Fight for the river comes to a head

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By Abby Cameron and Pat Healey

FORT ELLIS: Three Grassroot Grandmothers saw themselves taken into police custody on April 10.

As the Stewiacke RCMP enforced an injunction which sees demonstrators being moved to a designated area for protesting, the road was blocked off.

Nova Scotia RCMP attended a site on Riverside Rd. in Fort Ellis, Stewiacke, to enforce a court-ordered injunction against demonstrators impeding a natural gas project. The Order included obligations for the RCMP to enforce the terms of the Injunction.

At about 9 a.m., the Division Liaison Team, which is a team of specially trained RCMP members who build relationships with various groups/communities to mitigate conflict, spoke with demonstrators in the hope the terms of the Injunction Order would be met voluntarily. The demonstrators were open to dialogue, which was maintained for more than three hours.

When it was determined that the terms of the injunction were not going to be met voluntarily, discussions continued and members took three women into custody without incident for Civil Contempt of an Injunction Order.

A temporary exclusion zone and road closure were in place earlier today, but the areas are now open. We will maintain an increased presence in the area to monitor the situation; resources will be evaluated on an ongoing basis.

The Nova Scotia RCMP is impartial in this dispute and respects the Indigenous culture and their connection to Mother Earth, the company’s lawful right to complete its mandated work and the Court. Our primary goal is the safety and security of all involved while preserving the right to peaceful, lawful and safe demonstration within the terms set by the Supreme Court in the Injunction Order.

Dorene Bernard, a Grassroot Grandmother spoke in front of the road block.

“We still believe that they shouldn’t be able to do any work on that site, because they don’t have the valid permits,” she said. “There’s still regulations being drafted to allow them to do the work there.

“And while that is in process, they shouldn’t be there either. They shouldn’t have gotten this far already, with this project given that they don’t have valid permits.”

(Healey photo)

She said the fight has to continue for them.

“We have a long fight ahead of us. We know we are right,” said Bernard. “We know this is our treaty right. This is our inherent right and it should be all Nova Scotian’s right to stand up and protect water.”

Paul Jenkinson, who came from Tatamagouche to show support for the Alton Gas water protectors, spoke to the media saying why he made the trek over. He is with Sustainable Northern N.S.

Paul Jenkinson. (Healey photo)

“When governments are captured corporations, when they consistently make rulings that are clearly in favour of the corporate agenda, when they do that you just have to say the residents are not being well represented,” said Jenkinson, a social worker. “There’s clear environmental evidence that the salt in this river will be detriment to the fish. The government has an obligation to protect the environment.

“In this case they’re ignoring the science and I would challenge Minister Margaret Miller to produce good science that would refute what I just said.”

He said citizens need to show up as it’s not just a Mi’kmaq issue, it’s an issue all Nova Scotians should be outraged about.

RCMP Public Information Officer Cpl. Jen Clarke confirmed three arrests were made.

She said police were on site at about 8 a.m. and were going to be there until things were resolved. Fort Ellis Road was reopened shortly after 2 p.m.

Water protectors and their supporters, including some from King’s College, showed up at the Enfield RCMP detachment where the three were taken to. They were released a short time later to much celebration outside. A rally was held that evening outside Province House.

Jolene Marr took issue with Cpl. Clarke calling the road closure a public safety issue.

“The real public safety issue is that they’ve never done this anywhere else in the world, why do they want to do it here in Nova Scotia,” said Marr. “Why do they want to do it in our river that our kids fish out of every year, where they get their food from. Every Nova Scotian needs to understand this.

“The real public safety issue is Alton Gas and all you taxpayers paying for these police officers to be here for absolutely nothing. There’s more things they can be proactively doing within our communities.”

Michelle Paul, a water protector agreed that the fight is long from over.

“Everybody needs water,” she said. “We need our river safe, that river has a job to do.

“The Environment Minister is the one who is supposed to protect and and speak for all of these things, but we see her decision making is flawed, big time.”

Paul said she hopes more people read, research, and know more about this project.

“It’s insanity and all Nova Scotians should be just as upset as me.”