Wednesday, November 30, 2011

First Nation threatens shale gas lawsuit

Spread the word. Every invitation counts:
The chief of St. Mary's First Nation is threatening legal action against the New Brunswick government if it doesn't cancel all of the natural gas exploration licences it has issued.

Candice Paul contends the licences are illegal and should be revoked because the government didn't live up to its duty to consult with First Nations communities before issuing them.

"They have an obligation to do that as set out in the Supreme Court, and they have failed to do that. So we ask for an immediate stop to the permits, and come to the table," Paul said during an anti-shale gas protest outside the provincial legislature in Fredericton Wednesday as it opened for a new session.

If the government doesn't agree, "I guess we'll have to go to the courts," she said.

Under constitutional law, governments have a duty to consult with First Nations people on issues that affect them.

"It's not an after fact, we're not an afterthought. It's clearly stated in the Supreme Court that they have an obligation to consult...right from the beginning," said Paul

"I would hope that the government would, you know, abide by the law and that they wouldn't be above the law."

Natural Resources Minister Bruce Northrup said he will look into the issue.

The Assembly of First Nations Chiefs in New Brunswick, which represents all groups except St. Mary's and Woodstock, has said it is taking a wait and see approach to the issue.

But Paul argues she has only heard negatives about shale gas.

"We are a people of the river, we have an obligation to protect our territories," she said.

"We need to sit down and discuss what is going to take place and if it's dangerous or harmful to our environment, as all New Bruswickers, this needs to be brought forward."

About 200 anti-shale gas protesters gathered outside the provincial legislature on Wednesday.About 200 anti-shale gas protesters gathered outside the provincial legislature on Wednesday. (CBC)Meanwhile, the Alward government confirmed plans to push forward with a new environmental protection plan that will cover the shale gas industry.

The government has been facing considerable pressure from anti-shale gas protesters on its policy for several months. On Wednesday, about 200 opponents of the industry gathered in a snowstorm on the lawn of the legislature, alongside a four-storey high replica of an oil drilling rig made of plastic pipe.

The protesters also pounded hundreds of fake survey stakes bearing slogans such as "no means no" into the lawn.

Joan Tremblay, of Fredericton, who was dressed as a water drop in a costume made by her daughter, said she's "very concerned.

"I have been ever since I learned about the threat of it," she said. "It threatens the water and air and I have grandchildren and I'm worried about them."

Members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees were also on hand to protest cuts in healthcare, education and highways.

"They're making the wrong decisions," said Danny Légère, the president of CUPE New Brunswick. "New Brunswickers expect a level of service and they have to find revenues in order to provide those services to New Brunswickers.

"Our answer is we've got some solutions, we brought the solutions forward in the past. Let's re-instate the 2009 level of taxation and also look at other things," he said.

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