More than 100 people from around Nova Scotia joined together in Halifax on Saturday, chanting, “we are water, water is life.”
They were voicing support and solidarity with Indigenous people camped out at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota.
That fight is over the construction of the 1,800-kilometre Dakota Access Pipeline on sacred Native American land. An oil spill from the multibillion-dollar pipeline would contaminate the nearby Missouri river, which thousands of people rely on for drinking water.
The rally in Halifax began at Victoria Park, with speeches, prayers and Mi’kmaq drummers playing the Mi’kmaq Honour Song.
“All across the world, Indigenous people are dying to protect their water,” said Doreen Bernard, a member of the Sipekne’katik First Nation, led the crowd in prayers. “This is about the water of the world.”
Like at Standing Rock, several Indigenous communities across Canada are trying to stop projects they worry will contaminate their water. In Nova Scotia, the Alton natural gas storage project would result in brine being dumped in the Shubenacadie River. In Labrador, the construction of Nalcor Energy’s hydroelectric dam risks contaminating the Churchill River with methylmercury.
Bernard told the crowd at Saturday’s event that Indigenous communities need help fighting these battles. “People need to wake up and we need to do this together,” she said. “We’re doing this for the children, for the future generations. What are we leaving behind for them?”
Many children led the march through downtown Halifax. Several of them held a banner which read “Standing Rock Will Not Stand Alone.”
Jean Paradis, a member of Glooscap First Nation, near Hantsport, N.S., pushed his baby granddaughter in a stroller as he marched.
“We can’t go to Standing Rock, so we’re here to support them,” he said. “People from all walks of life and people of every colour are here today. We all need water and that’s what this is about — for our future generations to have water.”
Dina Bernard, who is from Whycocomagh in Cape Breton, carried a sign that said “United in Love.”
“I’m here to stand up for our rights,” she said. “We have to stand up to the corporations to help the future generations. I want good change instead of bad change for my kids.”
Raven Peyote and Samar Chater organized Saturday’s event.
“My friend Samar and I were really inspired by the Standing Rock protests,” said Peyote, a member of the Elsipogtog First Nation in New Brunswick. “They have no weapons, they’re unarmed, they’re only asking for prayers.”
A similar protest took place Saturday in Toronto, where thousands of people took to the streets to show support for Standing Rock.