Nova Scotia

Trudeau blasted in House over handling of N.S. natural gas project

A Mi'kmaw woman from Nova Scotia criticized Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his government's handling of a controversial natural gas project at an event Wednesday on Parliament Hill aiming to get more women elected.

Nova Scotia Mi'kmaw woman says government 'continues to oppress our people' on Alton Gas project

Hannah Martin, a member of Nova Scotia's Millbrook First Nation, asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about the controversial Alton Gas project in her home province during the Daughters of the Vote event in Ottawa. (CBC)

A Mi'kmaw woman from Nova Scotia criticized Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his government's handling of a controversial natural gas project at an event Wednesday on Parliament Hill.

Alton Gas plans to store natural gas in underground caverns located north of Halifax at Fort Ellis. The company plans to pump water from the Shubenacadie River to an underground site 12 kilometres away, where it will be used to flush out salt deposits and create up to 15 caverns. 

The leftover brine solution would then be pumped back into the river over two or three years.

"I'm here to condemn the behaviour of the Canadian government, who continues to oppress our people and to oppress our grandmothers who are on the [Shubenacadie] River, living according to our traditional ways of life as Mi'kmaw people," said Hannah Martin, who is originally from Tatamagouche, N.S., and a member of Millbrook First Nation. 

Protesters have gathered at the site for several years, arguing that the plan poses dangers to the traditional fisheries of the Mi'kmaq and risks harming the river used by Indigenous populations for thousands of years.

Martin spoke to Trudeau at the Daughters of the Vote summit, which brings 338 young women — one from every riding in Canada — into the House of Commons to hear from political leaders. The event is organized by Equal Voice Canada, an organization which works to get more women elected to all levels of political office across Canada.

Trudeau's reaction

On Wednesday, Trudeau said it's important to hear from different voices.

"The more we listen to a broad range of peoples and voices, the less likely it is we achieve unanimity on any given issue," he said.

"We need to get to consensus, we need to try and understand all the concerns and issues brought forward, but we need to do that in a way that does actually allow us to move forward. What that forward looks like, in some cases, will be moving forward with a project. In other cases, we'll not be moving forward."

The Alton Gas protest had included a makeshift structure that blocked the main access road to the company's pump house and control centre near the river.

This straw bale house is one of the makeshift structures used to block the main access road to Alton Gas's pump house and control centre. (Robert Short/CBC)

However, a judge granted a temporary order last month forcing an Indigenous man and others camped on the property to move. The protesters must remain on a small patch of fenced land nearby and abide by other conditions.

Last week, Trudeau was met by protesters of the Alton Gas project during his visit to Halifax, and he said Ottawa will consider their grievances.

The prime minister said Ottawa would work with local communities, Mi'kmaq chiefs and the province "to move forward on regulations in a way that addresses your concerns."

The federal government also said last month it will step in to regulate the company's plan in a way that would manage potential threats to fish, fish habitat and human health.

With files from the Canadian Press, CBC News and Catharine Tunney

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