Legal action, meeting with minister discussed at Shoal Point meeting

Frank Gale fgale@thewesternstar.com
Published on September 1, 2015

Despite showing frustration with government response to petroleum leakage at Shoal Point, members of the Port au Port Fishery Committee vow to keep bringing their voices to the public.

The committee met at the Port au Port East town hall Monday night to discuss a number of issues, even having a discussion with St. John’s lawyer Bob Buckingham about the possibility of pursuing a class-action suit representing people affected by the oil spillage into Port au Port Bay.

Via telephone, Buckingham advised the group that if it wants to pursue legal action, members need to do some digging and get lots more information. He suggested that some of that could be done through access to information requests.

But the lawyer also warned that it’s a tough battle to win a class-action suit and that some type of proof about how this is impacting fisher harvesters and others needs to be pursued. Fish harvesters believe that the leaking petroleum has affected the scallop stocks in Port au Port Bay where hardly any live scallops can be found on the Shoal Cove side of Port au Port Bay and the numbers are low on the Long Point side.

Mi’kmaq cultural leader Ken (Mutchie) Bennett said people who own cabins and those who enjoy hiking or kayaking are also affected by this and the damage continues to be done to the earth.

The last line of defense, said Bennett, is people coming together to battle it.

“What’s our next move?” he asked.

Buckingham said there is a tradition associated with the land and encouraged members of the group to see what other First Nations people have done with such issues, suggesting that they had to do their own research.

At the end of the conversation, it was agreed that the group and Buckingham would keep in contact and try to determine whether any legal action would be worth pursuing.

Committee member Bob Diamond said he wrote a litter to Environment Minister Dan Crummell and noted there was no action yet at Shoal Point. However, Diamond said he got a reply from the minister that he would like to meet with the group.

Diamond suggested an invitation be extended to Crummell to meet the committee and discuss the issues surrounding Shoal Point.

He said research regarding impacts caused by the oil has been minimal and that coastal erosion is another issue that needs to be discussed.