Millbrook First Nation, Nova Scotia -- Last night's Alton Gas open house in Millbrook First Nation was a heated affair. Community members from Sipekne'katik First Nation and Millbrook First Nation, along with non-Indigenous community from the local area, showed up by the dozens, and largely expressed their collective displeasure at the potential gas cavern project, recently approved by the province of Nova Scotia.
Central to the displeasure of some was the consultation process, or lack thereof, that Alton Gas and the Crown had engaged in, prior to issuing the go-ahead permits for the project. Sipekne'katik First Nation continues to maintain that it does not consider the consultation process to be over, and has requested that community members be allowed a referendum vote on the project. Millbrook First Nation, while engaged formally in the consultation process, has also requested a community referendum.
The Nova Scotia government has made it clear that the two Mi'kmaq communities do not have a right to a referendum, under the province's interpretation of the Duty to Consult policy. This is a dangerous stance to take on a highly contentious issue, and it bears further examination.
Towards that end, I spoke with Tim Church, vice-president of Stakeholder Relations at AltaGas, the parent company of Alton Gas. Since June 2015, Church has been the man at the helm of the consultative process, on behalf of AltonGas, meaning that right now, he's man with a lot to think about.
Granted, he could follow the province's stance and ram this project through, referendum or further consultation be damned. And he and his company could do this with the Crown's blessing, as it were. On the other, if the mood last night was any indication, there will be resistance to this project.
I caught up with Tim at last night's meeting and spoke to him about the consultation process thus far, and where he saw this project heading in the future.
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