From West Coast Native News SOURCE: http://westcoastnativenews.com/heavy-rcmp-presence-accompanies-swns-return/
Heavy RCMP presence accompanies SWN’s return
About 30 people from Elsipogtog and their supporters have set up a camp near Hwy 11 by Laketon, NB., where SWN Resources is expected to begin laying down geophones in preparation for seismic testing set for Wednesday.
The exploration area is about 46 kilometres north of Elsipogtog First Nation.
Elsipogtog War Chief John Levi said the RCMP presence may be larger than what was witnessed during the Oct. 17 raid of an anti-fracking camp that was blocking SWN’s vehicles in a compound owned by JD Irving Ltd.
“You never know what they are going to do,” said Levi. “They might be shooting their real guns this time, that is what I am worried about.”
Levi said he’s been getting calls and texts all morning from an RCMP liaison officer trying to speak to him.
“I don’t feel like to talking to them right now,” said Levi.
RCMP Const. Jullie Rogers-Marsh said the RCMP is monitoring the situation.
“Based on things that have happened previously, it would be irresponsible for us not to be in the area,” said Rogers-Marsh.
Rogers-Marsh said the RCMP is not there to protect SWN.
“We are not private security,” she said. “We have no issues as far as protesting, everybody has a right to do it as long as they do it peacefully and don’t break the law.”
SWN referred calls to communications firm Cape Consulting. Calls to senior consultant Tracey Stephenson went to voice mail.
About a dozen Mi’kmaq Warriors camped out overnight along Hwy 11. The group was joined by reinforcements on Tuesday morning and people there gathered around a small fire keeping warm.
SWN’s lawyer Michael Connors, who is a partner with East Coast law firm McInnes Cooper, met with several dozen people from the Elsipogtog First Nation and the surrounding communities late Sunday afternoon.
Connors told the people that SWN would withdraw a lawsuit against several community members if the Houston-based firm was allowed to finish its exploration work unimpeded.
The meeting was held at a longhouse erected at an anti-fracking encampment used over the past summer. The area sits off Hwy 116 near Elsipogtog First Nation.
Connors told the people in the longhouse that SWN would be working for 14 days and warned them not to block the company’s movements or they would face violence.
“I’m not asking anyone not to protest, but I am asking that we don’t do anything that would lead to violence,” said Connors, according to video of the meeting posted on Facebook by Brian Milliea. “Unfortunately, blockades lead to violence.”
Connors said SWN just wants to finish its work and leave the area.
“We don’t want violence and if we can get through two weeks then we will go away for awhile,” said Connors. “I am not saying we are not going to come back, we may not come back, but I think everybody needs some time, you know a break.”
Levi told Connors that the community would not be backing down.
“We are going to be there. Whatever happens, the ball is in your court. Whatever happens, you’re the ones who are going to make the calls,” said Levi, according to the nine minute video. “Us as Natives and the protectors of this land, we are going to protect it, it is our land, we never ceded this land and we are going to protect it before these waters are contaminated.”
A woman in the crowd, who identified as non-Native, also pledged opposition to the exploration.
“As non-Natives we are going to protect the future of our children,” said the woman, in the video. “So non-Natives and Natives are together.”
SWN has faced intense and prolonged opposition to its shale gas exploration work around Elsipogtog First Nation which exploded after heavily armed RCMP tactical units raided an anti-fracking camp along Route 134 on Oct. 17.
While the raid freed SWN’s trucks, it sparked day-long clashes between Elsipogtog residents and the RCMP. Several RCMP vehicles were torched and about 40 people were arrested.
People in Elsipogtog and surrounding communities fear the discovery of shale gas would lead to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The controversial extraction method is viewed by many as posing a dire threat to water sources.
Currently, Mi’kmaq War Chief, John Levi, has sent out the following message: “Calling out on all the support swn coming back Tuesday and will be thumping by Wednesday need all the support and RCMP wants to block all the roads for 3 days even hwy 11.”
Georgina Brennan Sock also sent out a message to activists and their allies: “New camp site in Laketon has about 15 people surrounded by about 20 rcmp vehicles, and rcmp are scattered everywhere please come in numbers.”
In a broader movement to end shake gas exploration, Avaaz is hosting a petition for New Brunwickers to sign to convince the province to allow a referendum into fracking and hopefully a moratorium on fracking.
Prelude to the Raid
Interview with Warrior Society District chief suggests Irving-owned security, RCMP, engaged in pre-October 17th charge trumping.
by Miles Howe
REXTON, NEW BRUNSWICK – The dominant police-fuelled discourse circulating is that on October 17th, the police were forced to raid an armed camp of anti-shale gas protestors along highway 134, near Rexton, New Brunswick.
Adding fuel to this narrative is the fact that the police have laid several charges, ranging from threats to assault to unlawful confinement, in relation to events that they claim occurred on October 15th and 16th.
