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Oil and gas executives at an industry conference in Montreal sipped on a rather unique beverage this week, the National Post reports — fracking fluid.
During a lunch presentation at the Quebec Oil And Gas Association’s annual conference, Halliburton Canada vice-president John Gorman handed out glasses of the company’s “CleanStim” fracking fluid, and some 20 to 25 execs — Gorman included — took a sip, the Post reported.
Talk about a potent potable.
Gorman said Halliburton “only had to replace very few chemicals with some food additives” to create a fracking fluid safe enough to drink. But the company maintains its fracking fluid is “not intended for human consumption.”
It was a publicity stunt, of course, one that Halliburton — which used to be headed by former Vice President Dick Cheney — has repeated multiple times in recent years.
It’s meant to show that environmentalists’ concerns about toxic fluids in fracking operations are overblown.
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper told a U.S. congressional committee earlier this year that he drank Halliburton fracking fluid.
And it was likely not a coincidence that the latest round of fracking fluid drinking took place in Quebec, which has instituted a moratorium on fracking.
That moratorium has frustrated some energy companies hoping to jump-start the fracking industry in the province, and led to a lawsuit against the federal government.
Lone Pine Resources says it plans to sue Ottawa for $250 million under NAFTA provisions. The company claims Quebec’s moratorium on fracking beneath the St. Lawrence River, instituted in 2011, takes away the company’s “valuable right” to frack.
Violent clashes broke out earlier this month at Elsipogtog First Nation in New Brunswick when police tried to enforce an injunction against an ongoing protest against shale gas exploration. Shale gas is typically extracted through fracking, which is a process by which water and chemicals are forced into rock formations in order to extract oil or gas.
Besides concerns that toxic chemicals could leak into the groundwater from fracking operations, some studies have suggested fracking exploration is causing earthquakes.
A new study from the British government, released this week, says fracking isn’t a public health risk, so long as it’s well regulated and well run, the Guardian reported.
- Halliburton exec’s new drink of choice: Fracking fluid (mining.com)
- Top Haliburton executive sips fracking fluid with colleagues in industry show stunt (business.financialpost.com)
- What Fracking Means for Bottled Drinking Water (knowyourbottledwaterblog.com)
- Fracking (xufenghuang.wordpress.com)
- Peak Oil Denial: Skimming Over Facts (peakoil.com)
- Fracking hysteria prompts industry code of conduct to quell fears (business.financialpost.com)
- ‘Low health risk’ from fracking (bbc.co.uk)
- Study: Fracking Sucks Up Freshwater At Alarming Rate (mintpressnews.com)
“Canada is a developed country and it is having an implosion of the sort that we’ve only seen in the developing countries,” said Rebecca Adamson, president and co-founder of First Peoples’ Worldwide, the group that conducted the study.
“We’ve always seen this erupt when a government refuses to be clear in upholding indigenous land tenure.”
The Indigenous Rights Risk Report studied 52 U.S. resource companies and 370 projects around the world, including 16 companies and 76 projects active in Canada. The aim of the survey is to assess how likely it is that conflict with indigenous communities could result in costly shutdowns.
Canada is home to six of the 21 projects deemed to be at highest risk of collapse according to the group’s analysis — more than any other country. Countries such as Argentina, Indonesia and Ghana are its peers on the list.
The Canadian government is “operating like a third-world country,” Adamson said, adding that its approach to indigenous rights more closely mimics the Philippines and Brazil than the U.S and Australia.
Signs are pointing to an increasing number of protests and possible violence in the country, she added.
First Nations have been on a legal winning streak in Canada, with nearly 200 court victories recognizing their right to be consulted — and in some cases accommodated.
But companies operating in Canada have no clear regulatory guidelines for how to deal with aboriginal communities, creating an uncertain business climate.
“Canada is caught in a moment of schizophrenia because the Canadian court systems are upholding these cases the way that would be expected from all of the developed countries that uphold the rule of law,” Adamson said.
The Harper government’s stance on First Nations and resource development has been called into question in recent years, particularly in the wake of controversial changes to native rights in Bill C-45, the Idle No More protests and after violence erupted at a protest against fracking in New Brunswick this month.
