Nine Mi’kmaq communities in New Brunswick are part of a court challenge of an oil exploration project off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador.
George Ginnish is the chief of the Natoaganeg First Nation and he is also the co-chair of Mi’gmawe’l Tplu’taqnn Incorporated which represents the nine communities.
He said they are concerned about what a potential oil spill from the Bay du Nord project could do to salmon stocks.
“The downstream impacts can be huge,” Ginnish said. “We look at the horror stories like the Gulf of Mexico, the oil blow out there, things like that they really concern us.”
The project is under the direction of Norwegian-owned company Equinor.
As the case got underway at a federal court in downtown Ottawa on Wednesday, a group of demonstrators led by Sierra Club Canada gathered outside.
Conor Curtis of Sierra Club said Canada is simply not equipped to handle an oil spill a project like this could produce.
“Canada as a country is just not prepared to deal with a major oil spill,” he said. “They never have been, in terms of the previous oil spills that have happened off Newfoundland and Labrador and if there were to be a major oil spill, the technology that would be needed to deal with that spill could take anywhere from 18 to 36 days just to get on site. Let alone actually capping that.”
Ginnish added that MTI is also frustrated that once again First Nations were not properly consulted on a development project.
“We’ve had it happen too many times in the past where government will come to us late in the game without adequate resources for full consultation. Here’s a few dollars for a table top. Let’s do something really quick that will address your claims. It doesn’t.”
Curtis said for those who think the Trudeau government is green-friendly, may want to think again.
“I don’t think you can call yourself green and at the same time be developing new oil projects. There just isn’t room for it,” said Curtis. “And a colleague and researcher who’s done research on this said at one point, ‘you know, talking about green oil is like talking about filtered cigarettes. They both cause cancer. There is no room for them if you want to avoid that.’ And in this case, the cancer is climate change.”
After demonstrating in front of the federal court, the group of environmentalists moved a few blocks on to the Norwegian Embassy.