The end result is a story in which the RCMP, despite drawing in Emergency Response Teams from Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Quebec and New Brunswick; despite raiding an until-then peaceful encampment with guns drawn in the pre-dawn on the 17th; despite firing numerous rounds of less-lethal ammunition into unarmed people at point blank range; and despite spraying men and women with pepper spray, were simply de-escalating a tense situation.
However, an interview with Signigtog District War Chief Jason Augustine – himself present at the encampment since it’s inception, and now facing numerous charges – begins to peel back the layers of the RCMP’s imagery, and presents a very different recounting of events that occurred over October 15th and 16th.
It’s a story that shows a clear attempt by Irving-owned Industrial Security Limited to taunt and bait members of the Warriors Society on October 15th and 16th – in some cases going directly against already-negotiated agreements that existed between the Mi’kmaq Warriors Society and the RCMP – in order to create a fiction in which the Warriors could be later charged with a variety of accusations that supposedly occurred on those two days.
It’s also a story that shows the RCMP negotiating in extremely poor faith..
Since late September, 2013, Irving-owned Industrial Security Limited was the main security unit patrolling the fenced-in compound where SWN Resources Canada’s equipment was being held along highway 134. Generally, and for the duration of the life of the encampment, there were between about four and ten security guards patrolling the fenced-in area.
The fenced-in compound had one main gate, at the corner closest to the access road to highway 134. But the fence around the compound itself was not a permanent structure, and pieces could quickly be latched and unlatched, creating make-shift gates at any desired point.
Indeed, because the one main gate opened onto the 134 access road, which had become one of the main traffic points of the encampment, Augustine notes that the Warrior Society and the RCMP had earlier negotiated that ISL shift changes would take place via an already-built back road that opened onto an off-ramp of highway 11.
ISL guards would leave the fenced-in compound at the extreme opposite corner of the compound, about 200 meters from the main gate, through a make-shift gate. This was a scenario that had been taking place in good faith for numerous days prior to October 15th.
“We had already set a negotiation [regarding] the backside [of the compound]”, says Augustine. “We made them a road where [ISL workers] could go in and back out. And each time the shift change started there were always two Warriors and four RCMPs [to escort the workers]. We negotiated that with Denise Vautour and Marc Robichaud (two of the RCMP’s negotiators). We negotiated that and we all said ‘That’s pretty good, we’re in a working [compromise] right now.’”
Yet on October 15th, in a situation that Augustine cannot remember happening during the duration of the encampment, an ISL security guard, later identified as former New Brunswick Highway Patrolman Gary Flieger, opened the front gate of the fenced-in compound and began wandering around an area of the encampment where a sacred fire had been lit.
He had crossed a line of cedar that had been placed on the gravel road in front of the sacred fire, and was standing – armed, according to Augustine – in front of the fire. This was where Coady Stevens, another member of the Warriors Society, found Flieger.
It is of particular importance to note that – according to Augustine – the Warrior Society and the RCMP had even negotiated for the possibility that an ISL security guard would want to come and pray at the sacred fire. The guards could come and pray any time they wanted, but neither they, nor anyone else, was permitted to bring weapons of any kind to the sacred fire.
“[ISL] already knew,” says Augustine. “When we negotiated the first time, when an ISL worker comes out to the sacred fire – because they were welcome, anytime they were welcome – as long as they don’t have any weapons. [But] they could come and pray with us anytime they want. And that was part of the negotiations. They could come out at any time and pray with us, or go out the back way and shift change then.”
Augustine describes a brief altercation that then took place, one that he suggests Flieger took to a physical level. But for one quick push of Flieger, and for escorting Flieger back through the front gate of the fenced-in compound, Coady Stevens – who remains incarcerated and who was denied bail – faces charges of assault, threats and unlawful confinement. All these charges are, of course, pre-October 17th.
Lost in the dominant narrative is why Flieger left the front gate of the compound on the morning of the 15th and wandered, armed, to a sacred fire. Lost also is how, with an already-built back gate that was frequently used, any of this constitutes unlawful confnement.
There was no shift change taking place at the time. Indeed shift changes took place at the exact other end of the fenced-in compound. If Flieger wanted to pray at the sacred fire, not something he had done during any of his other shifts, Augustine suggests that he was welcome to do so – provided he approached the fire unarmed.
This is especially problematic if, as Augustine suggests, RCMP negotiators Denise Vautour and Marc Robichaud had already negotiated these terms in good faith with the Warriors.
Augustine notes that on the evening of the 15th, RCMP negotiator Denise Vautour again texted him, asking about the altercation that had happened.