Story continues below gallery
Elsipogtog First Nation Protest Fracking Projects
Canada’s risk level was graded three out of five — medium risk — higher than other industrialized countries like the U.S., New Zealand and Australia, which had a risk level of two.
Canada’s risk level started at a two when the study began two years ago, but after a series of flare-ups the group moved its risk factor higher citing an inconsistent enforcement of indigenous rights.
The group said Canadian projects scored so poorly partly because of the government’s failure to uphold its obligations to First Nations, which is in turn inflicting financial and reputational damage on companies trying to do business in the country.
“The Canadian government may be pro-business but its policies towards First Nations will have very anti-business results,” Adamson said.
“You can already see this in the fact it has the highest number of risky sites. Eventually the companies pull out.”
Houston-based Southwestern Energy’s project in New Brunswick made headlines earlier this month when violence broke out between police and First Nations protesters. That project was ranked highest of the Canadian projects with a risk rating of 4.2 out of 5, the same score as a project in Nigeria.
The company has said the blockades have cost it as much as $60,000 per day. It’s a consequence the report said shows why it makes good business sense to respect indigenous rights and work with their communities and a perfect example of what happens when governments ignore aboriginal sovereignty.
The report concluded that Southwestern “executives were ill-prepared and uninformed for how First Nations in Canada can impact their operations, thus leaving investors and shareholders at risk.”
Cliffs Natural Resources oft-delayed chromite project in Ontario’s Ring of Fire region also ranked highly on the list, with a score of 4.1 out of 5.
The surrounding First Nations in northern Ontario have many concerns about the impact of a giant mining development on their land and traditional way of life. They say an environmental review of the project was too weak.
Cliffs has cited frustration with hold-ups from government and First Nations fordelaying and potentially cancelling the project, saying if it is forced to walk away, it will send a bad signal about Canada’s mining climate.
Some ever-controversial oilsands projects rounded out the riskiest Canadian projects.Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline, the Apache/Chevron/EOG Pacific Trails Pipeline, as well as Murphy Oil’s Alberta Bakken project and its Peace River Oil Sands project were assigned a risk rating of four.
Canada’s oil industry looks to governments to settle issues on land claims, treaty rights, traditional territories, consultation processes and royalty/revenue-sharing positions, said Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers spokeswoman Geraldine Anderson, adding CAPP wouldn’t comment specifically on the report.
The clash between resource extraction and indigenous rights is expected to become more pronounced in the coming years as indigenous people increasingly see their rights enshrined at national and international levels and exercise them more effectively.
At the same time, a shrinking number of available resource discoveries means companies are pushing into more remote regions and Indigenous lands.
The study found that most of the 52 companies studied were ill-prepared to engage and work with indigenous people — a whopping 90 per cent of them had no clear indigenous policy at all.
The report says the moral imperative alone has not been effective in forcing companies and governments to respect indigenous rights. The group aims to show companies that there are good financial reasons to accommodate aboriginal communities, namely avoiding protests, bad press and legal battles.
- UN: Canada faces crisis over indigenous issues (boston.com)
- Aboriginal Consultations Bypassed (indigenouscanada.wordpress.com)
- United Nations envoy arrives in Canada to document Aboriginal concerns (mining.com)
- First Nations aren’t swayed by vague promises (theglobeandmail.com)
Women lead a march at Elsipogtog. Photo via Twitter.
In the mid-1990s I moved to Mi’gma’gi to go to graduate school. I was expecting to learn about juvenile Atlantic salmon on the Miramichi River. I was naive and misguided. Fortunately for me, the Mi’kmaq people saw that in me and they taught me something far more profound. I did my first sweat in the homeland of Elsipogtog, in the district of Siknikt. I did solidarity work with the women of Elsipogtog, then known as Big Cove, as they struggled against imposed poverty and poor housing. One of them taught me my first song, the Mi’kmaq honor song, and I attended her Native Studies class with her as she sang it to a room full of shocked students.
I also found a much needed refuge with a Mi’kmaq family on a nearby reserve. What I learned from all of these kind people who saw me as an Nishnaabeg in a town where no one else did, was that the place I needed to be wasn’t Mi’gma’gi, but in my own Mississauga Nishnaabeg homeland. For that I am grateful.
