-they-are

Ontario prisons use solitary confinement too often, and for the wrong reasons: 
https://tvo.org/article/current-affairs/the-next-ontario/ontario-prisons-use-solitary-confinement-too-often-and-for-the-wrong-reasons

LOCKED UP: BEHIND ONTARIO’S SOLITARY CONFINEMENT:
https://ppgreview.ca/2017/07/23/locked-up-behind-ontarios-solitary-confinement/

What Does Solitary Confinement Do To Your Mind?: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/what-does-solitary-confinement-do-to-your-mind/

Supreme Court sets new deadlines for completing trials:
http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/supreme-court-speedy-trial-1.3670079

Solitary confinement: How four people’s stories have changed hearts, minds and laws on the issue: https://beta.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/solitary-confinement-canada-required-reading/article35391601/?ref=http://www.theglobeandmail.com&

Segregation in Ontario: Independent Review of Ontario Corrections, March 2017:
http://www.mcscs.jus.gov.on.ca/sites/default/files/content/mcscs/docs/IROC%20Segregation%20Report%20ENGLISH%20FINAL_0.pdf

Corrections in Ontario: Directions for Reform Independent Review of Ontario Corrections, September 2017:  https://www.mcscs.jus.gov.on.ca/sites/default/files/content/mcscs/docs/Corrections%20in%20Ontario%2C%20Directions%20for%20Reform.pdf

OMBUDSMAN CALLS FOR CLEAR NEW LAW, STRONG OVERSIGHT OF INMATE SEGREGATION: https://www.ombudsman.on.ca/Newsroom/Press-Release/2017/Ombudsman-calls-for-clear-new-law,-strong-oversigh.aspx

Submission to Govt of Canada on their proposals for renewing environmental legislation and regulations

mirror

Comments on:

  • Environmental Assessment & Regulatory Review Discussion Document
    (released by Environment & Climate Change Canada to public June 29, 2017)
  • Part 2: Let’s Talk Fish Habitat (released by Fisheries and Oceans Canada to
    public July 24, 2017)
  • Update on Navigation Protection Act Review (Transport Canada sent public
    notification of these four discussion papers August 16, 2017)
  • National Energy Board Modernization Review (we are not aware if Natural
    Resources Canada has released an update on its Expert Panel report of May 15,
    2017, which we have also reviewed)

Addressed to:

  • The Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport — mintc@tc.gc.ca
  • The Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Oceans and Fisheries Canada —
    min@dfo-mpo.gc.ca
  • The Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate
    Change   ec.ministre-minister.ec@canada.ca
  • The Honourable Jim Carr, Minister of Natural Resources Canada —
    minister@nrcan-rncan.gc.ca

1. Introduction

I write on behalf of Kent County NB chapter of the Council of Canadians. People in our chapter, and in our approximately 70 sister Council of Canadians chapters across the country, work in our local communities on:

  • advocating for climate protection policies;
  • raising awareness that climate issues are anthropogenic so humans must change;
  • a large number of environmental issues to do with the oil and gas industry;
  • protecting the health of our watersheds, our forested areas, and the wellbeing and habitats of marine animals;
  • and much more.

We are also engaged in national Council of Canadians work around our major
campaigns, including:

  • protection of fresh water;
  • increasing government democracy, accountability, and transparency; and,
  • promotion of environmental protections in international trade agreements as well as domestic decision-making.

From the above description, it is evident why we have an avid interest in federal
government environmental protection policy, programmes, and legislation.
For a volunteer group like ours, it has been a marathon to prepare for writing this –
especially during the summer. We are all volunteers and this is a complicated matter. As
grassroots people living in rural and low-income communities, we are very motivated.

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We are certain to be most affected by gaps and mistakes in environmental approval
processes. We did a lot of reading and reviewing including:

  • community and Indigenous submissions, panel recommendations and government
    responses to recent consultations about The Fisheries Act and The Navigation
    Protection Act (including materials released as recently as August 16 th , which also
    have the consultation submission deadline of August 28th);
  • the “Forward, Together” report by the NEB Modernization Review Panel (NEB
    Panel) and the “Building Common Ground” report by the Multi-Interest Advisory
    Committee on Environmental Assessment (MIAC), and,
  • what was learned when two Council of Canadians representatives engaged in
    consultations regarding Canada’s Oceans policies, arising from Canada’s
    participation in the United Nations’ June 2017 Oceans Conference.

Then we read your government’s Environmental and Regulatory Reviews
Discussion Paper (ERRDP). We find significant holes in the ERRDP argument,
rationale and design.

2. Rebuilding Trust: Review Process Issues

Your government made a pre-election promise to strengthen the federal government’s
environmental protection mechanisms, working in an open and transparent manner… At the very top of the ERRDP document, you emphasize the need to rebuild trust with
Canadians. Like us, most Canadians think and feel that getting better environmental
protection regulations and processes enshrined in federal law is very important. This is
certainly one of the reasons your government was elected with a majority in 2015.

Those of us who participated in the panel review consultations can see that the two
excellent reports – from the NEB Panel and the MIAC Panel – have made superior
recommendations to those contained in the ERRDP, even though we do not agree in
entirety with these two Panels. On the other hand, we see that the vision outlined in the
ERRDP is attractive but it lacks solidity. Omissions can give the impression that not all is
not as it appears, or that excellent ideas could have been perhaps intentionally dropped at the political level. We notice measures that would help the environment are not in there. These are elaborated more in Sections 3 and 4.

We are troubled that, in the past month, further “discussion” materials have been published by your government asking for public input on changes to the Navigation Protection Act (NPA) and the Fisheries Act (FA). The most recent was on August 16 th and the deadline for comments is August 28 th as per the ERRDP.

Your engagement planning for this entire review process has been challenging. The NPA,
the FA, and the NEB Act all feed into the federal Environment Assessment (or Impact
Assessment) process. This relationship is legislated. Each of these acts (and more, some
of which are also in flux) can trigger a federal assessment of environmental impacts.
Copious amounts of overlapping information were published online, but because it was
presented in a dis-synchronous manner it has been very hard to track the details.

Discussions on proposals for all the “feeder acts” really should have been consecutive not
concurrent. Our group made this recommendation in a submission to your government last Fall. If community organizations and other interested parties had a valid sense of where your government was going with changes to all the “feeder acts,” we would be better prepared to comment on your visionary report about proposed environmental or impact processes.

A contributing factor is that each federal department has undertaken the various
consultation processes within its own silo of departmental mandate apparently without full consideration of where the others were headed. In sum, consultations would have been more productive – and more democratic, accountable, and transparent – if the legislated flow of authority had been respected in the review process.

To add to our stress, the current “last stage” review and consultation is being done now in the summer, when pretty much everyone in Canada wants to have some down time as our summers are short. We understand about the urgency of revising this legislation.
Concerned community organizations such as ours have been treading water furiously to
try to stay on top of the overlapping processes, read all the materials, and get
submissions, comments or presentations in on time.

We have not seen much federal call-out or promotion for engagement in responding to the ERRDP. That fact, combined with the many challenges mentioned above lead us to recommend you extend the deadline for comments, and after Labour Day re-
advertise widely an extension of time for community response, with a minimum of
six weeks for the new deadline. Please take time to really listen to (or hear) and act on
what we and other commentators are saying. To make this process meaningful and helpful for coming generations, the holders of local knowledges and experiences must be
welcomed into the decision-making fold. The NEB Panel report makes this point
repeatedly when talking about both general stakeholder and also Indigenous community
relations.

