Mi'kmaq Elder Opposes Seismic Testing

By Nancy King
Cape Breton Post - Front Page
Thursday, Dec. 11, 2003

ESKASONI - A Mi’kmaq elder is seeking an injunction to prevent a Halifax-based company from launching near shore seismic testing in its quest for oil and gas.

Cape Breton lawyer Doug MacKinlay is seeking the injunction against Corridor Resources and the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board on behalf of Albert Marshall, of Eskasoni, whose three sons earn their living by fishing. He argues there hasn’t been effective and constitutionally required consultations with Mi’kmaq for an activity that infringes on aboriginal fishing rights.

Documents are to be filed today and MacKinlay and his client are scheduled to appear in a Port Hawkesbury courtroom today. MacKinlay is asking that seismic testing not proceed until consultation with aboriginals takes place.

It was filed on an emergency basis which waives the usual notice requirements. As of late Wednesday afternoon, the seismic vessel remained in port in Mulgrave. It was expected to head out earlier in the day. “It is an emergency given the tight timeline that we’re looking at,” MacKinlay said.

Environmentalists, fishermen and tourist operators have argued against exploring on three near shore leases off Cape Breton.

The petroleum board issued a permit in late November to Corridor Resources to conduct a six-day seismic program in shallow waters about 15 kilometres off Cape Breton’s west coast.

The seismic survey is done by towing an array of air horns from the back of a ship with devices that sense gas or oil bearing strata. Fishermen are particularly worried the powerful sound blasts that are dragged behind a boat will scare away fish and harm snow crabs since the sound will go directly over a snow crab nursery.

Given recent court decisions which have acknowledged aboriginal fishing rights, MacKinlay believes Marshall has a strong case.
“They all very clearly point to a very strong duty on the part of the Crown to not only consult but consult and accommodate First Nations interests when there’s a proposed activity that’s going to infringe on their constitutionally-protected hunting and fishing rights,” he said. “It’s a basis in law that cannot and should not be ignored by Corridor Resources or the CNSOPB or the court.”

MacKinlay believes the environmental assessment process is also flawed, saying a permit should not have been issued when it’s unclear whether sections of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act were fulfilled.