Nearly every year I travel east to Mi’gma’gi for one reason or another. In 2010, my children and I traveled to Listuguj in the Gespe’gewa’gi district of Mi’gma’gi to witness the PhD dissertation defense of Fred Metallic. I was on Fred’s dissertation committee, and Fred had written and was about to defend his entire dissertation in Mi’gmaw (Mi’kmaq) without translation—a groundbreaking achievement. Fred had also kindly invited us to his community for the defense. When some of the university professors indicated that this might be difficult given that the university was 1,300 kilometers away from the community, Fred simply insisted there was no other way.
He insisted because his dissertation was about building a different kind of relationship between his nation and Canada, between his community and the university. He wasn’t going to just talk about decolonizing the relationship, he was determined to embody it, and he was determined that the university would as well.
This was a Mi’kmaw dissertation on the grounds of Mi’kmaw intellectual traditions, ethics, and politics.
The defense was unlike anything I have ever witnessed within the academy. The community hall was packed with representatives from band councils, the Sante Mawiomi, and probably close to 300 relatives, friends, children, and supporters from other communities. The entire defense was in Mi’gmaw, led by community Elders, leaders, and Knowledge Holders—the real intellectuals in this case.
There was ceremony. There was song and prayer. At the end, there was a huge feast and giveaway. It went on for the full day and into the night. It was one of the most moving events I have ever witnessed, and it changed me. It challenged me to be less cynical about academics and institutions because the strength and persistence of this one Mi’gmaw man and the support of his community changed things.
I honestly never thought he’d get his degree, because I knew he’d walk away rather than compromise. He had my unconditional support either way. Fred is one of the most brilliant thinkers I’ve ever met, and he was uncompromising in his insistence that the university meet him halfway. I never thought an institution would.
All of these stories came flooding back to me this week as I watched the RCMP attack the nonviolent anti-fracking protestors at Elsipogtog with rubber bullets, an armored vehicle, tear gas, fists, police dogs, and pepper spray. The kind of stories I learned in Mi’gmagi will never make it into the mainstream media, and most Canadians will never hear them.
Instead, Canadians will hear recycled propaganda as the mainstream media blindly goes about repeating the press releases sent to them by the RCMP designed to portray Mi’kmaw protestors as violent and unruly in order to justify their own colonial violence. The only images most Canadians will see is of the three hunting rifles, a basket full of bullets and the burning police cars, and most will be happy to draw their own conclusions based on the news—that the Mi’kmaq are angry and violent, that they have no land rights, and that they deserved to be beaten, arrested, criminalized, jailed, shamed, and erased.
The story here, the real story, is virtually the same story in every indigenous nation: Over the past several centuries we have been violently dispossessed of most of our land to make room for settlement and resource development. The active system of settler colonialism maintains that dispossession and erases us from the consciousness of settler Canadians except in ways that is deemed acceptable and non-threatening to the state.
We start out dissenting and registering our dissent through state-sanctioned mechanisms like environmental impact assessments. Our dissent is ignored. Some of us explore Canadian legal strategies, even though the courts are stacked against us. Slowly but surely we get backed into a corner where the only thing left to do is to put our bodies on the land. The response is always the same—intimidation, force, violence, media smear campaigns, criminalization, silence, talk, negotiation, “new relationships,” promises, placated resistance, and then more broken promises.
Then the cycle repeats itself.
This is why it is absolutely critical that our conversations about reconciliation include the land. We simply cannot build a new relationship with Canada until we can talk openly about sharing the land in a way that ensures the continuation of indigenous cultures and lifeways for the coming generations. The dispossession of indigenous peoples from our homelands is the root cause of every problem we face, whether it is missing or murdered indigenous women, fracking, pipelines, deforestation, mining, environmental contamination, or social issues as a result of imposed poverty.
So we are faced with a choice. We can continue to show the photos of the three hunting rifles and the burnt-out cop cars on every mainstream media outlet ad nauseam and paint the Mi’kmaq with every racist stereotype we know, or we can dig deeper.
We can seek out the image of strong, calm Mi’kmaq women and children armed with drums and feathers and ask ourselves what would motivate mothers, grandmothers, aunties, sisters, and daughters to stand up and say enough is enough. We can learn about the 400 years these people and their ancestors have spent resisting dispossession and erasure. We can learn about how they began their reconciliation process in the mid-1700s when they forged Peace and Friendship treaties. We can learn about why they chose to put their bodies on the land to protect their lands and waters against fracking because—setting the willfully ignorant and racists aside—sane, intelligent people should be standing with them.