3. The Devil is in the Details

It is impossible to enforce anything if the standards are vague. The NEB Panel report
provides many details on how to move forward. It calls for specificity in regulations: set out what is allowed and what is not. “The review proposal is a comprehensive work and
government should not take a piecemeal approach to implementation” reminds the NEB
Panel.

In our local chapter work we are dealing with “details” all the time. A member of one of our chapters attended the MIAC Panel’s public consultation session in Fredericton NB. She said the panel committee was attentive, and she felt public opinions and comments had been heard. After reading their Common Ground (CG) report, she commented, “It is not perfect, but it looks good. Still, the devil is in the details.” After reading the ERRDP report, we can see that many of the MIAC Panel’s recommendations have been diminished.

3.a  Points in the ERRDP:
In no instance should the proponent be in charge of any aspect of the environmental assessment or compliance processes:

▪ in the initial stage: consultation processes led by industry; industry must be
present and partnered but it is government’s job to do consultation

during scientific study and reviews: (1) no preparation of Impact or
Environmental Assessment reports and analyses by consultants hired by the
proponent; (2) consideration could be given to establishing a list of approved
“independent, third party” consultants from which proponents could select; to be transparent, and trustworthy, this must be done through a public RFP call, perhaps with assistance from the Auditor General, and where that criteria and decision-making is developed and finalized through public input and open to ongoing public scrutiny

after development: no self-regulation/monitoring by industry (proponent) – it
is in the public interest to have government inspect and enforce compliance

3.b  General points re: rebuilding federal environmental policies and regulations:

▪ During the 10 years of the Harper Conservative government, we lost science data, scientists, regulations, policies, funding, departmental branches and systems, and personnel. We do not find a thoughtful funding design to replace this capacity. Could the Auditor General be asked to assist with making proposals for this, on an urgent basis?

▪ During the 10 years of the Harper Conservative government, we did not only lose technical and regulatory capacity, we also lost our reputation as a nation. We want the final legislation you produce to show the global community we are a nation that practices and promotes democracy, human rights, government account-ability and transparency, and genuine environmental stewardship.

3.c  Points regarding the NEB review report and NEB Act, as they feed into the
Environmental Assessment/Impact implementation process:

▪ Your government is aware that we are deeply concerned about the December 16, 2013 MOU that gave the NEB authority to judge environmental impacts of fisheries within projects they are reviewing (see #1 below). We have repeatedly asked about this in com-munications to Minister LeBlanc and Prime Minister Trudeau, although no response has yet been received. We expect that this and all other similar MOUs, policies, and informal agreements will be rescinded immediately.

We support creation of a Ombudsman of Landowners, as suggested in
the NEB Panel report.

▪ It is noteworthy and encouraging that – just this week – the NEB announced it will consider upstream and downstream GHG emissions during the renewed review of the Energy East Pipeline (EE). Thus, in essence, the NEB will be evaluating EE with respect to a range of national interests or priorities, which is the first step identified in the ERRDP “IA” process diagram. In the absence of these new regulations and policies, which are still being discussed, it is great news to learn that climate change and environmental hazards will be front and centre – along with economic and energy issues – as NEB evaluates EE. However, there has been a “pro” and “con” debate about this recent decision.

It is vitally important that the determinants of the “National Interest” are discussed in a transparent and inclusive process. To ensure rebuilding public trust, the consultation defining the “national interest” must be really broad and in-depth on both items and ranking. As diverse parties and commun-ities bring a broad range of perspectives to the table to develop a truly common agenda on where we all want Canada to go, this should break down some of the silo-ism that exists both between and in departments and non-government sectors. The ERRDP does not identify establishing this consultation process or structure. Fulsome consultation will be essential for realizing goals of inclusiveness, accountability, transparency, and bringing science back into the middle of everything. Similar structural accommoda-tion is needed for bringing traditional Indigenous knowledge-holders to the table before proposals gain development momentum.

How will provinces’ “environmental” or “impact” assessment processes be brought into synchronization with the new federal system? This is a huge and central issue that must be addressed. The ERRDP vision is only concerned with proposals that fall under federal mandate. A double “duty” or “jeopardy” situation will continue to impact proposals that have aspects requiring both federal and provincial oversight. It is not a level playing field: proponents generally have adequate funding and are motivated by increasing their profits, while environ-mentalists, Indigenous Peoples, and communities often do this work as volunteers for the common good. Yet, both will continue to be caught in this trap, and only one side potentially has the resources to go the full length of both processes. The new federal legislation must address this situation, so that communities and individuals with limited resources know where to focus their energy. This makes sense because federal decisions are about the “good” of the entire nation.

3.d  Points regarding the Navigation Protection Act

▪ You have received extensive input on the need for bringing back protection to to help the creatures that live in, on and around our Navigable Waters. Contrary
to this, the NPA review panel has recommended not restoring the “Schedule” to pre-Harper standards. Their proposal of having a review process to add lakes and rivers to the Schedule is very minimalist and “high level”: none of the structural details are provided. We are being asked to trust that you will do this properly, but frankly many of us we are still in an era of mistrust. In addition to whatever is ultimately done about this part of your proposal, we are asking for the reinstatement of all lakes and rivers formerly protected through the Navigable Waters Protection Act’s “Schedule.”

▪ In general shipping is little considered in environmental impact assessments: it seems to be regarded as a “given” that the right to navigate waters takes primacy over virtually anything else. Recently Minister LeBlanc made an exceptional appeal to shipping tanker/transport companies to slow down in the areas of the St. Lawrence where several dead Right Whales have been found this year. Now a $25,000 fine has been instituted for those shipping through these waters who fail to slow down, but the fines must be much stiffer to change the conduct of these companies. For all vulnerable habitat or migration waters, protection from shipping-tanker kills must be in the NPA in clear language and very specific terms. As has been done in this emergency situation regarding the Right Whales, capacity needs to be on deck in full force too. This will require funding.

3.e  Points regarding the Fisheries Act

▪ In your current material about changes to the Fisheries Act, you comment that the multiplicity of stressors facing marine life fall into a variety of jurisdictions and that they can be tackled through collaboration. Yet we see no plan for how that collabor-ation will take place. The crises enveloping marine life are increasingly severe. A major factor in this crisis is that no one entity is “in charge” – accountable – for the full range of protection, regulation and enforcement measures that are required.

One significant example is the hazards posed to indigenous or wild sea creatures when aquaculture goes wrong, which it frequently does. This past week, just off of Vancouver Island, tens of thousands of farmed Atlantic Salmon accidentally got loose and are now running with the endangered wild or indigenous Pacific Salmon. As well, this week a video was released showing many sick and/or deformed aqua-culture salmon in west coast fish farms. Obviously, some international accords must be signed to address these matters. But, first we need the proper protections –including genuinely appropriate design of a project, regulations of operation, and enforcement of standards – in our own country. As things stand presently, no collaborative or single authority has the powers to stop a process that will result in further disaster to wild/indigenous fish from aquaculture populations.

