Mi’kmaw activist Elizabeth Marshall says Kluscap Mountain in Cape Breton, N.S. is sacred and should remain protected from any mining activity.
“That’s where our people go to do fasts. That’s where our people go to offer ceremony. That’s where they go to seek visions,” Marshall said about mountain, also known as Kelly’s Mountain.
On Saturday, Marshall, a member of the Eskasoni First Nation, N.S., led a rally at the entrance of the Seal Island Bridge along the Trans Canada Highway 105 to protest the Mining Association of Nova Scotia’s efforts to have a portion of the mountain removed from protection status.
More than 40 people took part in the demonstration, including representatives with the Ecology Action Centre, the Council of Canadians and the David Suzuki Foundation. The group marched from a campground located at the base of the mountain to the bridge entrance.
The RCMP blocked off traffic on both sides of the bridge during the midday march and reduced traffic to one lane while protesters held signs to motorists. Near the end of the hour long demonstration, traffic on both sides was blocked once again while Marshall led a ceremony in the middle of the road.
“The Mining Association of Nova Scotia has made an audacious and scurrilous attack on this area and all of our protected areas,” Raymond Plourde, Ecology Action Centre’s Wilderness Coordinator, said during the demonstration.
“They want to get in and mine them even though protected wilderness areas specifically forbid under law that very kind of resource extraction and development,” Plourde said.
Kluscap Mountain given protection status in 2015
The Kluscap Wilderness Area in Victoria County was granted protection status under the Nova Scotia Wilderness Areas Protection Act in 2015.
In October, the Mining Association of Nova Scotia released a report urging the Nova Scotia government to reconsider its protection status on portions of crown land throughout the province, including Kluscap Mountain.
In the report, the association wrote that when the Kluscap Wilderness Area was granted protection status, there was also a proposed site on the mountain for a rock quarry. The report stated that 80 jobs over a 50-year-period could have been created if the rock quarry was permitted.
“MANS is asking the provincial government to strike a better balance between protecting jobs and protecting land by adding a ‘land swap’ mechanism to the protected lands regulatory regime,” the association wrote in a Nov. 14 news release.
“This would allow mining and quarrying companies to access protected land by purchasing land of at least equal size and ecological value outside of the protected areas and arranging for it to be protected instead,” the news release stated.
MANS executive director Shawn Kirby wrote to Victoria County Municipal Council about protected areas, the land swap policy, mineral exploration and the effect on the economy, according to minutes of a council meeting held on Nov. 14.
According to council minutes, Victoria County council “felt that this matter is not the County’s issue to fight.”
In a written response sent on Monday, Victoria County Warden Bruce Morrison said council decided to table both the letter and the issue indefinitely.
“It brings me back to mother nature” – Trevor Sanipass
Trevor Sanipass, a member of the Eskasoni First Nation, travelled from his home in Halifax to Kluscap Mountain to take part in Saturday’s rally. He said he often visited Kluscap Mountain while growing up in Unama’ki, also known as Cape Breton Island.
“I come to the mountains and to the caves, in most cases, to gather my thoughts,” Sanipass said.
Sanipass described his visits to Kluscap Mountain as a “spiritual awakening” where he often thinks about his Mi’kmaw ancestors and how they lived off the land.
“I live quite a busy lifestyle. If I’m in the forest, in the woods near water or in the caves, it’s just so refreshing. It brings me back to mother nature,” he added.
For Marshall, Kluscap Mountain is sacred because it is believed to be the home to “the little people” or Wi’klatmu’jk.
“If we wipe out their last home and sacred area, where do they go?” Marshall asked.
Marshall said she is prepared to hold more rallies and even camp outside Kirby’s home in St. Margaret’s Bay area near Halifax until the mining association leaves Kluscap Mountain alone.
“We’ll do that if that’s what it takes,” Marshall said.