Our bodies should be on the land so that our grandchildren have something left to stand upon.
Leanne Simpson wrote this article for the Huffington Post, where it originally appeared. Leanne is a writer, spoken-word artist, and indigenous academic.
- Another Story From Elsipogtog (in Opinion) (thetyee.ca)
- HPC: Elsipogtog Protest: We’re Only Seeing Half the Story (sacredfirenb.com)
- “FRACK OFF!” Elsipogtog First Nation announces major land reclamation in ongoing anti-fracking struggle (tworowtimes.com)
- MC: Elsipogtog: “Clashes” 400 Years in the Making (sacredfirenb.wordpress.com)
It’s the “Wild East” of the European Union. Here nationalism, cronyism,anti-Semitism, anti-Roma racism and corruption — above all corruption— strut and dominate the public arena.
Where to begin?
Perhaps in the Czech Republic. They’re holding parliamentary elections on the weekend. The reason? The Czech government collapsed because the prime minister, Petr Nečas, was forced to resign.
His senior aide, who was also his lover and is now his wife, had ordered the country’s security services to spy on the prime minister’s then wife and report back. The aide wanted to push through a speedy divorce.
Then there’s Romania where large street demonstrations against corruption are the order of the week, the month, the year, not to mention last year and the year before.
The demonstrations have brought down ministers and governments without ending the problem.
- Police end protesters siege of Bulgarian parliament
- Canadian gold mine project in Romania could go to referendum
The added twist this fall is that the demonstrations have been against corruption AND the development of the Rosia Montana open-pit gold mine, the biggest in Europe, which is owned by a Canadian company.
Next door, in Bulgaria, things are even wilder. In February, 100,000 people stormed through the streets protesting against unemployment, corruption and high electricity prices. The government resigned.
In June, a new government appointed a so-called security czar, Delyan Peevski, a 32 year old referred to coyly as “a media mogul with dubious friends.”
He also had no experience in policing or security. Within 36 hours he was gone, the victim of a huge public backlash. The backlash continued for 40 days, with demonstrations getting bigger and bloodier.
The irony is that bringing these countries into the union in the last dozen years was supposed to be the first step to emptying the swamp of corruption.
Each of these nations had to sign “governance agreements” that committed them to cleaning up their acts. That clean-up hasn’t happened.
Instead European money, rivers of it, has flowed in to build roads, restore buildings and improve a stagnant infrastructure.
Large chunks of that money has simply gone missing. In effect, Europe has magnified, not reduced, the corruption problem by putting more cash up for grabs.
Hungary, a special case
Hungary doesn’t quite fit the mould of the other three countries as it combines nationalism, corruption and the rise of the extreme right.
Once, a dozen years ago, Viktor Orban, Hungary’s prime minister, was hailed by outsiders as the best post-Communist leader the country had had.
Now, three years after his return to power in 2010 he has become a strident nationalist who denounces Brussels, the headquarters of the European Union, of which his country is a member, as the “new Moscow.”
The EU parliament returned the compliment, officially rebuking his government for working to strip the Hungarian judiciary and media of their independence and for rewriting the country’s constitution to suit its whims.
But that’s only a taste of Hungary’s current anxieties.
The country’s fastest growing party is Jobbik, an extreme right-wing group that polled 17 per cent in the 2010 elections, largely by attacking the Roma minority (roughly 800,000 in a country of 10 million) in virulent terms.
Roma were “Gypsy criminals,” Jobbik leader Gabor Vona, shouted from podiums. Other Jobbik leaders railed against “Jews and financiers” as well.
Jobbik created its own vigilante group, calling it the Hungarian Guard and giving it uniforms and symbols that intentionally recalled those of the pro-Nazi militia of the 1930s and ’40s.
The Orban government tolerated this and then, this spring, went further when its minister of culture awarded the country’s highest award for journalism to a man who had called the Roma “monkeys” and was known for his scarcely-veiled anti-Semitic remarks.
Oligarchs and mafia
Hungary’s position on the Roma is the most glaring, but official attitudes towards that group in all four countries are unforgiving.