We hasten to add that this is just one of many, many such examples where our marine life protection policies are inadequate. The point we are making is we need one authority looking out to protect all sea life for future generations, using the best science and all other possible tools, as well as stakeholder round tables to gather expertise, share rationales, and secure commitments. That means breaking down silos in mandate and jurisdiction, and working together for the common good.

▪ Because of the undermining and undervaluing of capacity that DFO Science,
Conservation, and enforcement programmes have experienced in recent decades, a situation emerged where millions of herring beached and died in the Bay of Fundy this past winter and DFO response was meagre, slow, and ultimately inconclusive except to say the event was now finished. Even more ecently there was a report from scientists at Simon Fraser University that found that DFO’s failure to monitor as much as half of all wild salmon populations on the west coast is contributing to the imminent demise of that fishery. Indigenous communities on the west coast are distraught by this deepening crisis and their grassroots members and leaders are beginning to take matters into their hands. Funding, personnel and libraries must be restored and renewed to address worsening conditions for marine life.

For fresh water we need the complete revival of and funding for the Experimental Lakes science development program: this means restoring federal funding to needed levels so that collaboration will flow between  governmental and scientific/ngo communities.

Put the definition of HADD (“the harmful alteration, disruption or
destruction of fish habitat”) back into the Fisheries Act, and add policies, funding, and personnel to assist with rebuilding degraded and damaged habitats.

“Cumulative effects” on a species or habitat must be included in all
environmental assessments.

3.f  Points regarding the Oceans Act

▪ We ask that you consider how the ERRDP proposal can be augmented to
break down federal department silos and actually protect our environment
from even our own government’s initiatives. Without living and vibrant
oceans our planet is not viable. Between the Oceans Act, the NPA Act,
and the Fisheries Act, it is possible to weave a web of protection. It is
imperative we start today.

▪ A critique of the Laurentian Channel Marine Protected Area (LCMPA) was submitted by Kent County COC Chapter in July, 2017 (see #2 below). As with many of our communications on marine and coastal issues, we have never received a response to this. We are also aware that you received communications regarding the LCMPA from Dr. Rodolphe Devillers from Memorial University in Newfoundland (dated July 18, 2017), and others. One example of the issues raised by us and others is that the LCMPA proposal allows oil and gas activity in what amounts to 98% of the so-called “protected area.” This lapse in judgement suggests that your government still has a lot of work to do enforcing environmental impact logic and standards on its own departments. Protection of Marine Areas must be done according to established international standards, for which the science is available. Anything less is just window dressing and a betrayal of future generations.

3.g  Additional points raised by ERRDP and other reviews:

▪ Both the NEB panel and the Common Ground report address the need to respect the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). They also both speak to the necessity of culturally respectful processes to facilitate inclusion of Traditional Indigenous Knowledge (TIK) throughout all review processes up to and including the actual Impact and/or Environmental Assessments. However, UNDRIP is not mentioned once in the ERRDP.

This is a very serious concern for us. UNDRIP sets the standard for what must be in all environmental reviews in Canada. Further, the ERRDP only poses – but does not address – the question of assuring cultural competence and inclusion when integrating TIK in federal environmental protection processes. We want to know your specific plan: the who, when, how, where, why, etc., for this crucial element of the entire proposal.

▪ The Precautionary Principle was advocated for all instances of uncertainty in the Common Ground report and this theme was taken up in the ERRDP. Our question is: what is the threshold for elevating the Precautionary Principle to centre stage in a proposal discussion, or a review process? How will this button get pushed? With so much our natural environment in a precarious situation, we need to make sure that the regulatory pathway to enacting the Precautionary Principle is transparent and accessible to all.

Canadian case law upholds the overarching trustee responsibility of government to err on the side of caution when legitimate “flags are raised” about dangers to human health. Despite this, at the current time, federal agencies are unable – for example – to ensure that aquaculture industries do not allow diseases, medicines, or modified fish to escape into indigenous (wild) fisheries populations, yet western and indigenous science voices are very concerned about these issues.

Similarly, not so long ago, unconventional hydraulic fracking was considered safe, and people who spoke about possible risks faced stiff opposition from governments who wanted to allow fracking industries in their regions. Now science agrees with many of the concerns that were raised by citizens before peer-review science confirmed what local people were seeing.

This are just two small examples of the gaps that highlight the need for clarity on how to arrive at a decision to rely on the Precautionary Principle. The Principle offers a meaningful interim solution to emerging environmental concerns. We need to see the details about how the Precautionary Principle can be enacted by public call, to feel confident that it will indeed be relied on appropriately.

4.  Our New Proposals to You

Ongoing pathways for dialogue and information sharing are of greatest importance to
protecting bioregions and using deep ecological analysis. These paths must be enshrined
in legislation, supporting regional citizen scientists and traditional knowledge-holders to
share expertise with frontline government personnel. The NEB panel report includes a
proposal along these lines:

“Our recommendations call for Regional Multi-Stakeholder Committees designed to
improve emergency preparedness and make standards more rigorous, enhanced
monitoring, and more robust analysis of risks to set priorities and drive continuous
improvement. The synergy achieved through these Committees will also provide
deep insight as to the scope of regional interests for any future project reviews.” (pg
5, in “Executive Summary” of NEB report).

However, this is not reflected in the ERRDP.

Our proposal is that your government implement this “regional multi-stakeholder
approach” by creating regional Environmental Protection Networking Committees
that would advise EACC, NRC, DFO, TC, etc..  They would meet face-to-face on an
appointed schedule to exchange information. They would also meet on an “as needs” basis, when urgent issues arise.

  • The community members could be respected individuals nominated through a
    public process, and representatives appointed by relevant organizations. Travel and meeting costs will paid by the government. The information and networking
    facilitated by these bodies will more than justify the costs.
  • Under the wing of EACC, all relevant federal departments could nominate a gate-
    keeper liaison staff person to sit on each Regional Committees. Opening these
    communication paths would be a huge step forward. This proposal would address a
    lot of problems that local communities like ours have, when trying to bring local
    environmental issues to the attention of federal departments.
  • We have previously noted that panel reports contain worthy and important
    specifications on inclusion of and working with Indigenous communities and elders. Our proposal is an inclusive one, advocating that Indigenous represen-tatives must also be part of these regional advisory bodies. However, nothing mentioned here is intended to replace Canada’s UNDRIP responsibilities to
    consult BEFORE doing anything at all, or allowing anything at all.
    We just think
    everything will work better if we are all at the same table during operational
    discussions. 
  • Importantly, local “citizen scientist” networks (through community associations,
    independent businesses, post-secondary institutions, non-governmental
    organizations, etc.) would be connected to our proposed Environmental Protection
    Networking Committees. The need for this became evident during the recent marine animal die-off crises in the Bay of Fundy. In previous decades, there were strong links between government conservation/enforcement staff and concerned
    community members. After various departmental restructurings in the latter 1900’s, this relationship diminished as bureaucracy grew. The remnants of this voluntary collaboration were killed by the previous government, who wanted no intruders to disturb their pro-industry agenda. The regional networking committees can be a conduit through which urgent connection between citizen scientists and personnel in federal frontline environmental protection departments is facilitated, as well as for preliminary discussion on proposals, etc.