“On the night of the 15th I got a text from Denise [Vautour] saying ‘What’s going on down there? How come a Warrior is pushing ISL?’” says Augustine. “Right off the bat we told them ‘Hold it. ISL came out to the sacred fire with his weapon out. Remember when we negotiated that they’re not supposed to have weapons around the sacred fire.’ She said ‘OK, we didn’t know that.’ Then she asked if we could meet. I said ‘Yes, we’ve got to meet and talk about this and resolve this as quick as possible, in a peaceful way’…That night we all agreed that: ‘Yes, everything is peaceful again. Let’s keep it that way.’”
The morning of the 16th, apparently, was out of the ordinary as well. Augustine notes that ISL staff was being especially belligerent to the Warriors who were stationed at the fence.
“When I came out I told [ISL]: ‘Whoa guys you have to be peaceful,’” says Augustine. “This was from the RCMP. I told them right of the bat that we’d been negotiating all this time for peace, and that you guys have to cooperate with us.”
Several Warriors have been charged with threats related to the 16th of October. It is assumed that these charges are related to this series of verbal altercations.
Augustine notes that the Warriors had also already negotiated with the RCMP in order to create a neutral ‘no-go’ zone around the fenced-in compound, in order that ISL security working within the fenced-in compound would not be verbally harassed by over-exuberant activists.
“It was always a concern for their safety too,” says Augustine. “We wanted them safe, because we knew that they were only there for their jobs.
“That morning, when things were escalating, right off the bat we went to Denise [Vautour] and Marc [Robichaud] and said ‘You’ve got to help us. These guys are not being peaceful. You guys have got to help us bring in the RCMP instead of ISL.’”
Mid-morning of the 16th, another meeting was held between the Warriors Society and the RCMP. In effect, what was being negotiated was a replacement of ISL security – which over the last two days had begun to act in an aggressive manner – with an RCMP contingent that would either remain in the fenced-in compound or patrol the ‘no-go’ zone – and monitor SWN’s equipment. In the interim, Augustine notes that he asked for the Warriors to vacate the ‘no-go’ zone to de-escalate the situation.
According to Augustine, after analyzing the situation, RCMP negotiators Vautour and Robichaud came to a similar conclusion as the Warriors: It was ISL security who was escalating the situation, not the Warriors.
“Denise [Vautour] and Marc [Robichaud] came along and said: ‘Jason, the RCMP are coming now, they’re going to take [ISL] out for you. We finally realized that they’re the problem too.’ So they were taken out right away.”
Augustine notes that the security duty exchange between ISL and RCMP took place between 3 and 4pm.
By the night of the 16th, Aboriginal RCMP negotiators had been brought in, supposedly in an attempt to calm the situation. Augustine again notes that these new negotiators, a constable ‘Fraser’ from Saskatchewan and a constable Walter Denny from Nova Scotia, confirmed with him that it was ISL security who was acting in a provocative and aggressive manner.
“Fraser and Denny] said: ‘These guys were very disrespectful, and on your guys’ part, you guys were just here trying to keep the peace,” says Augustine. “'[ISL] was so disrespectful that they were even disrespectful to us, because we were Natives.’”
With RCMP officers now replacing the “disrespectful” ISL security force, Augustine notes that the Aboriginal RCMP negotiators made further attempts to court peace with the Warriors.
“That night, around 10pm, constable Fraser and constable Denny came up to us. They wrapped tobacco in red felt and told us: ‘From now on it’s going to be peaceful.’ And they handed me the tobacco,” says Augustine. “They handed it right to me and said: ‘This is for peace. We understand that you guys only want peace. So everything’s going to be peaceful now. Negotiations have to start now.’
“We took the tobacco, me and Jim [Pictou]. We all shook hands. And we gave them tobacco too. I took tobacco out of my cigarette pack, broke it, and gave one to Walter [Denny] and one to Fraser and I told them ‘Yes, it’s now peaceful now.’ I took the tobacco back to our sacred bag. We had a bag full of a lot of our sacred stuff; sweet grass, sage, buffalo sage and all the medicines that we have there. And they left.”
Having successfully negotiated for the removal of the ISL security team, to be replaced by a patrol of RCMP officers, and having been given tobacco by two Aboriginal negotiators who allegedly confirmed the disrespectful nature of the Irving-owned employees, Augustine notes that the rest of the evening of the 16th, up until the morning of the 17th, was entirely uneventful.
The raid of the 17th , in which dozens of RCMP officers surrounded the Warriors encampment with a variety of weaponry already drawn, was a surprise to Augustine, both in terms of the amount of armaments, but more importantly in terms of the RCMP’s intent of the night before.
“That morning when I woke up to do my traffic control, I started about 6:30,” says Augustine. “I got my coffee ready and I didn’t even start drinking my coffee when the RCMP came out with guns drawn on us. The night before was peaceful. Even the RCMP was kind of happy that it was peaceful now. Nobody was escalating. Everybody was laughing. Everybody was drumming. Even the RCMP would drive by and wave to us. They knew it was peaceful.
“But all of a sudden that October 17th morning…Holy. All of a sudden they came up with guns drawn…Where’s that peace?”
