Statement from MTI Co-Chairs, Chief George Ginnish and Chief Rebecca Knockwood
Mi’gmawe’l Tplu’taqnn Inc. (MTI) an organization which represents eight Mi’gmaq communities in New Brunswick Canada on consultation matters has joined Ecojustice in a lawsuit to overturn the federal government’s approval of the controversial $12-billion Equinor Bay Du Nord oil and gas project off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador.
A single oil spill could decimate species that migrate through the spill area to areas where they are harvested for food, social or ceremonial reasons, most notably the Atlantic Salmon, a species of cultural significance to Mi’gmaq communities.
“Our relationship with salmon is deep and historic, as it is essential for cultural expression. The continuation of the salmon fishing practice through traditional means creates opportunities for knowledge sharing and the expression of Indigenous values to provide for the community. We harvest salmon as part of our inherent rights for food, social, and ceremonial needs,” said MTI Co-Chair Chief Rebecca Knockwood of Amlamgog.
MTI fishers with commercial and communal-commercial fishing licenses could also be affected by accidental spills if fishing areas are closed, gear and vessels are fouled, and there is a reduction in the availability and marketability of commercial fish products.
We know that the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador is an essential area for Atlantic Salmon migration. Being that Atlantic Salmon are already recognized as a species at risk and categorized as being in the critical zone by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, we are working to keep removals from all sources to the lowest possible level until the rock has cleared this zone, with no tolerance for preventable decline.
The Mi’gmaq Chiefs are concerned that the approval of the Bay Du Nord project contradicts our negotiated treaties in which we were promised that we would be allowed to continue to hunt and fish as we had for thousands of years, and to trade in these goods.
The federal government has a full constitutional duty to meaningfully consult with Indigenous communities and they have chosen to move forward with the Bay Du Nord project without input and direction from affected Indigenous communities. This includes rushed timelines, and lack of notification and opportunities to be included at key junctures in the assessment process said MTI Chief George Ginnish of Natoaganeg.
Their “assessment process” did not include the marine shipping of oil on tankers into Canadian waters. Nor did it include any modelling around the potential spill trajectories if a tanker were to spill along any of its routes within Canadian waters fails to account for the massive downstream emissions the project will generate. Minister Guilbeault did not consider these downstream emissions and went forward with approving the project and imprudently determined that it is “not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects.”
If the federal government continues to neglect its duty to meaningfully consult Indigenous communities and chooses not respect the need to implement our treaty rights in a way that is respectful of our rights to self-determination they are continuing to systematically exclude us from the fishery and right to a moderate livelihood while putting our traditional lands and waters at serious risk.