I am Mi’kmaq from the west coast of Newfoundland involved in traditional teaching and a certified prospector for 26 years, I would like to respectfully present my personal view on hydraulic fracturing.
Our people have been here for a long time.
We come from an oral tradition and learned our culture and knowledge by carefully listening to what our elders and other people say. To survive within the spirit of our traditions, respect for the environment and Mother Earth, we listen and determine the truth of what has been said by reflecting.
I understand that the Mi’kmaq people and other aboriginal peoples are the custodians of the land and water. What we do to Mother Earth, we do to ourselves. We are not outside the environment. We learn through our teachings that we have to make decisions for the next seven generations. The principle is fundamental to our ways and how we see the world.
Today we treat the land by fracking for oil and gas. What we do to the land, we do to ourselves.
When I talk about fracking with the youth, they express their deep concerns. A lot has been said about chemicals, well contamination and the lack of regulations.
Some of the youth are well
educated and have researched hydraulic fracturing and believe this is not good for the land, our people and the animals.
We have learned in this process that other aboriginal organizations around the Gulf of St. Lawrence have voted for a moratorium on fracking to protect their rights to safe water and clean land.
What we see and hear is that governments are not being respectful to either the land or to the people. They come to our communities and support the oil companies.
They have already decided that fracking is good, that it will bring money and that it does not need its own regulations in this province.
They say the wells will never leak or release chemicals in the source of our drinking water.
They know that in the Marsellus Shale (Pennsylvania) there is a 7.2 per cent failure rate of wells drilled in 2011. They know the well casing breaks down. This is where the companies gained their experience, we were told.
So, how do we protect our grandchildren and great-grandchildren?
I do not understand why the provincial government, Minister Tom Marshall and Minister Tom Hedderson, think they can make long-term, large-scale changes to our communities without a mandate from the people.
The people of the province and the Mi’kmaq were not consulted and did not vote for hydraulic fracturing.
The federal and provincial governments may have the law and power on their side.
They do not have the moral authority, the mandate or the support from the people to frack.
Dave Murray, the CEO of Black Spruce Exploration Corp., said on CBC “Radio Noon” talk show on April 11, that “it’s a matter of being educated.”
Did he mean that we are ignorant and that we cannot really understand the complex aspects of fracking?
Or did he mean we simply need more information to support fracking?
So, I listen. I learn. I educate myself. I attend more meetings to learn.
At the Port au Port meeting on April 8, I heard Minister Marshall tell us, “ I don’t care what anyone in the room says, I’ll do whatever is right based on facts.”
What if the facts only come from industry?
The Mi’kmaq people I talk to have problems understanding how our governments (in Ottawa and St. John’s) can make such important decisions without consultation with our people.
Governments know that the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that there is a “duty to consult” with aboriginal peoples before important projects go ahead.
Governments should also know that allowing consultants and oil companies to make short, simple, limited, unclear presentations to the aboriginal peoples in the area cannot be considered sufficient consultation in any court of law. That is why some of us are considering legal action.
It is time for a moratorium and to review all aspects of hydraulic fracking.
Pikto’l Sa’keg Muise (Victor Muise)
writes from Bay St. George.