When analyzing the potential of ISL – and their Irving paymasters – knowingly crafting a scenario involving trumped up charges against members of the Warriors Society, all the while working in collusion with the RCMP – and their Crown paymasters – it is also important to remember that a public hearing against SWN’s injunction against protestors was set for the morning of October 18th in Moncton.
The injunction named all of New Brunswick – under John and Jane Doe – as being potentially on the legal hook for inhibiting SWN’s access to it’s seismic testing equipment. Pre-18th legal opinions put forward on social media sites suggested that the injunction didn’t have a legal leg to stand on – indeed the injunction was subsequently overturned – but it did serve the purpose of intimidating activists concerned about their own estates from attending the encampment.
The 18th, and the potential of the public hearing overturning the injunction, presented a situation that may well have seen a surgin renewal of people at the highway 134 encampment. Crafting a narrative to negate that potential through strange actions, including having ISL guards leaving a front gate not used for shift changes and approaching a sacred fire while armed, and taunting Warriors who had made a habit of not only peacefully escorting ISL security during shift changes, but feeding the guards with home-cooked meals, resulted in a series of pre-raid charges.
Just the narrative needed for a pre-18th raid.
With these charges in their back pocket, the RCMP was free to create an ‘escalating tension’ scenario that they could then feed to a mainstream press. Coupled with the photogenic imagery of burning police cars and a press conference with a table full of armaments – neither of which can be yet, if ever, attributed to members of the Warriors Society – and the justification for the pre-dawn raid was set.
According to Augustine, from one side of their mouths RCMP negotiators spoke of peace, offered gifts and agreed that it was ISL security who was the incendiary side of the equation. All the while, however, a series of pre-raid charges, which still hang over numerous members of the Warriors Society, was being levied against them.
Was the fix in for Mi’kmaq Warriors at Elsipogtog?
Signs point to some having prior knowledge October 17th was ‘take down’ day
by Miles Howe
MONCTON, NB–Coady Stevens, the first of six Mi’kmaq Warrior to appear on charges related to the anti-shale gas encampment along Highway 134, has been denied bail.
As bail hearings today continue for the five remaining incarcerated members of the Mi’kmaq Warriors Society, enough information is beginning to surface to suggest that the vicious pre-dawn RCMP takedown of the anti-shale gas encampment on the morning of October 17th was a well known fact among some before it happened.
This is not to suggest that these people necessarily knew of the severity or magnitude of the RCMP raid, or even what it would look like. On the other hand, the possibility that others knew of the raid on October 17th is becoming too real to ignore.
Not only this, but there is a clear possibility that the greater narrative behind the raid is the measured destruction of the Mi’kmaq Warriors Society, to be replaced in their stead by a joint Assembly of First Nations/RCMP force.
Did Elsipogtog First Nation Chief Sock know that Thursday was the day?
Much has been made of the fact that Chief Sock and members of his council were arrested on the morning of October 17th. Sock and council were arrested in the second confrontation with RCMP, after the police had swept through the encampment, making numerous arrests, with guns drawn in the pre-dawn hours.
What brings Sock’s pre-awareness of the events of the 17th into question is a series of notes obtained by APTN journalist Jorge Barerra.
The notes, which Sock has since admitted to Barerra that he penned, were taken during a meeting between Chief Sock, Robert Levi and ‘Jumbo’ Sock, who are both councillors from Elsipogtog First Nation, Tobique First Nation member John Deveau and Listiguj First Nation member Wendell Metallic, and two provincially-appointed advisors and other members of the New Brunswick provincial government, which included premier and Aboriginal Affairs Minister David Alward, as well as Energy minister Craig Leonard.
The Sock notes suggest that the talks focused, at least for a period, on a timeline of when to take down the ongoing blockade.
Point ‘8’ on page one reads: “Blockade down, protest continues.”
Point ‘3’ on page two of Sock’s hand-written notes says: “Week – time limit Monday to next Wednesday.”
Point ‘4’ on the same page reads: “Equipment out Thursday?”
These notes were written on Monday, October 7th, so it is reasonably safe to conclude that the “next Wednesday” in question refers to Wednesday, October 16th. The Thursday in question is October 17th, the date of the vicious raid.
Granted, Sock does continue to publicly denounce SWN Resources Canada’s seismic testing in the area. In an attempt to patch up relations between his community and the RCMP, he even helped clean up the wreckage of six torched police cars. But based on his own notes, one must consider the possibility that he was aware that there was a plan in motion to dismantle the encampment and end the peaceful anti-shale gas encampment on Thursday, October 17th.
A blockade of millions of dollars of seismic testing equipment, without which SWN could not work, is one thing. A peaceful protest alongside the highway, where people can vent their indignation without actually stopping the Texas-based company from testing for shale gas deposits, is quite another.
One is effective, albeit potentially illegal in the eyes of the Crown. The other is a co-option of energy towards ineffective means, that is, if you actually want to stop the company from working.