It’s an ongoing headache for Brussels and for countries like France that find themselves trying, and failing, to cope with the inflow of Roma from Eastern Europe.
Just as worrying for Brussels is the continuing rampant corruption in these former Soviet satellites.
Bulgaria is the worst case. It is the poorest country in the EU and many leaders in Brussels, not to mention the legion of Bulgarian protestors, believe that much the state is beholden to “oligarchs” or “mafias.”
So glaring is the problem that when tens of thousands of protesters filled the streets of Sofia, the Bulgarian capital, this summer to denounce corruption and the government, European justice commissioner Viviane Reding went along, to meet the demonstrators, and tweeted, “Here in Sofia my sympathy is with Bulgarian citizens who are protesting against corruption.”
Alas, the tweets and weeks of protests were not enough to force the government to resign.
Compared to Bulgaria, the Czech Republic is far richer but hardly immune from corruption and cronyism. In the two-year period before Nečas was forced to resign, a former defence minister, a former top aide to a prime minister, an MP and governor of a large province and the mayor of Prague were all charged with crimes relating to fraud, bribes and corruption.
In Romania, a report in July by the country’s National Agency for Integrity said that half the mayors should resign because of conflicts of interest. They sat on the boards of companies their cities were giving contracts to.
Throughout all of this, EU leaders look on and cluck censoriously. They do little more.
It has been less than a quarter-century since these countries cast off the Communist yoke. But whether it’s the centralization of all power, as in Hungary, or the dead hand of corrupt elites, the ways learned in the days of Soviet domination persist.
The Wild East still thrives.
- Why There Has Been a Rise of the Far Right (hungarianfarright.wordpress.com)
- Neo-Nazis mobilise against minorities in Czech republic (dokmz.wordpress.com)
- Jobbik’s menacing shadow over Hungary (politics.hu)
What was to be the final day of hearings in Toronto on the controversial Line 9 pipeline was cancelled Saturday, as hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets to oppose energy company Enbridge’s plan to reverse the oil pipe and increase its capacity to carry crude.
“They try to make it seem like we’re not going to have a spill. And it’s very likely that a spill will happen somewhere along this line,” said protester Nigel Barriffe, who lives near Line 9 in northwest Toronto.
Enbridge was to make its closing submissions to the National Energy Board on its plan to reverse the line, so it would flow from Southern Ontario to Montreal, and increase its capacity to move crude oil.
But the National Energy Boardannounced late Friday that Saturday’s hearings were off, saying the way the previous day’s hearings ended raised concerns about the security of participants. Protesters were out in force for Friday’s panel hearing, but there was no violence during that demonstration or Saturday’s rally.
- Line 9 pipeline hearing postponed after protests
- Pipeline plan threatens First Nations communities, NEB hears
On Friday, protesters, many gathered under the banner of the Idle No More movement, first milled outside the Metro Toronto Convention Centre to rally against the Line 9 pipeline and to show solidarity with demonstrations at New Brunswick’s Elsipogtog First Nation against a shale-gas project. They were eventually allowed in slowly, after the NEB determined that there were enough seats.
After an anti-Line 9 deputant completed her official submissions to the NEB panelists, the demonstrators began chanting and moving up to the front of the room toward the panel.
There was a brief scuffle with security. Then the NEB panel members were escorted by security and police out of the room, as was an Enbridge representative.
The NEB didn’t provide a date for when Enbridge will present the closing arguments that had been slated for Saturday.
Protest organizer Amanda Lickers said the NEB should have found a way to let Enbridge make its case in support of the reversal.
“I think that if they were really concerned about security, they could have still done it over the web…. There could have been ways to make the presentation happen.”
Critics cite environmental risks
The panel heard this week from interveners stating the reversal would put First Nations communities at risk, threaten water supplies and could endanger vulnerable species in ecologically sensitive areas.
Jan Morrissey of a Toronto residents’ group showed up early Saturday morning for the hearing, only to learn it was cancelled.
Morrissey said she’s disappointed she won’t get to hear Enbridge’s final reply to arguments made to the board by critics of the reversal.
“It’s sort of like reading a book and not getting to see the last chapter,” she said.
The pipeline reversal would increase the line’s capacity to 300,000 barrels of crude oil per day, up from the current 240,000 barrels.
