ANTIGONISH, N.S. — Four-time Academy Award nominee Ethan Hawke will be in northern Nova Scotia Monday to help with the Mi’kmaq community's water ceremony and support the aboriginal call for a moratorium on oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Hawke, who owns land in the St. George's Bay area near Antigonish, was contacted by the local Mi’kmaq community to attend the event in support of his neighbours.
"We trying to show the world that the Gulf of St. Lawrence is not available for oil exploration," said Troy Jerome, executive director of the Mi’gmawei Mawiomi Secretariat. "It's a race to get oil as opposed to a race protect the environment."
"When you look at the state of the environment and climate change, I think we should be racing to protect the land where we can."
The water ceremony is held in each season to give offerings and honour the Mi’kmaq people’s relationship with the water, the fish, the land.
For two years now, the group has been saying there should be a 12-year moratorium to give time to conduct a proper study by a third-party that looks at the Gulf as a whole ecosystem.
Jerome says up until now, studies have only been done by individual provinces.
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"The oil is not going to know which side of the border to stop its spill at," he said. "It's going to go all over the place."
"Our salmon do not follow a provincial boundary, they go right through the channel."
Jerome says officials told him when you combine the provincial studies together, they achieve a comprehensive study for the area.
"For us, that flies in the face of good science."
The Gulf of St. Lawrence is one of the largest marine breeding regions in Canada with more than 2,000 marine species choosing to spawn, nurse and migrate there year round.
It is also home to endangered whales and hosts some of the largest lobster production in the world.
The Mi'kmaq say the area is a sensitive ecosystem due to its winter ice cover, high winds and counter clockwise currents that only flush into the Atlantic once a year.
Jerome says Atlantic petroleum boards are operating at pace where Nova Scotians don't feel they have a say about oil drilling.
He says the tourism and fishing industries in the area are obviously concerned, but outside of that, not a whole lot of people really know about what's going on.
"We want to get people in the Atlantic to become more aware that these kinds of drilling programs are proposed in their water."
The venue for the water ceremony in Antigonish is also of historical significance.
The site was the location for the events that led to the Marshall Decision.
In 1993, Donald Marshall Jr., a member of the Membertou First Nation, was stopped for fishing in Antigonish County, N.S., for fishing eels without a license.
He claimed he was allowed to catch and sell fish by virtue of a treaty signed with the British Crown.
Six years later, the Supreme Court of Canada confirmed Donald Marshall Jr. had a treaty right to catch and sell fish, thus changing the way First Nations people could hunt and catch in Canada.
Ben Cousins , The Canadian Press