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INDIGENOUS BAND CONCERNED ABOUT
FRACKING HARM TO ENVIRONMENT, SAYS CHIEF
DOES NOT REPRESENT THEIR VIEWS
By Suzanne Forcese
In 2009, Canadian courts, including the Supreme Court of Canada, made judgments clarifying the meaning of section 35(1) of the Constitution. One element is the recognition that the Crown has a legal duty to consult with aboriginal peoples about any action or decision that might affect the exercise of an aboriginal or treaty right, before taking that action or making that decision. The Crown must also reasonably accommodate concerns...to act honorably and in good faith in its relationship with aboriginal peoples.
The objective is to advance the process of reconciliation between the Crown and First Nations, Metis communities and other aboriginal communities.
Unless... "The Chief waived Section 35 for an entire community without consulting the community," Don Sullivan, Director of What The Frack Manitoba Inc. (WTF) told WaterToday.
Seeking assistance, Elders from the community of Hollow Water First Nations (HWFN) approached Sullivan. His list of credentials -Round Table member of the Government of Manitoba's East Side Planning Initiative; former member of the Lake Winnipeg Advisory Board; Recipient of the Manitoba Eco-Network Award; Recipient of the Queen's Golden Jubilee Award; Former Special Advisor to the Government of Manitoba; the former North American Coordinator for the Taiga Rescue Network - gave them some measure of hope.
What The Frack Manitoba, Inc. evolved from that first meeting as the voice opposing the Canadian Premium Sand(CPS) Proposal to operate a frac sand mine and processing facility which will be located adjacent to the community of Hollow Water First Nation - about 250 km North East of Winnipeg.
CPS refers to the Wanipigow Project as its flagship on their company website. The website also states that CPS is an emerging company in the silica sand industry focused on becoming a leading provider of premium white silica sand to oil and gas operations in the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin. The project controls 862 hectares of contiguous quarry sand leases. High purity silica sand is in high demand in the Western Canadian oil and gas fields where it is used as a proppant for horizontal drilling and fracturing.
The coveted silica sand deposit sits on the eastern side of Lake Winnipeg.
The promise of 150 jobs by the CPS mining project is one of the dividing points in the communities of Hollow Water First Nation Reserve, Seymourville and Manigotagan. Sullivan says that is not realistic. "Perhaps 20 or 30 jobs will go to the local communities. Most of the employment is going to go to truck drivers. The biggest winners in this will be the trucking companies that will be transporting 1 million tonnes of frac sand to market according to the Company's initial target. That's 240 trips a day 24/7/365 from the mine to Winnipeg and back, mostly on a 2 lane highway that is already bumper to bumper." Sullivan also points out CPS will be doubling that production target in year three as revealed in the Preliminary Economic Assessment Report.
However the biggest wedge in dividing the community of Hollow Water came with the lack of transparency from Chief Larry Barker and Council.
Camp Morningstar was set up as a peace camp to come together in ceremony as a way to create a safe space to share concerns about the project after exploration began.
WaterToday spoke With Lisa Raven, a Hollow Water Band member about those concerns. "I first heard about the proposed project in a November press release that made its way to social media." Raven says there was a presentation made by CPS on November 9, 2018, "a lot of people were angry, yelling and swearing. The Chief said 'calm down. People will be heard. There will be a referendum.' But on November 28, 2018, the news release stated they signed an agreement. That's where it became a divisive issue."
The press release issued by CPS stated that it had entered into an "economic participation agreement with Hollow Water First Nation for the Company's Wanipigow Silica Sand Extraction Project near Seymourville, Manitoba. The project reflects each party's commitment and support to advancing the WSP and provides various economic and social benefits."
The economic benefits have already started flowing. Sullivan reported that "CPS entered into an agreement to pay HWFN Chief and Council $250,000 on November 28, 2018, just two weeks prior to scheduled Section 35 meetings in December 2018. A further payment of $250,000 is to be paid in 2 installments once the shovels are in the ground." According Raven only a few Band members were privy to that information.
Where did the $250,000 go? M.J. McCarron, a retired Hollow Water teacher and non-Band member who married into the community and has two sons who are band members, had that information. "It was used to pay debt," she revealed to WT. "The Band had borrowed from future South Beach Casino payouts which are normally paid to Band members just before Christmas." Raven says disclosure of this was only revealed recently. She questions the need for secrecy.
She also questions the veracity of the Chief's statements in the CPS news release.
Chief Barker is quoted "we have listened to our elders, our community members, our environmental advisors, and our local neighbors. We have the mandate to move forward in economic partnership with CPS to build a prosperous future for our people in a way that protects and respects the lands we share for the next 50 years or more".
Those statements, which Raven and Sullivan agree are not based on fact, were the impetus for Camp Morningstar to look for solutions.
"We are in a unique situation. We are against our leadership and a mining company. There are 10 of us holding it together. Everyone else feels threatened, fearing for their jobs and homes. Those of us who are here are self-sufficient. We don't require any financial assistance from Hollow Water."
WaterToday was told by Raven and Sullivan that the Chief had imposed a gag order on all band members forbidding them to speak publicly and on social media.
WaterToday obtained a copy of a letter sent to band members signed by Chief Larry Barker and Council. The letter states: "Hollow Water First Nation strives to maintain a positive image in the community...everyone continues to act as a representative outside of regular business hours and must conduct themselves in a manner that is appropriate including the use of social media...Everyone must conduct themselves professionally both on and off duty, including online and even when this is done on a privately owned computer. No one may post negative comments regarding the HWFN or anyone involved with it including Board members, employees, volunteers or participants. No one may post videos or pictures. The Hollow Water First Nation is the final judge as to what is appropriate or not."
