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As Gas Cavern permits issued, Sipekne'katik First Nation walks from Assembly of Nova Scotia Chiefs

Province dishonours Crown by denying First Nation community the right to a referendum

by Miles Howe

Because it's 2016? - While Trudeau poses for photo ops with Indigenous leaders across the country, Nova Scotia's premier Stephen McNeil has denied Sipekne'katik First Nation the right to a general referendum on a highly contentious Gas cavern scheme. In response, Sipekne'katik First Nation today determined it would leave the Assembly of Nova Scotia Chiefs. [Photo: Miles Howe]
Because it's 2016? - While Trudeau poses for photo ops with Indigenous leaders across the country, Nova Scotia's premier Stephen McNeil has denied Sipekne'katik First Nation the right to a general referendum on a highly contentious Gas cavern scheme. In response, Sipekne'katik First Nation today determined it would leave the Assembly of Nova Scotia Chiefs. [Photo: Miles Howe]

Sipekne'katik First Nation, Nova Scotia -- It's been quite a day for the Mi'kmaq community of Sipekne'katik First Nation, located on the shores of the Shubenacadie River. Earlier in the day, the province of Nova Scotia announced that it would be issuing the remaining permits needed by Alton Gas, so that the company might discharge brine from hollowed out salt caverns, back into the Shubenacadie River.

This, despite a request from January 12th, that prior to moving forward, Sipekne'katik First Nation might have the opportunity to take this highly contentious issue to its gerneal membership for a referendum.

The province took a bold stance on the issue and on January 19th, notified Sipekne'katik First Nation that it would be moving ahead with permit issuance, despite their request. Then, today, the racist undertones that apparently embody Nova Scotia's provincial interpretation of the Crown 'Duty to Consult' policy were laid bare. Sipeknekatik First Nation was informed that community referendums are not part of the provincial duty to consult, so, in effect, general membership's opinion be damned.

And, there's more.

The province relied heavily upon the argument that it had fulfilled its consultation requirements with a group known as the KMKNO, which represents twelve of the thirteen Mi'kmaq communities in Nova Scotia, Sipekne'katik First Nation excepted. The KMKNO, has signed off on the project. That Sipekne'katik First Nation, in this case, stands to be the community most impacted by the Alton Gas project, was apparently lost on the bureaucrats at the provincial Department of Aboriginal Affairs.

Understandably, this has created a degree of inter-community tension in Mi'kma'ki. Sipekne'katik First Nation, today, after learning the news of their community being thrown under the proverbial consultative bus by the KMKNO, took the further step of removing themselves from the Assembly of Nova Scotia Chiefs, which, for all intents and purposes, is made up of the same membership as the KMKNO.

Sipekne'katik First Nation now stands on its own.

Due to the shoe string budget of our website, you'll need to be on a laptop or home computer to stream the attached audio interview with Chief Rufus Copage of Sipekne'katik First Nation. If you're on a phone or tablet, you can download the file. Sorry!

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