The fly in Sock’s ear: John Deveau, heir to the director’s chair of the joint AFN/RCMP crisis response team in New Brunswick
Deveau, one of Sock’s provincially-appointed advisers, is an intriguing character and no stranger to the anti-shale gas protests in Elsipogtog. We have written in more detail about him here.
But to fully understand his role in the current anti-shale gas movement – and it is a big one – we need to back up for a moment to late June of 2013, when Elsipogtog’s anti-shale gas movement was being led by Elsipogtog ‘War Chief’ John Levi.
After 12 anti-shale gas arrests occurred on June 21st, 2013, along Highway 126 in Kent County, the community of Elsipogtog was understandably up in arms. A eight and a half month pregnant woman had been arrested, and an elder had been roughed up enough by RCMP that she was bleeding from the mouth by the time they zip-strapped her and tossed her in their wagon.
In response, on June 23rd, two new players were introduced to the community during a town hall-style meeting in Elsipogtog.
The first was the Mi’kmaq Warriors Society. The second was Tobique First Nation member Wendell Nicholas.
When first brought before the community of Elsipogtog, Nicholas was introduced as a ‘UN Independant [sic] Observer’. His rather vaguely defined mission at the time was related to making observations and preparing an upcoming report for a branch of the United Nations.
Claire Stewart Kannigan, working for rabble.ca, identified a mis-print on Nicholas’ shirt and started snooping. When Kannigan couldn’t find an established connection between Nicholas and the United Nations, and proceeded to out him on rabble, Nicholas promptly re-branded himself – with the assistance of a Chief Sock-led press conference – as the leader of a new ‘peacekeeping’ team known as the ‘Elsipogtog Peacekeepers’.
In the midst of a heated summer of protests, with residents tired of watching their community members being roughed up by the RCMP, the press conference introducing Nicholas was awash with hand shakes, ceremony and praise for Nicholas’ new team – even if his role wasn’t entirely understood beyond being something of a liaison between Elsipogtog band council and the RCMP.
As it turn out, Nicholas is something of an old hand in the game of liaising between First Nations communities and the Royal Colonial Mounted Police. In fact, he is the brainchild behind the Public Safety Cooperation Protocol (PSCP).
At the very least co-authored by Nicholas in 2004, the PSCP is amongst the modern day memorandums that facilitates sharing information between Indian Act chiefs and the RCMP on Indigenous unrest across Turtle Island. It is, in essence, an agreement between then AFN Chief Phil Fontaine and RCMP Commissioner Zaccardelli – on behalf of the Queen – to spy on and squash Indigenous grassroots unrest before it starts. The terms used in the PSCP are more flowery and bureaucratic than that, but the song remains the same.
Fontaine found himself outed and discredited when he collaborated with the RCMP to quash Indigenous unrest in 2007. His intelligence sharing with the police smacks of the Nicholas-penned PSCP agreement.
As for Nicholas, he hired members of the Elsipogtog community on as peacekeepers, and also hired people from outside of the community.
Suddenly summertime anti-shale gas protests alongside of the highways in Kent County were highly monitored affairs, with people wearing bright orange ‘Elsipogtog Peacekeepers’ t-shirts wandering around everywhere, some speaking to the police, some taking notes on clipboards.
One of those bright-shirted protest monitors was former US National Guardsman and police officer –and Nicholas’ cousin- John Deveau.
At some point, possibly due to failing health or prior commitments, Nicholas stopped being the public face of the Elsipogtog Peacekeepers. Handing over the daily duties to Deveau, Nicholas retired to a behind-the-scenes roll as Elsipogtog’s Public Safety Advisor, where he appears to remain.
Deveau, for his part, took over the directorship of the ‘peacekeeping’ team, and is actively drawing a salary of $60,000 a year as the director of the ‘Wabanaki Peacekeepers’, essentially version 2.0 of the Elsipogtog outfit, but with better equipment and full-time salaries.
Make no mistake. This is the pleasant name given to the Deveau-run joint AFN/RCMP crisis response team, the team that all summer long was liaising with SWN, the RCMP and Elsipogtog Band Council – all the while presenting itself as a neutral negotiating body to grassroots activists actually on the ground.
October 16th, 2013: John Deveau gets outed by the grassroots.
On Wednesday, October 16th, a crew of grassroots activists from Elsipogtog, as well as members of the Mi’kmaq Warrior Society, broke in on a John Deveau-chaired meeting. Present were numerous members of the RCMP, Elsipogtog ‘War Chief’ John Levi and several members of the Elsipogtog community.
Elsipogtog elder – and Levi’s aunt – Norma Augustine requested that Deveau, as well as bad-faith RCMP negotiator “Dickie” Bernard, be escorted out of Elsipogtog First Nation.
And by now the entire nation knows what took place on Thursday October 17th.
