Taking a Step Forward Towards Reconciliation or Two Steps Back - Alton Gas Project

by mritch01 on October 6, 2017 - 9:37pm

Over the past several years, AltaGas has been in the proposal and research stage of their Alton Gas project based out of Nova Scotia. The project involves hollowing out salt caverns for natural gas storage which would mean disposing of the salt brine from those caverns into the Shubenacadie river. A recent CBC article addresses the concerns of some opponents of the project. Indigenous communities in the area as well as protesters are now questioning the research done on the affects this project will have on their ecosystems. Specifically, fish species are of major concern and the legitimacy of the research conducted on fish species is now in question. It is thought by locals that AltaGas’s research was conducted during periods where fish were not spawning and therefore does not provide adequate information. No solution to this issue is discussed in the article but the communities involved would like the opportunity to conduct their own research as they know the land and species best. Some of the issues of this project will now be discussed and it will be seen how this project comes with many complexities. 

The Alton Gas project proposes three major issues, water contamination, the rights of indigenous communities, and management of natural resources. In terms of water, the salt brine being deposited into the Shubenacadie river could contaminate the water way and affect ecosystems. In addition, once the project is undertaken, leaking of natural gas from the caverns is also a possibility which could contaminate tap water. 

Additionally, the rights of Indigenous communities also comes into play as it is clear they have concerns that are not being addressed fully. Many communities feel they have not been adequately consulted. Unfortunately, Indigenous communities have not had a great history in Canada, post-contact. Legally under the Constitution of 1982 Section 35, Aboriginal communities are protected, they have a right to their land and need to be consulted when anybody develops on that land. This is not in line with recent examples, such as this one. In addition, it is especially frustrating considering Premier Justin Trudeau’s current stance on attempting to reconcile relationships between Canada and Canada’s Indigenous communities. Examples of this include, agreeing to the UN Declaration of Rights to Indigenous Peoples, declaring new funding for Indigenous communities, and explicitly stating his goal to repair these relations. If that is truly the case then proposed projects like these can set some precedent for how Canada interacts with Indigenous communities in the future. These communities deserve for their rights to be taken into consideration, they need to have a say and need to be consulted. Based on this article, the Alton Gas project does not support reconciliation and therefore a more inclusive approach between actors needs to be taken. 

Lastly, this project presents the issue of who is in charge of managing certain resources. Federal jurisdiction includes reservation lands while renewable and non-renewable resources and freshwater fish falls under provincial jurisdiction. Who then works towards solutions to this issue of freshwater fish that affect Indigenous communities with treaty rights? While the federal government has been involved in this issue, they have explicitly stated that they cannot do anything about the matter. Regulation is therefore in the provincial governments hands. 

As it can be seen through this example, the proposed project to manage natural gas is quite complicated and interconnected. It produces several poor outcomes due to little consultation with Indigenous populations that would be affected. This project has already been ongoing for several years and in my opinion, has a ways to go before it should be implemented. 


Article Used: 


Luck, S., (Sept 9, 2016)., “Alton Gas protesters to conduct their own Shubnacadie River research” 




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