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.

Screenshot at 2019-05-10 23-08-48

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.

 

THIS IS GOING TO HURT

We are in a real mess.

Continue reading

NBASGA letter to Minister Danny Soucy – re: AIS EIA application 1390, to dump fracking waste water in Dieppe

New Brunswick Anti Shale Gas Alliance, Inc.
jimemberger@yahoo.com

September 1, 2014
Hon. Danny Soucy, Minister of Environment and Local Government
Marysville Place, P O Box 6000
Fredericton, NB E3B 5H1
danny.soucy@gnb.ca

Re: EIA Application 1390

Dear Minister Soucy:

I am writing on behalf of the New Brunswick Anti Shale Gas Alliance (NBASGA ) to comment on the application for Environmental Impact Assessment review by Atlantic Industrial Services (AIS). The proponent proposes to dispose of “flowback” waste water from unconventional hydraulic “fracking” operations into the sewer system that serves Dieppe, Moncton and Riverview. From there it will travel into the Petitcodiac River, and subsequently disperse into the Bay of Fundy, travelling up and down with the tides until eventually it flows out of the Bay.

I will mention a few overarching points and then raise a number of issues that are of major concern to the many New Brunswickers who are part of NBASGA. For more information about NBASGA and what we stand for, I invite you to view our website at http://www.noshalegasnb.ca/.

1.  Under the Clean Environment Act – Regulation 87-83, specifically Schedule A; Undertakings 87-108.m, there appears to be an absolute requirement – i.e. an automatic trigger by legislation – for a full, public Comprehensive EIA Review in regards to any industrial project that includes a waste disposal system.

2.  I realize your department is at a preliminary stage with Application 1390, but so far your department has not been forthcoming about engaging the multiple parties that would be brought into this comprehensive public review. It is my understanding that the City of Dieppe only received a copy of the proponent’s proposal from a concerned private citizen, about two months after the application was filed with your department. Further it is my understanding that the communities of Moncton and Riverview, who share a water/sewage system with Dieppe, only learned about Application 1390 from the media coverage of the August Dieppe City Council meeting where this was discussed. These procedural shortcomings suggest a reluctance to fully disclose to key partners, which is not at all in the spirit of the legislation.

3. Please take this as official notice that NBASGA wants to be involved and informed at every stage of this application. We look forward to having some of our following questions and concerns addressed through the mandated Comprehensive EIA Review process.

4.  Something does not add up properly: the proposed facility has only been granted a six month license to operate in this location, while the proposal calls for approximately three years of work. It has been said that this facility was out of operation for a period of time before Application 1390 was developed. To address public concerns, more information is required on the equipment at the site, the operational condition of the facility at the site, and the reason the licence is only valid until November 6, 2014.

Now I will turn to other details that are of great concern to NBASGA members.

5.  What are the Government of New Brunswick’s standards, processes and technology for assessing and monitoring the accumulation of low-level radioactivity and/or toxicity in bodies of water to which industrial effluent has been added? Please point us in the direction of these standards or if they are not yet in place, please advise when they will be.

6.  Apparently, there has never been any independent testing of the supposedly “treated” wastewater that is being held in Nova Scotia, as AIS awaits a decision on this application. AIS always took the samples and submitted the samples themselves.  The history of dealing with the troublesome wastewater produced by fracking is replete with examples of companies evading or breaking regulatory requirements. NBASGA is not accusing AIS of any such actions, but we note that the history of this wastewater shows that the company did not initially disclose the nature of radioactive and toxic contents of wastewater to the municipal sewage treatment systems with whom it was working in Nova Scotia. Will New Brunswick authorities require an independent, arms-length third party retest of this water prior to the application being approved to begin transporting it to Dieppe?

7.  How can we be certain that the chemicals being tested by AIS or anyone else constitutes the complete list of chemicals used in those particular fracking operation mixtures that created this wastewater?

♦  First, trade secrets often overrule public interest, so that the precise cocktail of chemicals used is often unknown to anyone but the fracking company.

♦  Second, when chemicals combine they can often combine to become something else, perhaps more sinister than the original compounds.

  Third, from the document, OUT OF CONTROL: Nova Scotia’s Experience with Fracking for Shale, we see that of the chemicals that were identified by AIS many have toxic or carcinogenic properties.

•  Of the 22 identified chemicals used in Hants County: two are known to adversely affect reproduction; eight are potential mutagens; eight are potential carcinogens; and eleven have the potential to cause adverse effects to ecological integrity.

•  Of the 31 identified products (chemical mixtures) used in Hants County: five are associated with adverse effects on reproduction; five contain potential mutagens; eight contain potential carcinogens; and eight can cause adverse ecological impacts.

•  In the five years that this water has been sitting open to the elements in Nova Scotia holding ponds, the chemicals have been diluted by water, potentially mixed with other wastewater or had time to break down. Is the complete list of fracking chemicals originally in the wastewater known? Are they toxic? Have any combined to form new hazardous compounds?

 How will the province of New Brunswick assure the public that the complete composition of all chemicals in each load of wastewater is known prior to its transport, and that the proponent actually has the industrial capacity to treat and remove all these dangerous substances from that load of wastewater?

