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The Innu-Malecite-Mi’gmaq Alliance for the protection of the Gulf of St. Lawrence condemns the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board's Strategic Environmental Assessment report

by The Innu-Malecite-Mi’gmaq Alliance for the protection of the Gulf of St. Lawrence

Gespeg, May 6, 2014 – A strategic environmental assessment report that has decided to open the Gulf of St. Lawrence to oil exploration, released May 5th by the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board, failed to take Aboriginal rights into account according to the Innu-Malecite-Mi’gmaq Alliance for the Protection of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. 

“This report would allow oil exploration in the waters our peoples have used since time immemorial but our Aboriginal and treaty rights are not even mentioned,” said Chief Claude Jeannotte of the Micmac Nation of Gespeg (Gaspé). 

The Chiefs of the Innu, Malecite and Mi’gmaq communities whose reserves are in Québec – most of them on the St. Lawrence River, the Gulf of St. Lawrence or the Baie des Chaleurs – signed a memorandum of understanding on October 23, 2013 to protect to protect the gulf from the risks posed by oil and gas exploration. 

The Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (CNLOPB) says it has concluded that “petroleum exploration activities generally can be undertaken” in the eastern part of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, which is under its jurisdiction. 

The CNLOPB based its conclusion on environmental information and analysis provided by AMEC, one of the largest oil and gas engineering firms in the world, which boasts that it has worked on almost every mineable tar sands lease in Canada since the industry began in the 1950s. 

An oil spill is “an unlikely, although unfortunately possible, occurrence,” according to AMEC and the CNLOPB. However, a catastrophe on the scale of the Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico “must now be viewed as plausible according to the strategic environmental assessment of oil and gas development in the western part of the Gulf of St. Lawrence published by the Québec government in September 2013. 

The subsea resources of the Gulf of St. Lawrence are under the federal government’s jurisdiction  but Canada has delegated management to federal-provincial bodies, based on arbitrary boundaries agreed on between the les provinces. 

As a result, the CNLPOB rules on exploration in waters a few dozen kilometers from the Lower North Shore or the Magdeleine Islands in Québec: an environmental assessment of the exploration drilling program proposed for the Old Harry prospect is currently in progress. 

According to Chief Jean-Charles Piétacho of the Council of the Innu of Ekuanitshit (Mingan): “Three days before the report was published, we received a letter from the CNLOPB’s Chair to say that they did not need consult the Innu or the Mi’gmaq on the report’s conclusions because nothing was being decided, but they have reached a decision in favour of exploration.” 

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that before “decisions made during strategic planning,” the Crown must consult and accommodate Aboriginal peoples if a project has an effect on their rights. 

The salmon fished by the Innu on the North Shore, by the Malecites, and by the Mi’gmaq in the Gaspé swim through the Gulf of St. Lawrence: out of the 114 salmon rivers in Québec, the salmon in 111 of those rivers use the gulf as a migration route before spawning in fresh water. 

The Innu-Malecite-Mi’gmaq Alliance has pointed out that the Gulf of St. Lawrence is a single ecosystem and is calling for a moratorium on oil exploration and development in the whole of the gulf until an integrated assessment takes place. 

Québec has imposed a moratorium on oil and gas development, but only in the St. Lawrence River estuary and in the part of the Gulf of St. Lawrence west of Anticosti Island. Elsewhere in Canada, a moratorium prevents offshore exploration and drilling activities off the Georges Bank in the Atlantic and in the Pacific Ocean waters off British Columbia.


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