Quietly under the radar of media and social media, the Peace and Friendship Alliance has held 5 well-attended meetings over the last year. Representatives from community groups, Indigenous communities, NGOs, church groups, social justice groups, and unions have been meeting face-to-face to exchange information and encourage their respective networks to get involved in initiatives of common interest. Quietly under the radar of media and social media, the Peace and Friendship Alliance has held 5 well-attended meetings over the last year. Representatives from community groups, Indigenous communities, NGOs, church groups, social justice groups, and unions have been meeting face-to-face to exchange information and encourage their respective networks to get involved in initiatives of common interest.
The Alliance is now preparing to become much more public and is ready to launch a series of province-wide initiatives. Rolling out several of these initiatives was the focus of the Peace and Friendship Alliance gathering last Saturday held at Madawaska Maliseet First Nation (MMFN) located in northwestern New Brunswick. Chief Trish Bernard welcomed the participants, many of whom had travelled from different parts of the province to attend the meeting.
"Our mission is to protect the land, water and air." explained Alma Brooks, elder grandmother, as she describes the mandate of the Peace and Friendship Alliance. "This territory has never been ceded or surrendered by our people."
"Our people want to be the voice of the land, water and air. And we rely on the animals for life," said Ron Tremblay, Chief of the Wolastoq Grand Council. "We feel their voice is not being heard. We want to make sure they are here for us and our future children."
In the backdrop of the shale gas moratorium in New Brunswick - a huge, hard-fought, accomplishment of the growing solidarity between Acadian, English and Indigenous communities - the Peace and Friendship Alliance has arisen. Both Ron and Alma were important leaders in both the shale gas fight and the formation of the Peace and Friendship Alliance.
The mission statement of the Peace and Friendship Alliance is the following:
"We are the peoples of the Peace and Friendship Treaties: the Wabanaki Peoples and allies in Canada and the United States, and beyond. The Peace and Friendship Alliance is concerned about corporate control of resources, committed to protecting the land, air and water for all our relations and for future generations, and taking united action for a healthy planet."
Perhaps compounded by the recent Paris Agreement which compels us to finally deal with climate change, as well as the Premier Brian Gallant government's misguided austerity budget coming on February 2nd, there was a real sense of solidarity and empowerment in the room, a sense that our grassroots communities must work together for change.
The agenda and discussion covered the mounting issues facing our respective communities: the upcoming May 9th municipal elections around the province; a Peace and Friendship Treaty educational caravan; Mount Carleton wilderness park threatened by a proposed trail network & hub for snowmobiles; Energy East, the export tar sands pipeline; Irving; Sisson Brook, the tungsten-molybdenum mine; corporate capture and tax avoidance by large corporations; the looming reversal of our current moratorium on shale gas fracking; the firing "without cause" of New Brunswick's Chief Medical Officer Dr. Eilish Cleary.
"The masses are waking up," says Joan Green from the Council of Canadians - Fredericton chapter. "People are angry because they now realize that the Gallant government is not listening to them. They want to be heard, they want a voice."
The confidence and strength in the room was powerful. The strength of the Alliance is evident. A flat network - a non-hierarchical alliance - of groups and individuals is emerging. Regular face-to-face meetings around the province are becoming the norm. And well-moderated meetings where a growing number of alliance members build consensus on initiatives of shared interest.
One initiative is an Educational Caravan led by elders would hold community gatherings and teach the history of the Peace and Friendship Treaties. The objective is to tell the story of pre-Confederation treaties that we were not told by our schools or government, including the fact they are nation-to-nation treaties, that no territory was ever ceded in these treaties, these treaties are still legal, and, most importantly, "we are all treaty people".
A second initiative is to build more local, diversified economies. Our communities must be proactive to receive part of the new $17.4 BILLION + existing $22 BILLION over 4 years of the Federal Government's Infrastructure Program. All of us must speak up for real job creation and real action for a < 2*C climate future.
And a 3rd initiative that is coming soon will educate communities from Edmundston to Red Head about the proposed route of the Energy East pipeline. Many residents have no idea that they live in watersheds that may be cut across by this pipeline carrying export tar sands. In the event of a spill, past emergency measures response (such as the Kalamazoo River tar sands bitumen spill in 2010) show that there would likely be a 1.6 km (1-mile) Voluntary Evacuation Zone imposed on both sides of the pipeline. And the traditional homeland of the Maliseet (Wolastoqiyik) people lies within the valley of the St. John River and its tributaries, directly in the path of the proposed tar sands pipeline. Their territory covers most of west central New Brunswick, as well parts of Maine and Quebec.
Edmundston and Madawaska Maliseet First Nation residents have already awakened to the risk. "It goes straight through their watershed aquifer," observed a participant at the Peace and Friendship Alliance meeting. "No one gambles with their only source of water!"
A draft resolution of the City of Edmundston was leaked last week to the public, prompting the Mayor and Council to release the document at their last Council meeting on January 19th. The document proposes that the Council ask TransCanada to fund the "identification of a new water supply" and "the construction of a water treatment facility for the community". This treatment system would be for the alternative supply of drinking water to residents in case there is a tar sands bitumen spill in the Iroquois River Watershed, the sole drinking water supply for both Edmundston and Madawaska Maliseet First Nation.
A picture is worth a thousand words. How is it possible for a tar sands pipeline to be routed through a Watershed Protected Area? How is it possible for a tar sands pipeline to be routed through the sole drinking water supply for a municipality and First Nation?
WATERSHED PROTECTED AREAS - IROQUOIS RIVER WATERSHED - EDMUNDSTON
The Mayor has responded to the public outcry by calling on a large public meeting on February 11th, with microphones set up in the audience for a question and answer with simultaneous translation.
"The draft resolution leaked certainly opened up the eyes of the public that Council did not have their water protected," said Michel Hédou after the Alliance meeting. "In reality, the water is still in danger with the proposed pipeline route. I believe there will be a lot of people at the City's meeting [on the 11th]."
"There is growing concern in the pipeline in Edmundston," added Eric Levesque. "Just with media and Facebook, the population is getting behind [the movement] against the pipeline. It is no longer a question of pipeline, but a question of water."
Stay tuned for the public meeting on February 11th @ 7:00pm (at the Convention Centre, 74 Canada Street, Edmundston).
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The next meeting of the Peace and Friendship Alliance will take place on the traditional homeland of the Mi'kmaq people. It will be held in Elsipogtog First Nation on Saturday, February 27th.