Natives vow to protect
Mother Earth

By Steve MacInnis, Cape Breton Post, October 29, 1998

A unique environmental conference this week in Sydney is serving notice that Nova Scotia's native community is assuming the role as protector of Mother Earth.

"We want to be consulted on every single project. We feel Nova Scotia is still our land and our responsibility," said Bernie Francis, a workshop leader at the Wskitqamu First Nations Environment Conference which concludes today in Eskasoni.

Francis said provincial Mi'kmaq learned their lesson from the Middle Shoal dredging project and have vowed such an incident will never happen again. The dredging project was about 90 per cent complete before a Federal Court judge ruled environment and company officials failed to properly consult the native community about possible effects the project would have on fishing in the Bras d'Or Lake. The project was ordered shut down.

"The Mi'kmaq people plan to take on a larger role as caretaker of Mother Earth. We need to be consulted to ensure there is no impact on our resources and this conference is serving that notice," said Francis. His view is shared by conference organizer Kim Paul, who heads environmental technical services for the Union of Nova Scotia Indians. "We have to strengthen and gain a better understanding of environmental issues facing First Nations and the impact such measures have on our communities," said Paul, adding this conference serves to foster a spirit of co-operation between natives and non-natives.

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