Just how serious was this edict? Raven spoke of Chief and Council's attempt to have a well-respected community teacher ousted for participating in the Camp Morning Star sacred fire ceremonies - on her own time. Sullivan confirms they soon backed off "when the School Division and the Manitoba Teachers' Society intervened."
Lance Wood who is not a Band member was not so fortunate. WaterToday obtained a copy of a letter left in Wood's mailbox. The letter signed by Chief and Council states "Please be advised based on program funding being reduced we need to restructure our Community Holistic Circle Healing Program. We regret to inform you that your position is phased out." A new employee had been hired just two weeks before his firing. In the midst of a meeting with probation officers to transfer his caseload Wood was escorted out of the building by Band constables.
Trying to understand where all of this went so horribly wrong, Raven started to dig for information. Back in 2015 a MOU was signed by then Chief Moneas and Council with Claim Post Resources without any knowledge or input from the community.
With the newly elected Chief Barker in 2016 Claim Post Resources returned with the new name Canada Premium Sands. The MOU was reaffirmed again in 2018 again without any prior community knowledge or input. "On November 29 they signed a Participation Agreement. But no one has seen it."
Also, Chief and Council signed with CPS a legally binding Benefits Agreement late in November 2018, also without community input or consultation. "No one that I know of in the HWFN community has even seen or been allowed to review the contents of this signed Benefits Agreement," Sullivan said.
By mid-December of 2018 the Province of Manitoba and Chief Council of HWFN approved a HWFN Consultation and Accommodation Plan without any community input into the development of the plan. Sullivan said that "the Province never once discussed or sought input from the HWFN community. Treaty rights are a collective right not a sole right of chief and Council."
WTF also undertook an extensive review and analysis of the National Instrument Technical Report (NI 43-101 Technical Report) filed by CPS -- something which by law all publicly traded mining companies must file with the stock exchange regulator. The purpose is to ensure that erroneous, misleading or fraudulent information is not promoted to investors. Sullivan states there were "numerous and alarming inconsistencies" as to what was revealed to the public and what was revealed to investors.
In a news release October 3,2018, CPS announced it would reveal a new report in March 2019 and to ignore the existing report. However, no report was released. CPS then announced the new report would not be ready to be filed until June 2019 -"after the Director of Environmental Approvals for the Province makes a number of irrevocable decisions regarding the Company's Environmental Licence application," Sullivan added.
There is more at stake for the people of Hollow Water.
The sacredness of the land is being violated according to McCarron. "The sand is sacred," McCarron told Water Today. "This is the sand that is used in the ceremonial rattles." Raven added, "Sand is Mother Nature's liver. It cleanses the environment."
The Chief has signed away the trapping rights. Bulldozers have already cut through and destroyed marshes. Four sacred springs have been destroyed and clear cutting has already sent wild-life retreating. Canadian Premium Sand did not have a permit to clear cut. "The Band did," Raven said. "They (CPS) are allowed to have cut lines for testing," added McCarron, "but these are roads right beside two major fish-bearing creeks that empty into Lake Winnipeg. There has been no monitoring of wildlife. There has been no hydrological report. This entire project sits on a watershed. Our Elders were not consulted. CPS brought out their own 'spiritual' advisor. It was a joke."
According to the CPS news release the Project "will have no anticipated effects on local sand beaches or the local water table or community wells. More specifically the well water used in the processing plant will be recycled. Further no water used in the plant will come from Lake Winnipeg." CPS does not indicate where the water will come from. Raven wonders if it will come from Seymourville's new water plant that gets its water supply from Lake Winnipeg. "They will need the equivalent of 2300 large blue water jugs a day. Every day." Or will it be trucked in from Winnipeg on the already overburdened highways?
"My plan is to give them a way out," Raven has sent a letter to the Clean Environment Commission but has received no response. "We've been out 70 days. No one has come to talk. For Chief and Council, there is an obligation to do better. This process has divided the community. I do not see Chief and Council making any movements to resolve conflict, I see them escalating the situation. Why not come to talk with us? We are not the enemy. This is not nor has it ever been personal."
McCarron also wants to give the Chief the benefit of the doubt. "Perhaps he did not understand the scope or seriousness of this Project."
Many who are involved with What the Frack Manitoba Inc. are either HWFN Band members or off reserve Band members and/or Section 35 right holders from the immediate surrounding communities. "They sought our help," Sullivan says because they have very serious concerns about how the proposed frac sand mine and processing facility will impact them. They state they are not being given factual information regarding details of the proposed development project through HWFN Consultation and Accommodation process. Their concerns were so overwhelming that 20 Band members of HWFN sent a letter in early January to the Manitoba Minister of Growth, Enterprise and Trade, the Crown agency in charge of undertaking Section 35 Consultation. To date there has been no response by the Minister or any representative of the Government."
Sullivan does not hold out much hope. "Government negotiates with government. In this case the Chief is the government not the community."
Chief Larry Barker was unavailable for comment. WT's attempts for a statement from CPS were also unacknowledged.
Seymourville is a small incorporated community in Wanipigow, Manitoba, which includes Manigotagan, Hollow Water Reserve and Agaming. Hollow Water First Nation is an Ojibwa First Nation located on the east side of Lake Winnipeg 217 km north of Winnipeg. The main economic base of the community is hunting, fishing trapping and wild rice harvesting.
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