On a different topic, we recommend that the criminal code be amended to provide
stiff consequences for industries who violate environmental regulations by, for
example: releasing deleterious substances into the land, air or water; damage to habitat of protected animals or plants; traveling too fast or carelessly through habitat or migration areas; or, otherwise doing substantial, irreversible, or irremediable damage to the environment.

Our greatest concern, overall is that democracy, accountability and transparency be the modus operandi of all government departments, branches and personnel who have responsibility for ensuring protection of our threatened and struggling natural  environment. That is how you will rebuild trust as well as allow your greatest allies, us – the grassroots people – to assist in protecting what is left for future generations. Therefore, information must be made available to people in affected areas NOT ONLY through digital transmission such as social media, websites, email, etc.

Many rural and many lower-income people in Canada do not use computers as  conveniently as most urban and highly-schooled Canadians. Yet, it is invariably the
poorer and more rural people who are living in what some term as proposed “sacrifice
zones,” where proponents or governments seek to do major resource extraction  developments. In other words these populations are “the most directly affected.”
Communications to the public must be published in print media, via flyer at local government offices, and through all other available person-to-person means, including seeking networking/outreach assistance with local environment, community, ngo, and Indigenous communities and groups.

This takes us back to our proposal for the Regional Multi-Stakeholder Committees. Provided with the flyers and information, the members of these committees can become
funnels for outgoing material, as well as incoming opinions and emergency response
collaborative organizing.

Notwithstanding any overlap with points made above, and in solidarity, we endorse the call made by West Coast Environmental Law for a “next-generation environmental assessment law for Canada that: works to achieve sustainability for both the environment and human well-being; assesses the cumulative impacts of development projects in a region; advances reconciliation and co-governance with Indigenous peoples; ensures more projects get assessed; aligns with Paris Agreement climate commitments; is transparent, accountable and includes meaningful public participation, including language rights.”

Submitted by:

Ann Pohl, Kent County NB Chapter, Council of Canadiansphoto of me
coc.kent.county.nb@gmail.com
506-785-2998 (home) / 506-521-0465 (cell)

 

 

  1. see: www.neb-one.gc.ca/bts/ctrg/mmrndm/ 2013fshrcnscnd-eng.html 
  2. see: https://kentcountynbenvironmentwatch.wordpress.com/2017/07/11/
    proposedlcmpaissues/

Federal proposal for “protecting” the Laurentian Channel does not do that.

Featured

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Herring provide a feed off Newfoundland, George Griffen.

Kent County NB Chapter, Council of Canadians
coc.kent.county.nb@gmail.com

July 11, 2017

The Honourable Dominic LeBlanc,
Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard
Attention: Christie Chute, Manager, Marine Conservation Program
Integrated Oceans Management, Fisheries and Oceans Canada
200 Kent Street, Room 12W127, Ottawa, ON K1A 0E6
Oceans-NL@dfo-mpo.gc.ca

RE: PRELIMINARY QUESTIONS & COMMENTS
concerning the proposed Marine Protected Area for the Laurentian Channel,
in reference to Canada Gazette Part I notice (June 24, 2017)

Dear Minister Dominic LeBlanc:

As you are aware, Minister LeBlanc, our Kent County NB Chapter of the Council of Canadians has written you several times previously about east coast marine life, coastal, and ocean protection issues.

We are relatively new to engaging with government on these matters, and learning as we go. After carefully reading the Canada Gazette notice re: designation of a Marine Protected Area in the Laurentian Channel (LCMPA) between mainland Canada and Newfoundland, we reviewed the concerns of esteemed expert organizations such as the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS), the Ecology Action Centre (EAC), World Wildlife Fund (WWF-Canada), and the Sierra Club.  As well, we have listened to comments from marine scientists in our own Council of Canadians network. At the same time, we have been reading through your government’s discussion paper Environmental and Regulatory Reviews (ERR) on how to “regain public trust” in regards to federal environmental protection processes.

We feel it is best to approach this particular topic by asking some questions. After we get the answers, we will be better able to write a submission on the LCMPA proposal.

The Science-Based Risk Assessment

The Gazette notice says that a “science-based risk assessment” was done in 2012. Regrettably, the notice does not provide a link or a citation to the aforementioned science-based risk assessment.

As keen observers of government, we know the early years of this decade were a time of great upheaval in your department. The government of that day, under Stephen Harper, tore apart federal environmental protection legislation, scientific research capacity, enforcement capacity, etc. and in fact muzzled many professionals whose researched conclusions did not synchronize with the Conservative government’s industrial development goals.

Your government has been working hard to change this culture of repression and narrow focus. ERR states, “There is a need for greater transparency around the science, data and evidence” (p1)… “in all aspects of environmental assessment and regulatory processes, from making data and science accessible to clearly communicating the basis for decisions” (p11). Sadly, this excellent objective is not met in the Gazette announcement of the LCMPA proposal. There is no route in the Gazette text to access information on the 2012 assessment, nor any other scientific evidence for the proposal as it presently stands.

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All community members who care about oceans, marine creatures and coastal life need to know the 2012 assessment’s terms of reference, content, personnel, and precise recommendations. Given that it was prepared during the Harper government era, we need to be certain that the assessment was done free from political intervention by truly qualified and unbiased external experts. We ask:

  1. Could you please provide us with a copy of this assessment material as well as the information about who prepared it, and their terms of reference?

Basics of the Laurentian Channel Marine Protected Area (LCMPA) Proposal

Life on our entire planet depends on the global community fully addressing the principles established at the United Nations’ Oceans Conference last month: to ensure sustainability of the world’s oceans and the life within them. For starters, oceans produce about 70% of our planet’s oxygen. The warming trend and other side-effects of climate change are already causing de-oxygenation of our oceans, which is already having disastrous impacts. Then there is the plastics issue. All species in the ocean are at some state of risk from one anthropogenic cause or another. For humans, food security and rising waters are serious concerns. The list of human-made damage continues to grow, and appears endless.

When members of our organization first heard about the “Marine Protected Areas” and the related plan to establish use-zoning districts in relation to the Bay of Fundy, we were not convinced. How could mapping right-of-ways and slender no-go zones do anything to address the ongoing oceanic ecoapocalypse? Ironically, the marine scientist whose encouraged us to appreciate potential strengths of MPAs and related strategies is Dr. Rodolphe Devillers of Memorial University in Newfoundland. Dr. Devillers is now speaking out about the limitations of this LCMPA proposal, in an article published in Hakai Magazine on May 9-17.

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When designing marine protection, conservation goals are absolutely paramount, and the task requires undivided focus. We understand that DFO is very vulnerable to industry pressure because of its multilateral mandated responsibilities. Your department is charged to work with diverse stakeholders: commercial fisheries, small independent fishers, ecotourism entrepreneurs, coastal resident communities, and environmental organizations. In many instances, middle ground between these sectors must be found, to accommodate survival of all creatures depending on the salt water for life, including human beings. However, when it comes to ocean, marine life and coastal protection, there is no middle ground on the need to establish firmly protected, inviolate areas in our salt water bodies. This is humanity’s only hope for a future.

Returning again to the just-released Government of Canada discussion paper Environmental and Regulatory Reviews, it acknowledges, “Government does not effectively communicate how science and data are weighed or contribute to federal decision making.” This is precisely the stumbling block we hit as we tried to understand why recent changes were made to the original proposed area and conservation goals of the proposed LCMPA. So we ask:

  1. Given Canada’s international and domestic commitments to protect 5% of our coastal waters by the end of 2017, why were the boundaries for the LCMPA cut by one-third?