Enbridge has also asked for permission to move different types of oil, including a heavier form of crude from the Alberta oilsands.
Opponents say the crude Enbridge wants to transport is more corrosive and will stress the aging infrastructure and increase the chance of a leak.
But Enbridge has said what will flow through the line will not be a raw oilsands product — although there will be a mix of light crude and processed bitumen.
Line 9 originally shuttled oil from Sarnia, Ont., to Montreal but was reversed in the late 1990s in response to market conditions to pump imported crude westward.
Enbridge is now proposing to flow oil back eastward to service refineries in Ontario and Quebec.
The company has experienced several devastating spills on its pipelines, including one in Michigan that leaked 3.3 million litres of oil into the Kalamazoo River and has already cost the company more than $1 billion. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency believes there is at least 684,000 litres of bitumen still in the river.
- Final day of Enbridge Line 9 pipeline hearings cancelled over security concerns (globalnews.ca)
- Line 9 hearings by National Energy Board overtaken by protest (cbc.ca)
- Enbridge pipeline: Toronto criticizes emergency plans (metronews.ca)
- Thousands march against GMOs, Monsanto across Canada (talesfromthelou.wordpress.com)
- CBC: N.B. shale gas solidarity protests spread to other regions (sacredfirenb.wordpress.com)
- Anti-fracking protesters torch cop cars in New Brunswick (washingtontimes.com)
HALIFAX – Justice Minister Peter MacKay is calling for an end to any confrontations and the resumption of talks to resolve a dispute over shale gas exploration in eastern New Brunswick.
MacKay was briefed early Friday on the incidents a day earlier near Rexton where the RCMP arrested at least 40 people during protests that saw police vehicles set on fire and the Mounties allege they were the target of Molotov cocktails.
“There’s obviously a need to respect the law and to avoid violence and return to discussions,” he said at a roundtable discussion on justice issues in Halifax.
“That is what we’re all encouraging and hoping for, but when violence erupts you can expect the police are there to keep the peace and to protect citizens.”
The Mounties say the arrests were made after Molotov cocktails were thrown at officers and police vehicles were torched when officers began enforcing an injunction to end a weeks-long demonstration.
Const. Jullie Rogers-Marsh said at least five RCMP vehicles were destroyed after they were set ablaze and at least one shot was fired by someone other than a police officer at the site of a protest.
Protesters were arrested for firearms offences, threats, intimidation, mischief and violating the court-ordered injunction.
Rogers-Marsh said police decided to enforce the injunction because threats had been made against private security guards at the site on Wednesday night. She wouldn’t reveal what tactics police were using to contain the crowd and refused to comment on reports that officers had fired rubber bullets.
Robert Levi, a councillor with the Elsipogtog First Nation, said police pepper-sprayed dozens of people after he arrived at a protest site in the Rexton area with the chief and council on Thursday morning.
The RCMP blocked Route 134 on Sept. 29 after a protest there began spilling onto the road. Protesters subsequently cut down trees that were placed across another part of the road, blocking the entrance to the compound.
In other parts of the country, demonstrations were held to support the protests in Rexton, with more scheduled for Friday.
The mayor of the village of Perth-Andover in western New Brunswick said about three dozen protesters from the Tobique First Nation blocked traffic on the Trans-Canada Highway for several hours Thursday before ending their protest at 8 p.m.
Peter Ritchie said truck traffic was backed up for several kilometres on both sides of the highway.
In Winnipeg, about 50 protesters disrupted traffic at Portage and Main in support of the Rexton protesters. The demonstration was relatively peaceful, but protesters did burn a Canadian flag before making their way to the RCMP building on Portage Avenue.
In southern Ontario, provincial police said 30 to 40 protesters shut down Highway 6 on Thursday between the communities of Hagersville and Caledonia. A local news agency, Turtle Island News, said the protest by Six Nations members was also staged in solidarity with the protests in eastern New Brunswick.
Levi said he expects a meeting Friday between New Brunswick Premier David Alward and Elsipogtog Chief Arren Sock in Fredericton.
Levi and Sock were among the dozens of people arrested Thursday. The protesters, who include members of Elsipogtog, want SWN Resources to stop seismic testing and leave the province.
