Court fight over access to Alton Gas site focuses on Indigenous rights

An intense debate over Indigenous rights was part of a court hearing Tuesday for a Nova Scotia company that wants a judge to allow the RCMP to remove protesters camped on the firm's property.

The company, Alton Natural Gas Storage, is behind a plan to store natural gas in huge underground caverns north of Halifax, but the project has been delayed for years because of ongoing protests.

Alton, a subsidiary of Calgary-based Alta Gas, wants the court to issue an injunction that would ensure workers have access to the site near the Shubenacadie River.

Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Gerald Moir reserved his decision Tuesday after hearing more than two hours of arguments.

The company says the injunction is needed because a small group of protesters are trespassing and have consistently blocked access to the site since 2016.

Alton Gas says it has attempted ``engagement and discussion'' with the protesters, but they say those talks have gone nowhere.

A lawyer representing the protesters argued that one of two protesters mentioned in the draft injunction is an Indigenous man who can assert his treaty and Aboriginal rights on behalf of the Sipekne'katik First Nation.