  2. Why were ten species found in the Laurentian Channel, and originally identified as needing protection, not included in the final list of protected species for this MPA?

  3. Why were cod and redfish fisheries not given further conservation support?

  4. As suggested in a June 21, 2017 article, did some of these changes happen after “closed-door meetings” with petroleum and other industry officials?

  5. Were your own in-house regional marine experts at “DFO Science” asked to report on the original LCMPA concept and/or on the recent diminishment of the proposal?

If there is a DFO Science report on this proposal, please forward us a copy by return email.           (** Note to Reader: see video insert at the end of this letter. **)

Adaptive Management Zone

The apparent need for the term “adaptive” to describe Zones 2a and 2b is tangible evidence of the conflictive pressure industry puts on DFO, when DFO is trying to do serious conservation. This situation is illuminated by reasons offered for the term “adaptive” in the Gazette text. A five-year review will allow DFO to see if conservation measures can be eased (“adapted”) to suit industry’s objectives of increasing commercial catch areas and species. If a regular review process is to be established in the regulations for this proposed MPA, it should be a comprehensive public review allowing for broad, transparent stakeholder input to examine tightening conditions throughout the MPA in all Zones, as well as consideration of appropriate response to any fishery rebounds.

  1. Will you comprehensively itemize the terms of reference for this intended review, including what will be considered, how various stakeholders can engage, will we be assisted by DFO to do so, and assuring all of wide public opportunity to engage?

Incompatible Uses

There is no excuse, and no basis in bona fide marine environmental science, for the inclusion in a marine protected area of:

  • oil and gas development (82% of the proposed MPA);

  • seismic activity (88% of the entire proposed MPA in each year);

  • underwater cables (100%; and although they may have a small footprint when laid, the work to lay them wreaks havoc);

  • major shipping routes (100%; while this falls into Transport Canada’s (TC) mandate, there is no evidence of DFO having attempted to engage TC to reduce it); and,

  • directional oil and gas drilling (98%, and recent scientific evidence is that this contributes to earthquake activity).

The inclusion of these totally incompatible uses in your proposal returns us to our opening question, although now we ask more broadly:

  1. Will you please provide copies of the scientific marine conservation research on which you based these questionable decisions you have proposed for the LCMPA?

Canada has committed, internationally and domestically, to protect 5% of our coastal waters for ongoing, unlimited, intensive conservation by the end of 2017, and 10% of our coastal waters by 2020. Diminishing the extent and content of the protection offered by this MPA is not the way to reach our goals. It undermines the entire meaning and value of the process.

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Canada has historically been a world leader on matters of principle put forth by the United Nations, a place of honour lost during the previous federal administration. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appears willing to resume this mantle. Ocean protection is a very important place to reestablish our nation as a world leader for international social and economic justice, and vercome the decade of repression of science and environmental protection that the Harper government left as its legacy. We see DFO beginning to operate in a more open, transparent, and community-engaged manner. Now is the time to move “full speed ahead” with that. You will earn a lot of respect and support for doing marine protection the right way.

Thank you for this opportunity to make preliminary comments on, and ask questions about, the proposed LCMPA. We look forward to a prompt response to the above questions so that we can make a full submission before the final date, which we believe would be July 24, 2017 at the earliest.

Respectfully yours,

Ann Pohl
Kent County NB Chapter, Council of Canadians

copies: 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Dr. Rodolphe Devillers, Memorial University of Newfoundland
Sabine Jessen, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society
Susanna Fuller, Ecology Action Centre
Megan Leslie, World Wildlife Fund-Canada
Gretchen Fitzgerald, Sierra Club
Brent Patterson, Council of Canadians
Emma Lui, Council of Canadians
Oceans & Marine Life Chapters Network, Council of Canadians

Play this video. Hear what a DFO Scientist says about this ocean treasure region.
Then ask yourself: “Why is there no NL DFO Science report cited in the Canada Gazette announcement for this proposal?”
…Could that be that NL DFO Science has NOT been asked to report,
because they would not agree with the proposal as written?   Hmmm…. 

 

NEEDED: realtime reporting from DFO on injured fish near Bay of Fundy tidal turbine

Letter sent today, and now copied to this blog.
Please consider writing to any recipients re: your concerns about these matters. 

Kent County Chapter, Council of Canadians
coc.kent.county.nb@gmail.com
May 19, 2017

Regional Director General, Maritimes Region, DFO
PO Box 1006, 
1 Challenger Drive, Dartmouth NS B2Y 4A2
(transmitted by email <mary-ellen.valkenier@dfo-mpo.gc.ca>)

Dear Ms. Mary-Ellen Valkenier:

Ultimately, we would like to see an abundance of public faith in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) habitat and species protection services. This would mean we can all work together to protect our oceans and rivers for future generations. Building that positive relationship starts with accountability, openness, transparency, and – last but not least – communication.

For a week now, there have been social media reports from Nova Scotia about finding injured fish in the Minas Basin/Passage area. Here are just a few images of these fish with ugly, huge gashes on them.

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It is not at all clear what is causing this damage. Citizen scientists, fisherfolk and scholars seem to feel this is not caused by natural predators. Based on looking at the shape of the injuries, many people express the opinion that the damage was done by something metal. According to social media again, the fish who are being wounded are coming in from the Bay of Fundy, so they are necessarily swimming right past the Cape Sharp controversial experimental tidal turbine. The river fish, already upstream of the turbine, are fine.

We are pleased to learn, again from social media, that your department is taking this matter seriously and is sending investigatory personnel into the area promptly. We recall the apparent delays by DFO regarding investigatory personnel and resource allocation when the tragic herring die-off happened a few months ago in the upper Bay of Fundy. Many people believe this was related to the turbine, albeit in a different way. So, we are grateful for your diligent attention to this matter of the slashed fish in the same region.

In April 2017, Cape Sharp announced its turbine would be lifted from the Minas Passage by mid-month. We have recently learned that the turbine is still in its original location. According to social media, this is perhaps because something wrapped around the turbine has prevented its removal? It is also news on social media that the cables were cut. This would mean that the inadequate cameras that were there are no longer operating. However, although the turbine has been disconnected, another social media report says Cape Sharp has acknowledged that the blades are still turning, with the force of the world’s highest tides. The turbine is just outside the inlet where the injured fish are being found.

We also hear by social media that the Cape Sharp developer has announced its intention to place the turbine elsewhere in the Bay when they do manage to lift it. As the Bay of Fundy Inshore Fishermen’s Association commented earlier this week, if true this is of grave concern to all who are concerned for the sustainability of marine animals who live in the Bay of Fundy. It is also noteworthy that it seems Cape Sharp has not engaged in an Environmental Assessment process to relocate their turbine elsewhere in the Fundy.

We are alarmed that all this information is coming to our chapter via social media. Our chapter is well known to DFO as being concerned about coastal and marine issues in this region. While we are pleased to learn that your department is taking this new crisis seriously and responding promptly, we want to underscore that receiving this information second- or third-hand via Facebook is far from ideal.