A tale of two Johns. Dividing camps, co-opting a movement
Elsipogtog ‘War Chief’ John Levi’s influence upon the autumn anti-shale gas blockade along Highway 134 was virtually non-existent before October 17th. Levi, a clean and sober sun-dancer, has made much of what he perceived as the Mi’kmaq Warriors less-than-puritan lifestyle, and has privately used this as his reasoning not to attend the blockade.
It is possible that some of these disparaging remarks were fuelled by the general misunderstanding over Levi’s role as Elsipogtog’s ‘War Chief’, and where exactly that placed him within the Mi’kmaq Warrior Society.
In effect, it placed him nowhere.
The Mi’kmaq Warrior Society operates as an independent body, with it’s own Chief and ranking system.
For his part, Levi was appointed ‘War Chief’ of Elsipogtog by Noel Augustine, Keptin of District 6 of the Migmaw Grand Council. The Grand Council is a modern day facsimile of a traditional Mi’kmaq government style that does not appear to wield much more than figurehead-style power. Noel Augustine, for example, has issued a variety of eviction notices to SWN Resources Canada, all of which have fallen upon the deaf ears of the Texas-based gas giant.
The more nefarious possibility is that Levi, under the influence of Deveau, could not infiltrate the encampment to any degree of information-gathering success, and thus reverted to a public smear campaign against the Warriors.
In any case, with the violent takedown of the Warrior Society out of the way, Levi is once again a common sight at the quickly rebuilding camp along Highway 134. It has been reported that Levi’s main aim at Highway 134, however, is in actively trying to encourage activists to move towards last summer’s encampment along Highway 116.
To boot, it has been reported that Levi is in negotiations with RCMP, offering the police that he can move the camp to the out-of-the-way Highway 116 location, in exchange for the police grounding their ever-present spy plane that continues to monitor the encampment along Highway 134.
Despite the destruction of the encampment during the raid of the 17th, the Highway 134 encampment by far remains the more tactical of camps.
SWN’s seismic testing lines are slated to be near Highway 11, one of the main arteries of transport in New Brunswick. Snap highway blockades, as occurred on October 19th as a show of defiance in the face of the RCMP’s raid, are also a quick and potential technique when the encampment remains on the 134. The 116 camp, arguably safer due to it’s proximity to Elsipogtog First Nation, is tucked far out of the way of any action save the falling of leaves.
Sadly, especially considering the very real legal costs now being incurred by the five Warriors who remain without a bail hearing, Levi’s camp division has also reached a financial level.
Splitting up donations from well-intention sources, including accepting money from the popular group The Indigo Girls, and then funnelling this money towards other side-projects, rather than towards the immediate legal costs of the Mi’kmaq Warriors, is only the tip of the iceberg.
At the Wilsons’ gas station in Elsipogtog, there are now two donation jars side by side. One for donations to the Highway 134 encampment, and one for the Highway 116 encampment. Social media has also begun offering a variety of sources for donations. Most appear to agree that the Warriors’ legal defence fund, which has already paid out a retainer to lawyers Lemieux and Menard, is the grassroots choice for donations.
APTN reported Monday that Chief Sock may well give the Elsipogtog band seal of approval, as it relates to anti-shale gas protests, to Levi. What exactly this means is entirely unclear.
With a summer’s worth of experience in leading blockade-free anti-shale gas protests on the side of the highway, and with close friend John Deveau there to guide him, Levi may well be the front-runner for the band’s endorsement.
The case of the missing van – and the missing Christian Peacemaker Team
At the rebuilding encampment along Highway 134, rumours continue to circulate of pre-October 17th tip-offs to the effect that Thursday would be a bad morning to be there. None of these rumours have been validated, yet, except for one.
On the evening of October 16th, Lorraine Clair, whose van originally had been blocking the entrance to the compound where SWN Resources Canada’s seismic testing equipment was being held, left the encampment. She left with her van.
It is unclear whether she had some kind of verbal altercation with members of the Mi’kmaq Warriors Society before she drove off.
In any case, before leaving the encampment, Clair contacted Chris Sabas Shirazi, the senior member of the Christian Peacemaker Team that had been monitoring the Indigenous anti-shale gas activists from Elsipogtog since the summer. Clair asked Shirazi to leave the encampment with her.
Shirazi then asked Elsipogtog elder Kenneth Francis, who was on the scene to give Clair’s dead van a battery boost if she should leave. Francis concurred that the CPT team should leave the encampment.
In her attempt to justify fleeing a scene that in hindsight was in desperate need of some kind of independent monitoring to counter the RCMP narrative that is seeing multiple charges being levied at all six incarcerated members of the Warrior Society, Shirazi noted that Clair – after John Levi became a non-factor at the Highway 134 encampment – was her “community partner from Elsipogtog.” Rather than seeking a new “community partner” at a live situation with the very real potential for confrontation to erupt, it appears that the CPT’s partnership chain ended with Clair.
