This commentary originally appeared on the website of Canada’s National Observer on August 19, 2022.
There are a lot of things I would rather be doing than writing this op-ed. I’d rather be out on the land with my 10 grandsons, spending quality time teaching them about our deep cultural connection to our Homeland. I am away from home right now, committed to a Wolastoqewi Youth Cultural Camp.
But once again, fossil fuel companies are threatening our unceded and unsurrendered Homeland we call Wolastokuk, and once again, I must raise my voice to defend and protect our rights and Homeland.
Wolastoqewiyik (People of the Beautiful and Bountiful River) hold a special and deep relationship with the land and water. Our connection to Wolastokuk is physical, geographical, biological, spiritual, cultural, and linguistic.
Our lands are central to defining and maintaining our Indigenous identity. And yet again, fossil fuel interests are putting our culture and identity and rights at risk at the present time and for our next seven generations.
Next week, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will visit Canada to discuss potential energy deals. Over the past two months, officials including German Ambassador Sabine Sparwasser and Canadian Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson have repeatedly been quoted in the press about the potential for new LNG export facilities on Canada’s East Coast to “help” Europe.
In early August, Canadian Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters Canada has a responsibility to help Europe wean itself off Russian gas. While I stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine and understand Germany’s desire to abandon Russian gas, Canadian LNG is not the answer.
I am here to tell you that Wolastoq Grand Council does not agree with new fossil fuel projects like LNG export projects and related pipelines that will carry fracked gas, which is associated with water contamination, health risks, ground pollution, climate pollution and more.
In 2013, when fracking threatened our communities, we raised our voices loudly to stand up for our water, our land, our health and our rights. In 2014, New Brunswick introduced a moratorium on fracking. But in recent weeks, Premier Blaine Higgs has said the province may consider lifting the moratorium to feed new proposed LNG export plants. Has Premier Higgs forgotten that fracking has no social licence in the province? Has he forgotten Indigenous opposition?
Let me remind him, Wolastoq Grand Council joined many other Indigenous and allied voices in Atlantic Canada when we strongly spoke out against fracking. And we will do so again. We will not let harm come to our land, water, air and climate for the sake of boosting a gas company’s bottom line. We have not consented to fracking on our lands. We have not consented to new LNG export projects that will damage our climate.
It feels hypocritical that Germany, which has long had a ban on fracked gas, is open to buying fracked gas from Canada. If German residents don’t want the associated damages of fracked gas to land, air, water and climate, why should we accept those damages here?
It’s possible the chancellor’s visit won’t result in an LNG deal with Canada. Despite months of German and Canadian officials talking to the press about LNG to be exported from Canada, it’s telling that in the past week, LNG has been absent from government communications about the chancellor’s visit. Perhaps this was in response to the massive opposition to LNG in Germany last week.
But that doesn’t mean in backroom discussions, LNG is not on the table. After all, Canadian officials promoted LNG to Germany even before the invasion of Ukraine, including a meeting between German and Canadian officials in January. We’ll be watching closely and will voice our opposition loudly should proposals for East Coast LNG export projects and related fracking rear their ugly heads again — whether next week or any time after.
When you damage or destroy any part of the environment, or if you bring harm to any of our relatives who live in the natural world, you are in gross violation of Wolastoqey Indigenous rights.
These rights are inherent rights that have been passed down to us from our Ancestors. They are attached to international human rights laws, and they are inalienable. These rights cannot be terminated without the prior, free and informed consent of our people.
In recent weeks, there have been many headlines about reconciliation. Politicians and religious figures alike repeat that word. But reconciliation remains an empty word if it is not accompanied by action.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Minister Wilkinson and Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault have an opportunity to show that they value reconciliation — and that their words about climate action and reconciliation aren’t just convenient sound bites.
Canadian politicians could use the proposals for new East Coast LNG facilities to show that they truly walk the talk. They could be bold and courageous with one simple word: No. They could say no to a gas company. By saying no to Repsol’s contentious proposal, the ministers would be saying yes to respecting Indigenous rights, to protecting our climate, to showing the world that Canada values more than outdated fossil fuels.
As long as Canadian politicians put the demands of gas companies ahead of Indigenous voices, true reconciliation does not exist in Canada.
Ron Tremblay is his colonial birth name, but is known as “spasaqsit possesom” (spuz-akw-zid buz-za-zum) – morningstar burning. He is a citizen of Wolastokuk (Wa-lus-da-gook). Being the youngest of 10 children of the late Doris Sappier and Raymond Tremblay, spasaqsit possesom grew-up surrounded by Wolastoqey (Wa-lus-do-kway) Language spoken fluently. spasaqsit possesom credits his mother Doris and grandparents Madeline LePorte and Louise Sappier for his genuine love of Wolastoqey language and he also acknowledges that they provided him the true teachings of life.