Actor Ethan Hawke will be lending some of his star power to First Nations groups in Eastern Canada that oppose oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
The leadership of the Paqtnkek, Listuguj, Gesgapegiag and Gespeg First Nations will be holding a joint press conference and water ceremony Monday by the coast at 577 Summerside Rd. in Afton, which is in Antigonish County, Nova Scotia.
Hawke will be a special guest and is scheduled to answer questions following a press conference. The four-time Oscar nominee who is known for films such as Training Day, Dead Poets Society and Boyhood has property in the area.
Troy Jerome, executive director of the Mi'gmawei Mawiomi Secretariat, says First Nations groups and organizations like the Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition have been working to raise awareness for years and a big name like Hawke's can bring new attention to their concerns.
Potential oil not going anywhere
The group is calling for a 12-year exploration moratorium, which Jerome says is needed so the government can conduct a comprehensive review.
"The public should be saying the same thing the Mi'kmaq, the aboriginal people, are saying. Show us a study before you think about drilling in there," he said.
"It's unproven, but even if there's oil there, it's not disappearing."
Jerome says people who live in the region — which includes the four Atlantic provinces and Quebec — haven't been adequately consulted, but also haven't been that engaged.
He hopes Hawke's profile will encourage the public to push for more information about how drilling and any potential blowouts could affect the area.
"If there's an oil spill it's going to go on the shores of Newfoundland, by some spill scenarios, up all the way up the St. Lawrence River. No one really knows," he said.
Coming on the heels of the recent federal election, Jerome hopes the event sends a message to industry and the new federal government.
"By having his [Ethan Hawke's] presence, it raises a level of exposure to another level," he said. "The timing turned out to be very good."
'Chronically' under radar
Mary Gorman of the Save our Seas and Shore Coalition says tens of thousands of jobs in the fishing and tourism industries could be impacted by offshore drilling.
"We have been fighting this battle before Keystone, before Northern Gateway, before Energy East. All of these battles have taken precedence over our battle," she said.
"There will be oil on the coast of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland if our politicians are foolish enough to let this proceed. And yet we chronically fall under the radar. And that's why Ethan is helping us."
Hawke has voiced concerns about the environmental risks of offshore drilling before.
In 2011, he released a statement with the David Suzuki Foundation and the Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition in a campaign calling for the moratorium on offshore oil and gas drilling in the gulf.
The site of Monday's ceremony is close to where Donald Marshall Jr. was arrested for fishing eels out of season, which led to a landmark 1999 Supreme Court of Canada ruling that guaranteed aboriginal treaty rights to fish and hunt.
Paqtnkek councilllor Darlene Prosper says Monday's events will begin with a water ceremony scheduled for 12:30 p.m. AT.