Innu community files injunction to stop Anticosti drilling

The Ekuanitshit First Nation has laid the groundwork for a legal battle against a controversial plan to drill for oil and gas on Anticosti Island.

Ekuanitshit Chief filed injuction against oil company, says community not consulted

The Ekuanitshit First Nation and environmentalists are concerned the use of 30 million litres of Anticosti Island's river water to frack for oil and gas will cause the salmon population to go extinct. (R. Rancourt/Creative Commons)

An Innu community has laid the groundwork for a legal battle against a controversial plan to drill for oil and gas on Anticosti Island.

Ekuanitshit Chief Jean-Charles Pietacho filed an injunction against Hydrocarbons Anticosti, a partnership partly owned by the Quebec government and oil company Petrolia. 

Pietacho says his community, located near Anticosti, and all Indigenous people are legally entitled to be consulted on big projects — a right he claims was violated.

"We are affirming our rights," he said.

Ekuanitshit Chief Jean-Charles Pietacho says his community is ready to blockade the island to stop the exploration. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

Hydrocarbons Anticosti is licensed to search for oil on the island this summer.

It plans to use the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, to find oil and gas, which involves shattering rock by pumping water into the ground.

"The impacts would be major," Pietacho said, fearing the island's salmon will go extinct because 30 million litres of the island's river water will be used in the fracking.

Pietacho's worries have been echoed by environmental groups who, as early as this week, have called for the provincial government to halt its plans. 

"If you have a summer that's too dry, salmon will die. That's it, we'll lose our entire population," Jean Boudreault, president of the Quebec Federation for Atlantic Salmon, said on Monday. "We cannot take that risk."

We will be here. We're waiting for you.-  Ekuanitshit Chief Jean-Charles Pietacho

The Ekuanitshit First Nation also received the support of the Assembly of First Nations this week, which passed a resolution backing their fight against the development.

But some are disappointed it's come to this point.

"It's difficult to accept that we still have to rely on the court to have both government and the industry respect the fundamental right of First Nations," said Ghislain Picard, the chief of the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador.

Injunction or not, Pietacho vows there will be no fracking on Anticosti.

The community is prepared to blockade the island to stop the exploration, according to Pietacho.

"We will be here. We're waiting for you," he said. 

Both Hydrocarbons Anticosti and the Quebec government refused to comment for this story.

With files from Shaun Malley