Demonstrators at Shubenacadie River are out in the cold and many miles away, but every week a small group gathers at the Loaded Ladle’s kitchen to make the demonstrators a hot meal.
The project is made possible through the support and efforts of Dalhousie Student Union Sustainability Office, the Loaded Ladle, the Dalhousie Student Union Market and volunteers.
“We’re aware here that what we’re doing is a small thing,” said Laura Cutmore, DSUSO co-director. “I think it’s important and I think it’s really great that we’re doing this and it’s come together, but the real sacrifices and the real work is being done on the front line.”
People have been protesting the construction of natural gas storage wells by Alton Gas Natural Gas Storage, owned by AltaGas, since 2014. They say wells will harm the river’s ecosystem by introducing salt into its water through a brining process.
In December, demonstrators and allies helped build a straw bale house along the Shubenacadie River that makes living conditions more comfortable, especially in the winter.
Cutmore visited the camp the day of the meal prep on Friday, but returned to help make the meal at the Loaded Ladle on Dalhousie’s campus in Halifax. She said about 30 people were there during the day but usually only four to 10 people stay overnight in the winter.
Some of the volunteers have either been to the camp or know people who are there, while others are complete strangers.
So far the group has made four meals: two vegetable stews, a lasagna and a curry. They’ve also made one apple crisp dessert. Once the prep is done, the volunteers pack the food up in plastic containers and arrange for a same-day pickup and drop-off.
Dale Andrew Poulette, one of the demonstrators, said small efforts of support, like the meal prep, can make a difference.
“It means a lot. It shows solidarity and support and that our allies are here to support us 100 per cent,” said Poulette.
DSUSO proposed the meal prep idea to Loaded Ladle and DSU Market in the fall. It became a reality this semester and now happens every Friday afternoon. The Loaded Ladle provides the space, the DSU Market provides ingredients and the DSUSO provides additional volunteers.
Cutmore said the meal prep is a great way for students to get involved and better understand the issues around the Alton Gas resistance.
“Front line Indigenous-led resistance is really important all across Turtle Island,” she said. “Building the coalitions between Indigenous and non-Indigenous, through this resistance effort, also builds support we can use whenever the next thing comes up.”
The program co-ordinator for the Loaded Ladle, Sue Donovaro, said they decide what dish they will make a few days beforehand. The DSUSO or Loaded Ladle will sometimes buy ingredients the DSU Market doesn’t have. She said the meal prep is good for those who want to help, but don’t have a way to get out to the river.
“It’s an act of solidarity, sharing food with folks up there. We want to support them and we feel like it’s drawing attention to the important work that they are doing,” Donovaro said. “I think it’s important to link what they are doing up there with the people in the city.”
Demonstrators and Alton Gas
Alton Gas is developing an underground storage facility for natural gas. This means drilling into salt caverns and this salt ends up in the Shubenacadie River, potentially disrupting the ecosystem. This project began in 2002 when Alton Gas started looking at potential sites.
Environment Nova Scotia did an environmental assessment in 2007, and in 2013 the Nova Scotia Utilities and Review Board approved the construction for the natural gas storage wells. Alton Gas has already drilled three storage wells, but there could be 15 wells in total, depending on demand.
Cutmore said she supports the demonstrators for many reasons, including to protect the rights of Indigenous people.
“In terms of their treaty rights, having the fish harmed through the brining process will make it harder for them to assert their treaty right to fish and sustain themselves,” she said.
Poulette said anyone is welcome at the Alton Gas resistance treaty camp to show their support.
With files from Karli Zschogner