$500,000.00 in emergency funding has been granted by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada to allow UINR (Unama’ki Institute of Natural Resources) to take measures to protect Mi’kmaq culturally significant lands on the Bras d’Or Lakes in  Malagawatch, Cape Breton.

UINR’s Annie Johnson explains, “Over the years erosion has threatened the ancient cemetery and shrine that has been used by the Mi’kmaq people for  hundreds of years.  The storms over the past couple of months have resulted in the bank eroding to such a degree that the stone shrine ‘s foundation has been undermined and is hanging over the bank.  The road leading to the cemetery is impassable.”

Shrine foundation now exposed

A Phase I environmental assessment is underway and UINR is developing a workplan to immediately address the problem.  “Two years ago we took initial measures in an attempt to preserve the site. We installed a blanket of geotextile over the bank to the shore and, up until recently, it stayed in place, protecting the bank. The geotextile protection was lost in the recent storms causing a dramatic increase in bank erosion.”

In 2009 UINR commissioned W.F. Baird & Associates Coastal Engineers Ltd. to develop a plan to mitigate the erosion. Their report determined that it was an emergency situation and public safety was a concern. The report provides several options to protect and preserve the site, including  grading the bank and protecting the shoreline with armour stone.

Annie explains, “We know that time is of the essence and we need to act quickly to ensure that the site is not lost. At the rate that the land is eroding, another major storm could result in significant damage.”

Erosion to cemetery road makes it impassable