Elsipogtog grassroots declare “victory” on the highway, while leadership aims to stop SWN in courtroom
APTN National News
ELSIPOGTOG FIRST NATION, NB–Mi’kmaq demonstrators declared “victory” Thursday after stopping thumper trucks belonging to a Houston-based energy company from conducting shale gas exploration north of Elsipogtog First Nation.
While about 100 Mi’kmaq and supporters faced a line of RCMP officers as SWN Resources Canada’s thumper trucks idled in the background, the Elsipogtog band council was 200 kilometres away in a Fredericton courtroom seeking an ex parte injunction to stop SWN from continuing the exploration work. A hearing on the injunction is set for Friday.
On Hwy 11 tensions ran high as Mi’kmaq demonstrators from Elsipogtog and other communities along with non-First Nations supporters tried to block SWN from operating their thumper trucks while the RCMP tried to intervene. SWN eventually decided to turn the trucks around with plans for another attempt expected Friday.
A well-known Elsipogtog fracking opponent Lorraine Clair was arrested during the protest for mischief, assault a police officer and resisting arrest, according to New Brunswick RCMP.
Still, spirits were high among people from Elsipogtog who watched SWN’s trucks roll away as dusk began to set.
“It is a small victory, but a victory nonetheless,” said Brennan Sock, from Elsipogtog. “We will take anything right now. We got the trucks to leave, we managed to slow them down as much as we can.”
T’uma Bernard, a Mi’kmaq Warrior from Prince Edward Island, said he saw renewed unity among the demonstrators.
“It was a great victory, it was a great day,” said Bernard.
RCMP spokesperson Const. Jullie Rogers-Marsh said there were acts of vandalism throughout the day that are under investigation.
“A truck belonging to a private company working in the area and several pieces of equipment were damaged,” said Rogers-Marsh.
She said the RCMP had video of “somebody wearing a mask” pulling up geophones along Hwy 11. Rogers-Marsh there “also threats of illegal acts.”
Rogers-Marsh said the police officers are there to maintain public safety.
“Being safe and peaceful and lawful is very important and we are in the area continuing to monitor the situation,” said Rogers-Marsh. “Our role is public safety and we are there to protect everyone.”
Thumper trucks interact with geophones, which are strung along the ground, to create imagery of shale gas deposits underground.
In Fredericton, the Elsipogtog band was seeking an injunction to stop SWN arguing “outside radical elements” were converging “in significant numbers” as a result of the company’s continuing shale gas exploration.
The band’s filing said military forces are at play on the police side of the operation and warned a repeat of the Oct. 17 raid in Rexton, NB., by RCMP tactical units is looming.
“The circumstances combine to create a very real danger that, as active seismic exploration is recommenced in the coming hours and days, outside radical elements, the respondent SWN and the RCMP, other police and even military forces, all interact so as to cause a repeat escalation of the unacceptable and dangerous events that took place in Rexton,” said the filing.
The filing also names provincial Energy Minister Craig Leonard and the Assembly of First Nations Chiefs in New Brunswick (AFNCNB).
The filing argues that the province failed in its duty to consult and that the AFNCNB, which Elsipogtog gave authority to consult on its behalf, failed in its responsibility by “inaction and inadequate engagement.”
AFNCNB’s lawyer Mike Scully has told APTN National News that the province set the terms of the consultation and the AFNCNB had to act within those limited parameters.
While the band leadership will continue its legal battle in the courtroom Friday, the grassroots are vowing to be back on the pavement with their bodies to stop the thumpers.
“Nobody is going nowhere, they can’t bully us and use force tactics against the people of the land,” said Bernard.
Sock said people would be out all night keeping a watchful eye.
“We have a lot of people who are dedicated and will be out there all night to make sure they don’t come back,” said Sock.