8.  On standards and radioactivity: One reason why Nova Scotia originally refused the wastewater was due to the level of radioactivity. Dieppe has no standards for radioactivity in its by-laws. Canadian federal standards have not been updated for decades although more stringent guidelines are coming into effect for municipal treatment plant shortly – raising the additional question of will the water still meet the stipulations of those guidelines? If not, what happens then? While regulations have not kept pace, during recent decades much scientific research has been done on the negative cumulative effects of low-level radiation. Peer reviewed studies done in Pennsylvania have found that treated fracking wastewater often still exceeded US radioactivity standards.  What will New Brunswick do in terms of research and testing to address these concerns?

9.  What went wrong in Nova Scotia and why is there such urgency for disposal? In the EIA application, the rationale for the project hinges on the holding ponds at Debert being full, and AIS being uncertain of the success of an experimental project which saw two million litres diverted for “incineration” at a NS cement plant in NS. As they have completed the test of two million litres, should we assume the urgency to dispose of water in Dieppe means this was unsuccessful? We can guess that the two million litres delivered by AIS to the Lafarge Cement Kiln at Brookfield for experimental disposal apparently did not work as planned, as Lafarge didn’t take any more.  Does this mean that it could not be scrubbed of hazardous chemicals even using this process? Why did this experiment not work? Is the reason the same as the reason that Nova Scotia municipalities continue to refuse to accept the wastewater? This is important information that must be disclosed so that the public can feel a reasoned decision is being made based on good science. Also, has the urgency of this request and the amounts of wastewater actually been verified?

  If the wastewater contains any contaminants or radioactivity, the tidal bore would take some of the waste upriver as far as Salisbury and leave any radioactive particles or residue chemicals in the muddy banks along the way. The same situation applies to downriver.  Halls Creek and all tidal streams will be affected. As the process continues, any chemicals and radioactive particles will gradually accumulate over time, becoming more toxic and threatening aquatic life. All these communities and the people who live in them are entitled to the full disclosure and engagement process offered by a Comprehensive EIA Review.

  Who will pay? Some of these tests take several weeks, and that is just one factor that makes the essential independent, arms length testing expensive. So, of course as taxpayers, we would like to know who will pay for it? Keeping things safe costs a lot of money, so there is a lot of incentive for companies to do as little as possible and to weaken regulations as much as possible. That is why we must remain cautious and vigilant.

  Protecting the unique Bay of Fundy environment, on which many, many Maritimers rely for their livelihood: We believe that The Nova Scotia Department of Environment stated that they would not approve release of wastewater to an aquatic environment until tests had been done in the particular environment in question, which in this case is the Bay of Fundy. Clearly N.S. had its reasons for saying this, so I ask if your government has undertaken or commissioned such testing?

 In view of all the serious issues we have raised, we ask that you immediately make the determination to require Proposal 1390 to undergo a full, public Comprehensive EIA Reviewed due to the human health and environmental considerations arising from the intended activity.

We also ask that you invite the Chief Medical Officer of Health or her departmental designate to join this Comprehensive EIA Review as a lead partner. We make this request because of the very deep concerns she expressed about human health impacts of these industrial effluents, and the province’s capacity shortfall to deal with this matter, in her report Chief Medical Officer of Health’s Recommendations Concerning Shale Gas Development in New Brunswick (October 2012).

Thank you for your consideration of these points. NBASGA looks forward to your prompt response.

Sincerely yours,

Jim Emberger, Spokesman,  New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance

copied to:

  • Scott Sangster, Director of Health, Safety & Environment, Envirosystems (AIS) SSangster@envirosystems.ca
  • Gary Drescher, Project Manager, Dillon Consulting GDrescher@dillon.ca
  • Shawn Hamilton, Project Manager, Environmental Assessment Section, Department of Environment and Local Government Shawn.Hamilton@gnb.ca
  • Dr. Eilish Cleary, NB Chief Medical Officer of Health Eilish.Cleary@gnb.ca
  • Karen White, Director, Healthy Environments, Health Karen.White@gnb.ca
  • Hon. David Alward, Premier of New Brunswick David.Alward@gnb.ca
  • Hon. Craig Leonard, Minister of Energy and Mines Craig.Leonard@gnb.ca
  • Stephanie Merrill, Conservation Council of New Brunswick, water@conservationcouncil.ca
  • Anita Cannon Conservation Council NB Southeast, ccnbsoutheast@gmail.com
  • Margo Sheppard, Council of Canadians, Fredericton, NTNB1@bellaliant.net
  • Angela Giles, Council of Canadians Atlantic Region, agiles@canadians.org

also copied to Moncton Municipal Government:

also copied to Dieppe Municipal Government:

also copied to Riverview Municipal Government:

also copied to Members of NBASGA (shaleinfo.nb@gmail.com):

  • Clean Energy Sussex
  • Concerned Citizens of Penobsquis
  • Cornhill and Area Residents Assn
  • Council of Canadians, Saint John
  • Darlings Island
  • Kent South No Shale Gas
  • Hampton Water First
  • Memramcook Action
  • Notre Environnement, Notre Choix
  • Petitcodiac Watershed Alliance
  • Sustainable Energy Group
  • Tantramar Alliance Against Hydro-Fracking
  • Taymouth Environmental Action
  • Upper Miramichi Stewardship Alliance
  • Upriver Environment Watch
  • Water and Environmental Protection for Albert County