Alward has also said he wants a peaceful resolution, adding that he still believes a shale gas industry can be developed in the province both safely and in a sustainable way.
In a statement issued Thursday, New Brunswick’s Green party leader said Alward has missed an opportunity to reset his government’s relationship with First Nations in New Brunswick.
“The people of Elsipogtog and local residents of Kent County were simply trying to protect their right to safe water and the well-being of their communities through peaceful civil disobedience,” David Coon said. “Their cause is just and deserves respect. The decision to respond with force will deepen the conflict.”
SWN Resources issued a statement Friday saying it is in the early stages of exploration in New Brunswick.
“Our employees are dedicated to the safety of people and the environment, as well as ensuring we are in full compliance with all regulations,” it said.
- N.B. shale gas clash leads to protests across Canada (globalnews.ca)
- Most RCMP withdraw after shale gas clash in Rexton – New Brunswick – CBC News (olduvaiblog.wordpress.com)
- Five police cruisers torched, 40 protesters arrested as native anti-fracking rally turns violent (news.nationalpost.com)
- RCMP pepper spray, arrest N.B. anti-shale gas protesters, police cars set on fire (globalnews.ca)
- Reaction to violent protest in New Brunswick (metronews.ca)
- Sacred Fires Lighting for Elsipogtog First Nation (netnewsledger.com)
The mood has changed at a standoff that turned violent today in Rexton, N.B., between shale gas protesters and the RCMP.
The majority of police at the scene left around 7 p.m., to cheers from a crowd of protesters.
John Levi, a First Nations chief on the scene, had earlier spoken to RCMP officers — trying to reach an agreement on ending the standoff.
It is not known what was said but, at the end of the conversation some 40 officers, who were wearing shields and helmets, left. About a dozen remained.
Levi later said that First Nations may have “lost the battle” referring to the fact that SWN Resources, the company at the centre of the conflict, has not agreed to stop shale gas seismic testing, as the protesters demand.
But “we have not lost the war,” he added.
Earlier in the day, protesters and RCMP clashed, leading to at least five police vehicles being set on fire and the arrest of a First Nations chief.
‘We urge all sides not to resort to violence as history has proven these tactics are not productive.’— Chief Gabriel Atwin, Kingsclear First Nation
In a news release, the RCMP said more than 40 protesters were arrested for various offences including firearms offences, uttering threats, intimidation, mischief and for refusing to abide by a court injunction.
The protesters arrested were taken to three different communities where they are expected in court Friday morning around 9:30 to face charges. Police spread the arrested protesters out in an effort to prevent the courthouses being overwhelmed by protest supporters during the arraignments.
The RCMP said at least one shot was fired by someone other than police and that Molotov cocktails had been thrown at police, while at least five RCMP vehicles were destroyed by fire. Police also investigated suspected explosive devices at the scene.
The clashes started at about 1 p.m. after police fired pepper spray at the protesters, who were trying to push through the police line.
RCMP spokeswoman Const. Jullie Rogers-Marsh said that no rubber bullets were used but that RCMP members used “sock rounds” — also known as bean bag rounds, which are a type of non-lethal ammunition — on two occasions during the clash in an attempt to defuse the situation.
CBC reporter, Jennifer Choi, said thick black smoke was billowing from the scene, and she could hear popping and see sparks in at least one of the flaming vehicles.
It is not known whether ammunition was in the vehicles. Bystanders backed away from the fire as a precaution, Choi said.
First Nations leader arrested
T.J. Burke, the lawyer for the Elsipogtog First Nation, confirmed Chief Aaron Sock was among those arrested in the clash. He and a few of his band council members were released a few hours after their arrests.
Sock is the leader of the band that has beenblockading Route 134 near Rexton since Sept. 30.
On Oct. 1, Sock issued an eviction notice to SWN Resources of Canada. His band and his band council planned to pass a resolution preventing the government and shale gas companies from continuing their work by reclaiming all unoccupied reserve land and giving it back to First Nations.
It remained unclear exactly which land is involved, and how the band council planned to take it back, but Sock said getting SWN to remove its equipment would be a start.
Sock said earlier that, for centuries, the British Crown claimed to be holding the land in trust for his people, but since the land is being badly mismanaged, First Nations people are taking it back.
