Approximately 100 protestors showed their disapproval of the Maritime Launch Solutions spaceport project at a community information session in Canso on Oct. 6.

CANSO: While Maritime Launch Solutions (MLS) was hosting an information session on Oct. 6, providing an update to the community on the progress made to date, nearly 100 protestors with Action Against Canso Spaceport shouted outside in opposition to the project.

“I hear the laughter and I hear the joy, and I’m taught whenever there is high emotion, whether that is laughter or whether that be tears, that means the Creator is around, and if the Creator is around, then we are going to be protected,” Elizabeth Marshall said as she lead a prayer with the group. “Me being here, I’m not representing Elizabeth Marshall, I’m representing the Grandmothers of the nation. This is why I can come here and boldly tell these (people) why they are not welcome, and how we will defeat them.”

Inside, Steve Matier, MLS president and CEO, advised they received their approval from the Department of Environment in 2019 and received a long list of requirements they needed to accomplish before commencing construction.

“We’ve been working on those things and we wanted to share those things with the community about what we’ve been working on to satisfy Nova Scotia Environment and get on with the project,” Matier told reporters. “We have experts and all the people who have been working on this thing whether it’s Stantec, Nova Construction, Lindsay Construction, Lloyd’s Register, or some of my colleagues from the US, the idea was to let people see what we’ve been doing.”

Whether that’s the water monitoring program being handled by Cape Breton University, the air emission monitoring program by StFX University, the independent air emissions modelling handled by Lloyd’s Register that shows what a bad day could look like, or the information provided by the leading rocket noise specialists, Matier advised they have been busy.

“We’ve submitted a wildlife management plan, that’s in review, we’ve submitted a dangerous goods application, that they’ve asked up to give them some more information on,” he said. “We’ve literally submitted 1,000 pages of stuff and this is a synopsis of what we’ve been doing.”

Marshall, who represented the Grandmothers of the Mi’kmaq community, voiced her community’s disapproval of the project to Mattier directly.

“I’m here under the instruction of the Grandmothers of the Mi’kmaq community, this area encompasses our traditional territory, Mi’kma’ki,” Marshall said. “I’m here to inform you, the Grandmothers, the Grandfathers, the community that I represent those who oppose this project, 100 per cent.”

She told the company’s president it doesn’t really matter if they receive permits, a license, or purchased all the necessary land.

“At the end of the day, I represent the title of Mi’kma’ki and I also have proof of this title, and our title is still good,” Marshall said. “We don’t agree to colonialism anymore, and we are not going to commit any further destruction and ecological harm, to the life that you propose for a few jobs.”

Even if MLS goes through all the exercises of getting permits, getting government support, getting land, getting the Chiefs on board, she said, even after all of that, if they think they have the go ahead, they don’t.

“Because at that point, I’m going to step in with my warriors,” Marshall said. “And my land defenders and my water protectors, and we’re going to occupy the site.”

When asked by Matier if she’d like the opportunity to move around the room to see some of the work they’ve been doing, Marshall explained she had no interest because MLS proceeded without their consent.

“If you do some research, you’ll find out our title is protected by constitutional law,” she said. “What could you tell me here that could convince me that the ecological harm and the destruction to life that comes with this project is worth the colonialism. Nothing can convince me.”

While the plan was to get into the community to be able to answer any questions members of the community had, Matier highlighted unfortunately, not everybody was willing to learn what they’ve been up to.

“I invited them in, I’ve been trying to work with that community, to get them to ask a question, but they don’t have any, they just know they don’t like it. That’s the real downside to me,” he said. “They’re really open to their opinions; they’re not open to their own facts. The facts are the science-based stuff we have in the room.”

According to MLS, the spaceport will employ 50 full-time employees in Nova Scotia and the launch complex will require an investment in community infrastructure, provide economic spin-offs in the tourism and hospitality sectors, keep highly educated youth at home, and facilitate research and development initiatives with post-secondary institutions in the region.

Career opportunities at the spaceport will be available for skilled trades, scientists, engineers, security and fire services, Matier said, noting that for each launch, there will be an additional 150 people working at the site.

“Eighty per cent of the people working at launch site are working in the trades, they are the pipefitters, they’re the plumbers and the electricians,” Matier said. “That’s the backbone of the facility, and there’s no reason that can’t come from the local community.”

Asked what people were inquiring about during the information session, he indicated it was about the project timeline.

“I’m being yelled at because I didn’t start it, and I’m being yelled at because I want to start it,” Matier said. “But the answer to the when is, we’re working with the regulators providing them with the thousands of pages of material. They have their process; could I (have started) construction yesterday or six-months-ago, heck yeah. Can I? Not without that green light.”

He advised they’re respecting that process and following it and working with them to provide them with the material they need, as it’s a back and forth collaboration, but until they get the recommendations checked off their list, they won’t have permission to start construction.

Addressing concerns about rocket launches, such as where the cloud goes, how high up, how far and when it disperses, Matier advised all that information was being provided.

“That’s on a poster board over there,” he said. “If we had a worst-case scenario of all this rocket fuel mixed together, which can’t happen because of the controls we have in place, but let’s assume it could, well that’s on a poster board over there too.”