So on the night of the 16th, at the request of Clair and Francis, the CPT left the as-yet peaceful encampment on Highway 134.
In her defence, Shirazi did attempt to return to the site in the morning. She also took some great video – amongst many other great videos – of the secondary confrontation with RCMP on the morning of the 17th.
Of the initial conflict, precious little footage exists that is not in RCMP hands.
Clair, for her part, appears to have located a computer on the evening of the 16th. She wrote a short message, all in caps, and posted it on the most visited of social media sites. The message mentioned that the “peaceful” part of the protest was over, and encouraged all supporters to meet her and others at the Highway 116 encampment for a noontime ceremony on the 17th. It cannot be determined what Clair was basing her assessment on; as a first-hand observer I saw no violence break out at the encampment on the night of the 16th to suggest that the peaceful part of the encampment had ended.
| October 24, 2013
Only a week ago, the Mi’kmaq and Elsipogtog First Nations were under siege by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) as the force acted upon an injunction to shut down an anti-fracking blockade.
Early that Thursday morning, hundreds of RCMP officers — some dressed in camouflage and assuming sniper positions in the woods surrounding the protest camp — moved in to clear out the highway and surrouding area near the town to Rexton, New Brunswick.
The Mi’kmaq Warriors Society’s encampment and highway blockades were in response to SWN Resources which was seeking to scan the traditional territories of the Indigenous in the region with seismic trucks to determine the potential for fracking shale gas from the ground.
Discontent with SWN Resource’s gas exploration has been going on in the area since June of this year, when community members began to take action against the potentiality for the fracking of shale gas.
Fracking is essentially a natural resource extraction technique that fractures an area of rock with a pressurized liquid. In this case, the fracking would release natural gas — SWN is currently in the process of using large trucks with seismic equipment to locate natural gas deposits.
“Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is the process of extracting natural gas from shale rock layers deep within the earth. Fracking makes it possible to produce natural gas extraction in shale plays that were once unreachable with conventional technologies. Recent advancements in drilling technology have led to new man-made hydraulic fractures in shale plays that were once not available for exploration.”
On Monday October 21, 2013, New Brunswick premier, David Alward, publically stated that he hopes SWN Resources will be able to resume its operations in peace.
Monday was also the day activists learned that the injunction against them had been removed by the courts.
SWN Resources had gone to the courts and first issued the activists an injunction on Wednesday October 2, 2013, regarding the blockades and the seizure of SWN equipment. The RCMP had thus moved in and raided the area, removing the blockade and clearing out the Mi’kmaq Warrior Society’s camp.
But now, since there is no longer the warrior camp nor the blockade and since SWN has retrieved the equipment, there is no longer any part of the injunction to enforce.
In enforcing the injunction with the RCMP, over 40 people were arrested with some still behind bars. Six police vehicles were set on fire. Police were pelted with stones as scuffles broke out between the two opposing forces. A few Molotov cocktails were thrown at police lines in the early morning. Activists on the front lines faced pepper spray, rubber bullets and police dogs during the standoff. Once the SWN vehicles were removed and the blockade cleared, the RCMP left the scene.
Opponents of fracking contend that it takes an estimated 1-8 million gallons of water to complete each fracturing job and 40,000 gallons of chemicals. That is a lot of pollution.
So essentially, if you drink water, then fracking is an issue you should be concerned with.
Digging deeper into the relationship between First Nations communities and the government — which should be a nation-to-nation relationship — Indigenous rights activists contend that the territory in question was never ceded to Canada.
It also should be noted that, “ever since 2010, when New Brunswick handed out 1.4 million hectares of land — one-seventh of the province — to shale gas exploration, opposition had been mounting.”
Now that the police raid is over and the injunction lifted against his people, Elsipogtog Chief Arren Sock said his community is ready to forgive the RCMP after what he calls “horrendous” treatment.
“One of the things that our community does well is heal,” said Chief Sock at a Monday morning press conference. ”The Mi’kmaq are always a forgiving people, and that goes for Elsipogtog as well.”
More on the good news front, Mi’kmaq warrior, Tyson Peters, will most likely not face the amputation of his leg due to an injury sustained after being shot by the RCMP with less-than-lethal rounds.
I don’t know how much the RCMP action against the Mi’kmaq and Elsipogtog Nations has cost and it is estimated that hundreds of police were deployed for last Thursday morning’s raid.
I do know that when Harper gave his latest throne speech, he promised a “renewed effort” to ending the frightening tragedy of violence and murder against Indigenous women in Canada.
What if all the money, officers and resources were redirected from police actions against First Nations communities towards bringing justice to missing and murdered Indigenous women?
krystalline kraus is an intrepid explorer and reporter from Toronto Canada. A veteran activist and journalist for rabble.ca, she needs no aviator goggles, gas mask or red cape but proceeds fearlessly into the democratic fray. This blog is about organizing and activism in Canada in a post-G20 world.
