Sipekne’katik First Nation calls for immediate stop to Windsor Causeway project pending review

Click to play video: 'Sipekne’katik call for Aboriginal rights review of Windsor Causeway'
Sipekne’katik call for Aboriginal rights review of Windsor Causeway
WATCH: First Nation community in Nova Scotia is calling on the province to halt roadwork which is harming fish in the Avon River – Aug 11, 2020

There’s growing opposition to a construction project that is underway to widen the Windsor causeway as part of the twinning of Highway 101 between Three Mile Plains and Falmouth.

Opponents say the construction is harming the fish population in the Avon River and disrupting their migration towards the Bay of Fundy.

Now, the Sipekne’katik First Nation community is coming forward and calling for the project to halt until an Aboriginal rights review and a consultation with the Mi’Kmaq people is complete.

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Cheryl Maloney is a spokesperson for the Sipekne’katik First Nation, a group that recently won a recent court case over Aboriginal consultation, and says this construction project is not only harming the environment but killing off a large population of fish, as well as impacting the rights of the Mi’kmaq people.

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“The rivers are connected to the Minas Basin and it’s a very important place for the Mi’kmaq people,” said Maloney, “both in terms of transportation, spiritual connection, the responsibility to the river systems, and as our food source.”

Maloney says the province failed to consult with the Mi’kmaq people before commencing the five-year Highway 101 twinning project and says the Sipekne’katik First Nation sent a letter to the province last week saying they have a legal obligation to consult with them under Aboriginal rights, calling the fish kill an environmental emergency.

“Our people need to be included and there is nothing right with that,” said Maloney. “Some people say, ‘oh you don’t have a veto’ but in Canadian democracy, the people should have a veto.

“Whether it’s Indigenous people, whether its residents in Windsor, we should have a veto over our government in what’s happening in our yards and backyards.”

Click to play video: 'Nova Scotia residents raise alarm of causeway’s threat to local fish stocks'
Nova Scotia residents raise alarm of causeway’s threat to local fish stocks

A group that calls itself the Pesegtik Protectors have set up an encampment along the Avon River and have been camping at the site for nearly three months to monitor the construction and protect the fish.

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In May, they said there was a massive fish kill in the area and thousands of fish had died — and they say there have been others.

On Tuesday morning they said their power, which they tap into from the province’s causeway control building, was cut off.

“What you find by the river, you use by the river,” said Sandy Toney, who’s been camping next to the Avon River since June.

“We found the electricity and so we’re using it and today they decided to cut it. It’s like I told them, ‘charge me now, don’t charge me later’, so we’re here to stay.”

Global News reached out to the province’s department of transportation and infrastructure renewal for comment but was referred to the department of Aboriginal affairs.

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In a statement, the department’s communications advisor Kristen Rector said that staff is reviewing the letter from Sipekne’katik First Nation and a response will be provided to the community through the continuing consultation process.

“Consultation with the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia, including Sipekne’katik First Nation, on the Highway 101 Three Mile Plains to Falmouth Twinning project was initiated in July of 2016,” said the statement. “The design of an aboiteau structure and causeway was consulted upon and a decision was ultimately communicated to the community in 2017.

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“We will continue to consult with Sipekne’katik on all project-related future decisions that could adversely impact the community’s Aboriginal and treaty rights, including, where appropriate, assertions of Aboriginal title.”

Sipekne’katik First Nation say the ongoing issues around the fish kills need to be addressed immediately and halting construction until they’ve been consulted on a solution is the only way forward.

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