To ensure public confidence in your efforts, the huge number of concerned people must be kept up-to-date on your efforts and your findings (or lack of them) in real time. We trust you will begin immediately to share daily updates online about: what is being looked at by whom; what procedures are being done in these investigations; what you are looking for; and, what you are learning. You eventually got around to doing this with the herring issue. Please start now with this crisis. You may also learn some useful things by opening this dialogue.

Thank you for your consideration of this request.

Respectfully yours,

Ann Pohl
Kent County NB Chapter, Council of Canadians
coc.kent.county.nb@gmail.com

copies to:

  • Council of Canadians Chapters across Canada 
  • Premier Stephen McNeil <premier@gov.ns.ca> 
  • The Hon Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Fisheries & Oceans Canada    <dominic.leblanc@parl.gc.ca> 
  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau <justin.trudeau@parl.gc.ca> 
  • Bay of Fundy Inshore Fisherman’s Association <colinsproul@hotmail.com>

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Earth Day Art Exhibit

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“Maybe we can ask these young people to run the country. I think they would do a better job of it.” 

In March 2017, our Kent County NB chapter of the Council of Canadians made a call out to children and youth in our region, asking for art to celebrate the upcoming Earth Day. Some of the young artists who responded used “Earth Day” as their topic.

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One of our hopes is that the opportunity to take part in our exhibit would give teachers a straight-forward way to engage their students in thinking about our environment. Some were delighted to be asked! In all we had 169 individual and group entries in our show. The  teacher of the Grade One class at l’école Marée Montante in Saint-Louis-de-Kent used the theme J’♥ la Terre with her students:

Our area is deeply interwoven with streams, rivers, wetlands, ponds and of course the shore. The water helps sustain many families, even by “recreational” fishing.  Not surprisingly, especially with the recent defence our communities mounted to stop deep shale hydraulic fracking here, quite a few of the entries focussed on The Water. Some of the artists did projects on species at risk. Others produced dramatic statements with their imagery or words. Some emphasized the importance of water. Without water, we do not have life on our planet.

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Four of the artists just wanted us to Save Earth, and here concern about fracking is mentioned specifically:

Here we see a wide range of current environmental issues on the minds and in the hearts of our young people, expressed deeply and beautifully:

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Two of our entries were about protecting the bees:

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Some of the artists highlighted The Trees:

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Recycling is another theme that the artists worked with — and they also addressed just doing something as simple as picking up garbage:

We offered six prizes for participation. All names were thrown into a hat. Three of the prizes were donated, and three came from our chapters’ piggy-bank. Six community leaders were invited to draw the names for the prizes. Shown below are five of them. Not shown is the principal of Bonar Law High School, who drew the sixth prize name.

From left to right below you can see Robert Francis (Counciller, Elsipogtog First Nation), Roger Doiron (le Maire de Richibucto), Randy Warman (Mayor of Rexton), Armin Arend (Chair of the Weldford Local Service District). In the bottom right photo you see Kevin Augustine (member of Kopit Lodge at Elsipogtog), with two chapter volunteers.

It was really exciting for us to bring together these community leaders, some of whom have never met, even though they leave right “next door” in a rural sense. Colonialism has left deep divides between the founding Peoples of our region. Although the determination to stop fracking here united almost everyone for all three founding cultures and newcomers as well, some are settling into their own silos now that this immediate threat is not so oppressive. So, to have these leaders come together to celebrate Earth Day with us — and spend a bit of time talking with each other — was terrific!

Just for the fun of it, here are some grouped shots of the art as it was hung on the walls in the room at the community centre. We had so many entries we could not even fit in the ones from Bonar Law High School, although their work is included in this show, and a special prize was added to thank them for participation.

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Back to the artwork, several of the artists submitted work on one-of-a-kind themes:
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In case you did not catch some of the fine print, alongside some outstanding creations there is a plea for a return to animal-powered farming and a dire warning about having to live under a dome if we do not take care of our planet.

The attendance was terrific. We did not count visitors but we did see several rushes, and we also had people coming in before the start time and for two hours straight! We certainly did not get enough photos of the attendees — nor their contact info, a big mistake for a group like ours. But hey, this was our first time and we had no idea how much response there would be. When we do it again, we will use a guest book for sure!

An undertaking like this is not possible without volunteers. Hip, hip, hooray! for the hours and dedication from our chapter’s co-leads on this project, Debbie Hopper and Denise Melanson. Also helping were borrowed hands Louise Melanson and Judy McKie from Fredericton, and chapter stalwarts Nancy Alcox and Ann Pohl.

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Where did all the greenery come from? Yes there was still snow on the ground when we did this exhibit. A community member donated 50 oak seedlings to be shared with participants and viewers.
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Here are the winning participants (one is a class, and one was a pair of kids working together) :


Wanting to leave the sharing of this wonderful undertaking on the highest note possible, here are a few remaining artists celebrating the beauty of our planetary home:

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One class group wrote a song that played with a powerpoint,
and we are trying to get that up on here too.

Some people critique Earth Day as meaningless, but for us in our community, it was a great initiative to bring people together across cultural and community boundaries, and to stimulate reflection on environmentalism among teachers, students and parents. Every little bit of awareness helps. In really rural areas, like much of Kent County, there are few opportunities like this for gentle, positive discussion about our current environmental crisis. Let the kids lead us! Next year we hope to do it again.

Institutional & Systemic Issues that Undermine DFO’s Capacity to Fulfill their Mandate to Protect Marine Life, Habitat, and Oceans

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On February 22nd, we recieved a response to our January 3rd Open Letter, from the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, the Hon. Dominic LeBlanc. It spoke to issues about the herring crisis that we asked almost two months ago. We already knew 95% of the information in his response. On the other hand, the Minister did not address any of the institutional and systemic issues we identified in our January 3rd letter. Below is our reply.

Council of Canadians – Kent County NB Chapter
coc.kent.county.nb@gmail.com

February 28, 2017

The Honourable Dominic LeBlanc
Minister of Fisheries, Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard
200 Kent Street, Station 15N100
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0E6

Dear Minister LeBlanc:

Thank you for your response. After November 22nd, it is evident that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) initiated a professional investigation of possible causes of the unprecedented herring die-off in the Bay of Fundy.

As you know from reading our file of correspondence and supporting documents, we are deeply concerned about the institutional and systemic issues highlighted by this crisis. Most of these matters were also emphasized in your November 2015 “Mandate Letter.” When you were appointed Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Prime Minister Trudeau stressed that “openness and transparency in government” is vital; and that “Government and its information should be open by default” because for “Canadians to trust their government, we need a government that trusts Canadians.” In the following paragraphs, we explore related points.

The Value of Peoples’ Knowledges and DFO Communications Strategy

Our position was and is that the people closest to the situation must be regarded as very important stakeholders. These are the little people who do not have huge profit margins or access to public money. Consequently, their standard and quality of life is directly affected by an event like the herringcide. As taxpayers, they pay government salaries. As coastal dwellers, they know the water and the creatures living in the water. Their perspectives deserve full respect and due regard.

For democracy to thrive, government must be accountable, responsive, and transparent. In our view, with so much potentially at stake, it was essential to address valid community concerns about the extraordinarily synchronistic timing between the die-offs and the turbine installation. The actions we advocated were: immediate visual monitoring of Minas Passage herring activity, prompt necropsy of beached herring further down the Bay, and swift reportage on what was learned. Instead, DFO staff simply continued to assert that the turbine was not a factor in the herring die-offs. This set no one’s mind at ease. It caused rancour and distrust that continues to this day, and will challenge relationships between government and community into the future.

