Citizen activist takes on RCMP and gold mining giant

John Perkins roughed up by RCMP

JOHN PERKINS KNOWS HOW TO “SPEAK TRUTH TO POWER.” He did it in person in May. He plans to do it again through the courts.

John was roughed up, ejected from an open public meeting in May and arrested by the RCMP at the request of Atlantic Gold Corporation. John is suing officials with the company and the RCMP officer who arrested him.

The meeting was part of an offensive by the mining corporation to charm the communities where they plan to open four open pit gold mines. It didn’t work out that way.

In fact, the company showed its true colours when it called 911 to get the RCMP to back up its own security and eject John because he was a “trouble maker.”

John is an environmentalist and member of the group Sustainable Northern Nova Scotia. He put the company on the spot with pointed challenges to statements from company flaks at an early afternoon session. He was simply sitting quietly in a chair when the company moved to eject him from an evening session.

A video shows John holding both hands out and backing towards the door before the RCMP officer shoves him to the ground and carries him outside.

“They called the RCMP to silence me,”says John, “to prevent me from asking any critical questions that would be heard by fellow Nova Scotians.

Atlantic Gold eventually admitted it had paid the expenses of all the panelists and that the company was not bound to accept their advice.

Holding the authorities accountable

John says his decision to sue the corporation and the RCMP is “because I do not want people to think that corporations are legally permitted to make false accusations against members of the public in order to have them arrested and removed from public meetings.”

John has also filed a complaint with the RCMP Civilian Complaints Commissioner. The NS minster of justice declined to investigate the actions of the Sherbrooke RCMP detachment although he does have that authority.

The corporation tried to explain away its actions in a letter to the editor—but did not say it was sorry for what they did, nor offer any apology. John says he never got a call or an apology from anyone at Atlantic Gold for how he was treated.

Broad citizen activism

Atlantic Gold is just one of the companies in Nova Scotia’s present-day “gold rush”. Many citizen activists have come together to stop the devastation the corporations could bring to their communities.

A standing-room only crowd of over 150 people crammed into the Sherbrooke, NS Lions Hall in late August for a meeting organized by the St. Mary’s River Association. A number of speakers detailed their concerns about having the mine so close the environmentally sensitive St. Mary’s River and its surrounding watershed.

Local resident Rene Beaver noted that “it takes 30 to 40 years for the long-term effects of arsenic to make its way into the watershed and into the human population. Is this company going to be around to look after us if this happens?”

Up against mining goliaths

Stopping, or even slowing the gold mining companies, won’t be easy. On May 14, St. Barbara Limited, an Australian gold mining company, agreed to pay $722 million for Atlantic Gold Corporation. As of December 2018, Atlantic Gold held more than 13,200 claims in 200 active exploration licences in the province.

Atlantic Gold opened Tuoquoy, the first-ever open-pit gold mine in Nova Scotia, in 2017. The corporation has multi-million dollar plans to open three more open-pit gold mines along the Eastern Shore, from Halifax to Cape Breton, if it can get the necessary approvals from the McNeil government.

Meanwhile, John Perkins and his friends soldier on. They have set up a Friends of Perkins GoFundMe to help raise $15,000 to cover legal costs.

Perkins is also receiving support from Sustainable Northern Nova Scotia and other environmental groups.

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