The road between Rexton and Highway 11 has been the scene of the protest, involving a coalition of natives and non-natives opposed to shale gas exploration.
Protesters moved into the area on Sept. 30, initially establishing a barricade to the staging area used by SWN Resources Canada to park its exploration vehicles and equipment.
The protest progressed to the point where barricades were also established on the road, preventing traffic from going through.
SWN Resources went to the Court of Queen’s Bench and successfully sought an injunction to end the protest.
During a hearing, court was told SWN Resources is losing $60,000 every day its seismic exploration trucks remain blockaded in the compound off Route 134.
The injunction authorized police to arrest and remove anyone contravening the order to allow traffic to pass on the highway. However, with negotiations taking place between the two sides, the RCMP didn’t immediately enforce the injunction.
On Friday, the injunction was extended. A single lane of Route 134 was subsequently reopened.
The RCMP moved in on the protesters on Route 134 in Rexton this morning.
RCMP notified the public at 7:45 a.m. about the closure of Route 134. A subsequent notice at 8:21 a.m. indicated Highway 11 was closed between Rexton and Sainte-Anne-de-Kent, and that delays could be expected.
The RCMP said the court injunction remains in effect and anyone who violates its conditions can be arrested and charged.
Video taken by protesters that was submitted to CBC shortly after the police started enforcing the injunction shows officers with dogs moving toward the protest encampment on the side of road. Protesters are yelling obscenities at police and inform them elders and children are present.
Meanwhile, an Anglophone North school district notice on its website said three schools in the area were open but under lockdown as a precaution. Around noon, the board announced Rexton Elementary, Eleanor W. Graham Middle School and Bonar Law Memorial High School would close for the day, and students would be sent home.
“Safety and security is paramount for our students and staff,” said the school district’s public notice.
N.B. chiefs call for peace
National Chief for the Assembly of First Nations Shawn Atleo released a statement Thursday night, pledging support for the peaceful protest involving Elsipogtog First Nation.
“Please know that we — and First Nations across the country — stand proudly in solidarity with you and your community. Most importantly, the safety and security of our citizens is our foremost concern at this time,’ he said.
Chief Gabriel Atwin said earlier in the day members of Kingsclear First Nation were demonstrating peacefully on Route 105.
In a news release, Atwin said the Assembly of First Nations in New Brunswick “strongly condemns the acts of aggression that have taken place today within the Mi’kmaq traditional territory near Elsipogtog. We urge all sides not to resort of violence as history has proven these tactics are not productive.”
Atwin noted, however, that for the past two years, First Nations in New Brunswick have tried to work within the confines of “a restrictive, compartmentalized consultation process” when it comes to seismic testing in the province.
He said the whole process is “completely unworkable because it runs counter to our customs and traditions.”
In the same release Assembly Co-chair Chief George Ginnish said the consultation process should include “conversation on potential impacts to our constitutionally protected rights, and provide options to mitigate these dangers.”
Ginnish has called on “an immediate end to the violence by all involved, to restart the process taking into account all perspectives in New Brunswick and the inalienable rights of aboriginals.”
Politicians in New Brunswick have also spoken out about the protest.
Opposition Leader Brian Gallant released a statement calling on protesters to respect the injunction and that he hopes for a peaceful resolution.
“I witnessed the protest first-hand this morning. There is much angst and anxiety at the protest site and in the surrounding communities. The dialogue must immediately resume in order to resolve the differences that have arisen,” he said.
New Brunswick Premier David Alward’s office has not returned calls from the CBC, but Alward posted a statement on the government’s website saying he is “deeply troubled that violence has erupted on Route 134 near Rexton.”
“While we respect and defend the right of individuals to protest peacefully, we cannot endorse or tolerate unlawful activity,” he said.
Alward also said the government of New Brunswick will do everything in its power to bring about a peaceful resolution.
- 40 arrested, police vehicles burned as RCMP clash with N.B. shale gas protesters (globalnews.ca)
- RCMP move in on Mi’kmaq fracking protesters in New Brunswick (o.canada.com)
- Rexton Fracking Protest Erupts (netnewsledger.com)
- Anti-fracking protesters torch cop cars in New Brunswick (washingtontimes.com)
- Protests in Canada turn violent (wdsu.com)