Around this time of year, at a certain time of morning, if the weather is clear, as you drive south of South West Margaree, down the hill from Gillisdale and into Scottsville, Lake Ainslie smacks you in the face. Rather, the sun, leaping off the expanse of water, is what grabs you by the eyeballs and wrenches your attention from the yellow line streching in front of your car on the East Lake Ainslie road, before giving it back to you as you leave the lakeshore and wind your way into Whycocomagh. Yes: the sight of it is that beautiful.
A week ago, last Sunday, as Lake Ainslie sparkled, 50 kilometres down the road, 38 people lined the Trans Canada on the Cape Breton side of the Canso Causway holding signs reading "Stop The Fracking Madness" and "Water Is More Valuable Than Oil," and waving the Mohawk Warrior flag as motorists passed by, driving on or off Cape Breton Island.
It was the fourth Sunday they had gathered at the causeway to raise awareness of the dangers posed by the exploratory drilling rights recently approved by Nova Scotia's Departments of Energy and the Environment. PetroWorth Resources Inc, a junior exploration company based in Calgary, has the province's permission to drill an exploratory well on MacIsaac Point in West Lake Ainslie.
Five weeks ago, the first Sunday the group hit the causeway, if readers remember, a furious storm whipped through Nova Scotia. The group of demonstrators stood for hours in the driving rain and wind in a show of opposition to what they perceive to be the threat to water systems on western Cape Breton Island.
Opposition to oil and gas exploration--not just fracking--has been strong on the island since Petroworth expressed interest in drilling at Lake Ainslie. Inverness Oran reporter John Gillis's consistent and critical coverage over the past year and a half has revealed legal troubles PetroWorth, its partner companies and their executives face in PEI and BC. Local environmental groups have called up the environmental devastation caused by oil and gas exploration in other communities, notably Penobsquis and Elgin, NB. In February, Waycobah First Nation issued a resounding rejection of any kind of oil or gas exploration in the area, claiming that no amount of economic benefit could offset even a possibility that water in the area could be compromised. The Margaree Salmon Association recently declared its opposition to drilling at Lake Ainslie, which is one of the headwaters the Margare River, a heritage river and spawning ground for Atlantic salmon. The Margaree Environmental Association has filed a legal appeal of the drill permit. The Inverness County Council of Canadians and Lake Ainslie Development Association regularly host information sessions and town hall meetings on the issue of oil and gas development in the area which people attend in the hundreds. Inverness County was the first municipality in Nova Scotia to pass a resolution to ban fracking.
The group at the causeway last Sunday, which included young First Nations people and elder white folks, said they have been getting lots of support in the form of honking from passing vehicles.
Watch for the group today if you're crossing the causeway.
For information and testimonial about drilling the Lake Ainslie Block, visit Protect Lake Ainslie on Facebook.
Moira Peters lives in Halifax and grew up in Margaree.