Here are three examples of how it appears DFO did not show respect for the opinions and concerns of grassroots community members:

  1. Invites to two DFO briefings held in the first week of January were not inclusive of pertinent organizations – for example, the Bay of Fundy Inshore Fishermen’s Association (BFIFA) was not invited to either one of them.
  2. Our Kent County chapter did manage to phone-in to one such briefing on January 5th, as did one independent small-scale Minas Basin fisherman. Your moderator made several attempts to prevent our participation, finally telling us that we would have to wait to the end to ask any questions. She then tried to close the briefing without letting us speak. I had to remind her she had agreed to let us ask questions of the panel after all reporters were finished.
  3. Both the fisherman and I asked questions the expert panel could not answer at that moment. Promises were made to put that information on your website. I found out some time later that one of my requests was also raised by a staff person with an Environmental NGO invited to your January 6th briefing. Specifically, your staff agreed to provide data (ideally a map) of areas where die-offs happened, indicating what tests were done from there, complete with dates. The DFO “herring” webpage still does not have the promised details.

Why do we ask for this sort of information? As one example, its absence means the issue of anoxia is not satisfactorily addressed. Obviously, massive numbers of fish in small areas will reduce oxygen levels. Upstream conditions can exacerbate oxygen depletion, and the die-offs were at or near river mouths. Where were the oxygen samples taken? When will this online map be provided?

What Authority does DFO Have?

In April 2016, your Science Advisory panel published an extremely critical report about Cape Sharp’s environmental protection plan. Despite all the flaws noted by your experts, the province of Nova Scotia very quickly decided to let the turbine installation proceed. How does this fit with your department’s mandate to protect the creatures that live in the water and their habitat?

On January 5th we sent your office a supplementary email, via your Ministerial Correspondence staff Ms. Aileen Kenny (cc’d below). A 2013 National Energy Board (NEB) Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with DFO had just come to our attention. We asked that your response to our January 3rd letter also provide information about this. It gives the NEB override authority on decisions re: fisheries impacts and endangered species protection regarding NEB-regulated pipeline and power line energy development proposals. This totally undermines DFO’s mandate to protect marine animals and their habitats, so we specifically asked:

  1. Is this MOU still in place?
  2. Are there other similar MOU’s? 
  3. Or, is it now simply “standard practice” that DFO stands down on issues related to marine health where energy development projects are being implemented?

Your February 22nd response did not address the above huge issues. We look forward to further information on these questions.

The Damage Done to DFO by the Previous Federal Government

As your Mandate Letter recognizes, there were massive budget and mandate cuts to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans during Stephen Harper’s Conservative government. Personnel were moved and terminated. Scientists were muzzled. Apparently libraries of crucial scientific research were eliminated. You have a clear mandate from Prime Minister Trudeau to restore DFO staffing, mandate and regulations to the level necessary to truly protect marine life and habitat in Canada’s coastal and ocean environments. This is urgent. How fast are you moving on this?

The existence of the MOU mentioned above is evidence of the restructuring that happened during the Harper years. DFO’s full mandate for protection of marine animals and their habitat has not been restored if there exists a body of interdepartmental or intergovernmental formal or informal (“standard practice”) understandings that your Department’s scientists will routinely stand down to expedite energy development, or perhaps other resource industry, proposals. These operational policies must be rescinded. Has this been done?

Only very recently were DFO staff informed that they could now speak publicly on issues. Could the institutional culture of terror and silencing under the past government be the cause of the inadequate flow of information between the Department and the public-at-large during the herring crisis? Points made elsewhere in this letter demonstrate this lack and further examples can be provided. What was the cause of this shortcoming? Are frontline and research staff still worried whether they have executive support for speaking with the public and media? Is there a lack of capacity in DFO regions to engage with the public appropriately? Are staffing levels too low?

No Explanation Offered for the Herring Deaths

We want to make clear that Council of Canadians’ chapters never asserted the Cape Sharp turbine was the cause of the herringcide. In the December 14th backgrounder, ten possible causes are examined. We published this participatory social research because your Department was virtually mute on what it was doing about the herring die-offs during the first few weeks of the crisis. Our research was based on what was surmised or known at the time by those closest to the crisis, such as: fisherfolk, ecotourism operators, coastal residents, environmentalists, etc.

These coastal knowledge-holders could not find a basis to blame the “usual suspects” – as was proven by your department’s preliminary and subsequent conclusive testing. The major outstanding factor identified by our community allies and other coastal community members was the new turbine. The fact that its testing and commission period completely synchronized with the beginning of the herring die-off was evident to everyone.

As time went on, your Department staff continued to assert the turbine was not a factor because it was too far away. This did not alleviate concerns. The turbine as a major factor in the herringcide was a consistent theme in social media (including in comments in the petition I launched; now closed and signatures sent to the Prime Minister). The turbine as a possible cause was mentioned frequently in mainstream media reports throughout December 2016.  Further, as you know, on January 2, 2017 the Bay of Fundy Inshore Fishermens’ Association directly asked Cape Sharp Tidal Ventures to turn off the turbine “experiment,” to see if that could be a cause. (NOTE to the Reader: copies of this letter are available on request.)  The turbine issue was addressed further in our wrap-up document on the herringcide, but primarily in the context of your Department’s community relations deficits.

What we do know is that there was an extraordinary number of herring in the locations where the die-offs were seen. At the January 5th media briefing, this is the only fact on which the government staff expert panel confidently agreed. Some experts called this “densification” and others called it an excessive “aggregation.” Your staff offered no theory as to why this happened.

Where did these extra herring come from? The fishermen and other coastal residents have their theories related to the turbine. As you know some of these issues are before the courts. If there is no substantial Spring Herring Run in the Minas area of the Bay, we will know they were unfortunately correct. Our group sees another major unexamined factor, which we take up below.

What is DFO Doing Now?

It appears your staff have taken the position that after an event like this finishes, there is nothing more to be done. We disagree.

As an environmentalist who is not a fisherman or a scientist, I can reasonably surmise that climate change might have something to do with this extraordinary “densification.” The Gulf of Maine is perhaps the fastest warming portion of the world’s oceans. Ocean warming affects fish populations: for example, there is emerging research on the impact of warming waters on the New England cod fishery. As another example, considerable research is now emerging on marine species moving to cooler waters in response to chemical and temperature changes wrought by global warming of our oceans. It is noteworthy that this relevant and crucial research does not seem to originate in Canada. This feels wrong in this time of deepening ocean ecocrisis. As your Mandate Letter emphasizes, Canada has more coastal area to steward and protect than any other nation.

Something was responsible for the extraordinary densification of herring in the Bay of Fundy die-off locations. Perhaps it is neither the environmental disturbance caused by the turbine nor the warming temperature in the Gulf. We do know there are many recent instances of similar sudden, large, unexplained herring die-offs around the world. This suggests considerable probability mass herring die-offs will continue. Something must be done to help the stressed herring.

