The RCMP have assured Plan B protesters that they will not attempt to evict them from the hemlock grove until the sacred fire at the camp is extinguished in traditional Mi’kmaq fashion.
One of the protesters, Keith Kennedy, said during an interview in the grove Thursday that he and several other protesters met with RCMP officers and were told that until John Joe Sark has contacted the police and discussed ways to extinguish the fire they will not move on the campers. Kennedy was not prepared to say when the fire might be extinguished.
Sark, Keptin of the Mi’kmaq Grand Council, lit the sacred fire at the beginning of the protest and it has been kept burning ever since. Mi’kmaq culture dictates that the fire must be kept burning and to that end campers have been certain it never goes out. The fire is central to camp life and there is always a ready supply of wood and people to keep it burning.
David Weale, author and historian, is watching the events unfold and like many protesters says this is about a lot more than the environment.
“This project (the highway realignment) is perhaps the most absurd undertaking in my lifetime on Prince Edward Island,” he said in an interview Thursday while standing near the sacred fire. “And the most poorly handled,” he quickly added.
Weale feels there is no good rationale for the project and everybody knows it. In other words the emperor has no clothes, he said.
“The reasons put forward have no substance whatever…the reasons against it have all kinds of substance and yet it goes ahead as if it was the other way around.”
Weale said he thinks the primary issues for the people in the protest is the environment, “but there is a secondary issue and it may even be the primary issue and that is the disgust of Islanders with how they have been treated, demeaned really, and not been treated with respect…I can’t remember any single politician, any minister whoever acknowledged that these people had anything to say of importance.”
Weale said the term “these people” referred to the protesters, but Islanders in general have gone on record from one end of the province to the other through letters to the editor as being against the highway realignment...”I mean I have been watching the political scene on P.E.I for almost 50 years and I have never seen that kind of sustained anger and interest in an issue and still no response (from government). It is as though ‘we don’t care what you say, it doesn’t matter what you say because this thing is going ahead’ well, that is a slap in the face.”
That “slap in the face” is what Weale sees as the secondary issue or even primary issue for Islanders’ anger.
"Slap in the face" fuelling Islanders' anger - David Weale
Weale was front and centre in the debate over the Confederation Bridge, but he could see reason in both sides of the issue. With the highway realignment he is at a loss to see any reason in the decision.
“I don’t understand anything about this project. Nothing that they (the government) says makes any sense…it is smoke and mirrors.”
Weale said when it is all said and done the issue will “stick (to the Liberals) for sure and it will not be forgotten.”
But it may even go deeper than that, he said. In fact, this issue is going to affect the way islanders think of politics in general “because what I hear again and again is ‘well it really doesn’t matter because these kinds of things would happen with either of the two old parties’ and I think that is the ground shift in Island politics right now.”
He said the more Islanders he speaks with the more he hears that people are fed up with “patronage based” Island politics.
There is a huge cynicism especially among young people and he sees that they have no interest in traditional politics. He feels they see it as a dead end and so because of this he anticipates a surge in the third or fourth parties in the next election.