In 2013, the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs established a Hydraulic Fracturing Committee to conduct research on the potential impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing and the effects of this type of activity on the traditional territory of Mi’kma’ki. On June 25, 2014 the Hydraulic Fracturing Committee met with Dr. Wheeler, Chair of the Expert Panel on Hydraulic Fracturing and his team, at the Assembly’s request to voice the clear opposition to Hydraulic Fracturing, and all related activities from the perspective of the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia.
The Hydraulic Fracturing Committee, which has representatives from Kwilmu’kw Maw-klusuaqn Negotiation Office (KMKNO), Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq (CMM), Union of Nova Scotia Indians (UNSI) and Unama’ki Institute of Natural Resources (UINR), is led by Chief Paul (PJ) Prosper, Lead Chief of the Assembly’s Energy Portfolio.
At this meeting, the Committee presented concerns on the health effects, the lack of science in reports and the unknown environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing. They were also instructed, from the Assembly, to make it clear that the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia stand firm against all types of fracturing activity in our traditional territory.
Elder Albert Marshall, UINR, set the tone for the day’s discussion in his opening remarks when he stated that, “what is missing overall in [the Province’s] initiative is an opportunity for us, as Mi’kmaq people, to share our stories as to how things should unfold…so that it will never compromise our way of life….The actions of today, cannot and will not, compromise the next seven generations and their ability to sustain themselves and to enjoy the beauty that the Creator has given us.”
Understanding the Mi’kmaq Nation’s perspective on Hydraulic Fracturing and how passionate everyone feels about the impacts this type of activity can have on our lands and waters, the Committee continued to present on why the Province should not allow this form of drilling to ever happen in Nova Scotia.
Diana Campbell, UNSI, presented on the current health concerns in our Aboriginal communities and stated that before any decisions are made in regards to fracturing, it is critical that we all have a complete understanding of how “environmental contaminates from the fracking process [can enter] into the food chain” so that, the Mi’kmaq especially, will know how this type of drilling could impact the harvest and reliance on traditional foods.
Presentations continued with Jim Walsh, CMM, who further discussed the lack of scientific data that exists on the long-term effects of hydraulic fracturing. Walsh stated that, “a number of organizations claim that there are no documented cases of well contamination in North America from hydraulic fracturing operations, however a simple Google search will show this to be not true – there are a number of documented cases”. Walsh’s presentation clearly demonstrated that despite the lack of data, there is no question that the concerns are great.
Michael Cox, KMKNO, next to present, also reiterated the fact that there is a lack of data on hydraulic fracturing and that the comparisons between conventional and unconventional gas extraction in Dr. Wheeler’s report was misleading. Cox stated that the Assembly was concerned about the “permanent ecological conversion” that hydraulic fracturing has on the lands and how this type of change to the landscape could have permanent impacts to the traditional lifestyle of the Mi’kmaq. Cox furthered his point when he said that “we need to make investment into the research and monitoring of environmental impacts” – after all why would we allow something to take place on our lands when there are so many unknowns.
KMKNO’s Consultation Liasion Officer, Twila Gaudet, provided the final formal presentation and made it clear that meaningful Consultation will be required before any permits or approvals are granted, and that all of the Mi’kmaq concerns must be addressed before any decisions are made on hydraulic fracturing. Gaudet echoed what was said by other Committee members as she discussed the Assembly’s Resolution opposing any hydraulic fracturing activity in Nova Scotia.
Chief Prosper concluded the day’s discussion by providing Dr. Wheeler’s panel with some clear tasks for going forward. He stated that “as technology pushes the limits of what we can do, and where we can go, we must also ask the question on whether or not it is appropriate”. Chief Proper continued by stating that, “there needs to be a more green approach to meeting our existing energy needs…the uncertainties surrounding the practice hydraulic fracturing, do not respect our legal and human rights to the lands and resources”.
The Assembly will continue to voice their concerns on fracking to the Province and will see that their Committee is in place to help further the research so that the Mi’kmaq have a better understanding of the potential impacts that hydraulic fracturing can have on our lands and waters.
Kwilmu’kw Maw-klusuaqn Negotiation Office has been working to ensure the claims for Aboriginal rights and title are recognized, on behalf of the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs and the Mi’kmaq through the ongoing Made-In-Nova Scotia Process and as well as under the Terms of Reference for a Mi’kmaq-Nova Scotia-Canada consultation process.