In Canada, DFO is responsible for protecting marine animals and habitats. In the face of the global ocean warming and acidification crisis, this means proactive engagement, not just reactive response. Has DFO initiated contact with other global marine scientists to collaborate on an international body of knowledge re: what might be done in the way of mitigation to assist herring? If not, is this due to a lack of resources, perhaps related to the gutting of all environmental programs by the Harper government? If there is a lack of resources, what is being done to rectify it?

One final point: on January 5th I confirmed to Ms. Aileen Kenny the email addresses for the final count of seven Council of Canadians’ chapter who support our Open Letter of January 3rd. In regards to your correspondence of February 22, 2017, I noted that not all had received your reply. I have forwarded your letter to Jean Louis Deveau of our Fredericton chapter (he is named but was not emailed on February 22nd), as well as Leo Broderick of our PEI Chapter, and Leticia Adair of our Saint John NB chapter. All are also cc’d in this reply. We look forward to your response.
Respectfully,

Ann Pohl

Council of Canadians – Kent County NB Chapter

Copies:

  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
  • Premier Brian Gallant
  • Premier Stephen McNeil
  • Ms. Aileen Kenny, Ministerial Correspondence, Fisheries and Oceans Canada
  • Council of Canadians signatories to the Jan. 3, 2017 “Open Letter to Political Leaders”
  • Supporters of the Council of Canadians – Kent County NB Chapter

For other news about what we are up to, please read this blog by Brent Patterson. Exciting news that it is now *30 chapters* of Council of Canadians seeking a meeting with the Prime Minister on better protection of coastal life, marine health, and our oceans. We have received confirmation that our communication has been passed to the PMO section that responds to requests for meetings. You will hear more on this…

 

Letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asking for a Meeting to Discuss Coastal Life & Ocean Protection

Kent County NB Chapter, Council of Canadians
coc.kent.county.nb@gmail.com

February 16, 2017

The Right Honourable, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau 
House of Commons 
Ottawa, Ontario Canada K1A 0A6

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau:

Following on your commitment to be accessible to grassroots Canadians, we are writing to ask for a face-to-face meeting with you. The topics of conversation for this meeting are generally summed up in the attached [linked] document, A Call Out to Mobilize for Coastal Life and Ocean Protection.

You can see by the also attached information regarding our petition Honour the Fundy’s Dead Herring that many thousands of Canadians join us in these concerns. As well, many more thousands of people around the world share these concerns, so Canada’s reputation as an environmentally conscious nation is at stake. Under separate cover, I am sending you the signatories to this petition.

The Mobilize document was prepared for our sister Council of Canadians chapters. We asked them to join us in a grassroots campaign to seek dialogue with you, concerning our mutual goal of improved policies and programs for coastal life and ocean protection.

Prime Minister Trudeau, as a first step we are asking you to meet with our representatives. You will note at the conclusion of this letter that 24 other chapters of the Council of Canadians are in support of our request.

Why do we ask to meet with you?

  1. A letter regarding the issues in this petition was sent, on January 3, 2017, to yourself, Fisheries and Oceans Minister Dominic LeBlanc, and the Premiers of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. We have not received any response to the issues raised in that letter.

  2. For Maritimes’ Council of Canadians chapters, these issues are very urgent. For example, many of us approach the time of the Herring’s Spring Run in the uppermost Bay of Fundy with some dread, fearing a repeat of the events of November/16 to January/17. For more on the herring die-off issues, please see this link from December 2016 and this one from January 2017.

  3. As Prime Minister of Canada, you are the one ultimately responsible for stewardship of our land and waters. It is on your shoulders that the fiduciary duty of care for future generations rests.

The petition closes today. We are notifying all signatories to the petition about our request for a meeting with you. We are certain a report on what is discussed in our meeting will be eagerly anticipated by the more than 70,000 people who signed the petition.

We agree with you that your government must be:

  • transparent and accountable to the electorate;

  • accessible to all people in Canada regardless of geography, culture or socioeconomic class;

  • a responsible world citizen on environmental issues at this crucial time in human history.

We, the undersigned, hope you will agree to meeting with our Council of Canadians’ community representatives at your earliest possible convenience.

Respectfully yours,

Ann Pohl,  Council of Canadians – Kent County NB Chapter

Co-signatories:

  • Ken Kavanagh, Council of Canadians – St. John’s NL Chapter
  • Anne Levesque, Council of CanadiansInverness County NS Chapter
  • Marion Moore, Council of CanadiansSouth Shore NS Chapter
  • Betty Wilcox, Council of CanadiansPEI Chapter
  • Barbara Quigley, Council of CanadiansMoncton NB Chapter
  • Garry Guild, Council of Canadians – Fredericton NB Chapter
  • Abdul Pirani, Council of Canadians – Montreal PQ Chapter 
  • Phil Soublière, Council of Canadians – Ottawa ON Chapter
  • Diane Ballantyne, Council of Canadians – Centre Wellington ON Chapter 
  • Lynne Rochon, Council of Canadians – Quinte ON Chapter 
  • Roy Brady, Council of Canadians – Peterborough and Kawarthas Chapter 
  • Hart Jannson, Council of Canadians – Halton ON Chapter 
  • Fiona McMurran,Council of Canadians South Niagara ON Chapter 
  • Lin Grist, Council of Canadians Guelph ON Chapter 
  • David Lubell, Council of Canadians Kitchener-Waterloo ON Chapter 
  • Doug Hayes, Council of Canadians Windsor-Essex ON Chapter 
  • Faye MacFarlane, Council of Canadians Northumberland ON Chapter
  • Terri MacKinnon, Council of Canadians Sudbury ON Chapter 
  • Mary Robinson, Council of Canadians Winnipeg MB Chapter 
  • Scott Blyth, Council of Canadians Brandon/Westman MB Chapter

  • Elaine Hughes, Council of Canadians Quill Plains SK Chapter
  • Lois Little, Council of Canadians NWT Chapter

  • Suzy Coulter, Council of Canadians – Chilliwack BC Chapter
  • Lynn Armstrong, Council of Canadians – Delta-Richmond BC Chapter
  • Barbara Pollock, Council of Canadians – Victoria/Halton BC Chapter
  • Donna Cameron, Council of Canadians – Cowichan Valley BC Chapter  
  • Alice de Wolff, Council of Canadians – Comox Valley BC Chapter
  • Patricia Cocksedge, Council of Canadians Powell River BC Chapter
  • Rich Hagensen, Council of Canadians Campbell River BC Chapter

( ^^ This list was updated on February 28th.
Five more chapters were added. More are still considering.)

**UPDATE** On February 21st, we received a communication from the Prime Minister’s office saying our request has been passed on to the appropriate section. Today (Feb 28th) a supplementary communication was sent to the PM with the additional endorsing Chapter names, and a PDF that contains the 72,600+ names of people who signed our petition (mentioned above, now closed). We hope he will agree to meet with us soon.** 

Copies of this letter were sent to co-signing chapters, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (Dominic LeBlanc), and to others in the Council of Canadians. Notice of the letter being sent was posted on the petition mentioned above. Now we wait to see what response this will get. Stay tuned. If you want to make sure you stay in touch on this issue, email a request to coc.kent.county.nb@gmail.com to be added to our Salt Waters Protection email list. Wela’liek, Merci and Thank You. Water is Life. 

download-11Water Is Life.

Chi Miigs & credit to Isaac Murdoch for the generous donation
of his artwork to the movement.