Zero down, six to go as first day draws to a close
by Miles Howe
Moncton, New Brunswick – The Moncton courthouse was again abuzz today as supporters of the six remaining incarcerated members of the Mi’kmaq Warriors Society awaited their bail hearings. Originally, the court was supposed to process the hearings of Coady Stevens, Dave Mazerolle and Jason “Okay” Augustine. However, due to the Crown’s attempts to pile on extra charges on all three men, not even Coady Stevens’ bail hearing was completed.
The defence team of Gilles Lemieux and Alison Menard have requested a press ban on the evidence presented in court today, so details of the charges will have to wait, potentially for the actual trial (if there is one) or beyond. We can say that Stevens is up on six charges, however, and they are as follows: Two counts of threats, two counts of obstruction of justice, one summary assault and one count of unlawful confinement.
The unlawful confinement would be the ‘big one’, as the Crown appears to want to proceed on it as an indictable offence, which carries a maximum sentence of not over ten years. Surprisingly, the unlawful confinement is related to incidents that occurred on or around the 16th of October, not the 17th when the RCMP viciously raided the Warrior encampment.
On this we can say no more.
The other interesting aspect of these bail hearings is that the Crown is using all three possible grounds in order to justify detaining all six accused prior to sentencing.
Primary grounds refers to the possibility that an accused will attend court.
Secondary grounds refers to the protection or safety of the public.
The rarely used third grounds refers to maintaining confidence in the administration of justice. Defence lawyer Menard notes that this third grounds is most commonly reserved for crimes that “strike at the public’s conscience.”
In any case, Menard was understandably surprised at the fact that on a day when the court was supposed to deal with three bail hearings, not even one was completed.
“Our system is based upon not punishing people prior to trial,” says Menard. “If you believe in that system, if you believe in the presumption of innocence and the importance of our Charter values, [then] we don’t punish people pre-trial.”
Menard also was quick to point out that while the Crown is at an advantage because it can create a narrative surrounding the events of an alleged crime (through press conferences where the RCMP put on display weapons and ammunition allegedly seized from their raid, for example), the public should maintain mental vigilance when analyzing such information through media who weren’t at the scene of the arrests and often blindly re-hash police press releases.
“The narrative for the RCMP and the government is out there in the media,” says Menard. “They can give interviews and do press releases. [So] the average person probably has a settled view of what happened [in the RCMP’s raid on October 17th]. That’s not necessarily an accurate view.”
Bail hearings for the six incarcerated Mi’kmaq Warriors will most likely continue all week at the Moncton courthouse.
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 travelled 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 ground breaking achievement. Fred had also kindly invited us to his community for the defence. When some of the university professors indicated that this might be difficult given that the university was 1300 km 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 lead 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 give away. 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 half way. I never thought an institution would.
All of these stories came flooding back to me this week as I watched the RCMP attack the non-violent anti-fracking protestors at Elsipogtog with rubber bullets, an armoured 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 very 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.
Out of order: Indigenous protest and the rule of law
| October 21, 2013
Sometimes it helps to put things in order, in precedence and priority, in order to see them clearly. This is one of those times.
With today’s lifting of the injunction preventing anti-fracking protests in New Brunswick, the first question that comes to mind is why the RCMP felt it necessary to provoke the conflict that occurred last Thursday.
Having waited two weeks, they could have waited another five days to see what the law would rule on the issue, but instead showed up at a previously peaceful protest with hundreds of officers, snipers, dogs, riot gear and tear gas.
The chaos that followed led to plenty of negative media coverage of the protests, which is convenient for the Texan seismic testing company SWN, their partners Irving Oil, and the provincial and federal governments, but decidedly inconvenient for the Elsipogtog First Nation.
Questions around whether the protesters, agents provocateur, or the RCMP themselves set the police cars on fire and who was responsible for the “cache” of weapons the RCMP were so keen to display will likely never be answered. As no charges are pending for those questions, no legal finding of fact will be made. This, too, is a convenient result for those wishing to assign blame based on prejudice rather than facts, but unhelpful to the rest of us.
The events of October 17 also added to the pre-existing mistrust between the parties – something UN Special Rapporteur James Anaya had highlighted in his preliminary report on Canada’s human rights abuses one week ago – and make a negotiated settlement of the issues less likely, adding to the probability of future conflict. Again, this is rather inconvenient for those of us who would prefer a turn toward the reconciliation the Supreme Court has ordered and the Crown claims to seek, but decidedly advantageous to those who wish to continue the status quo.
More broadly, what the events of last week reveal is the ongoing confusion over the idea of “the rule of law” among the media and public alike.
Every time Indigenous people block a road or a rail line, or even slow traffic to hand out information pamphlets, there is outrage over the failure to respect and enforce the rule of law. These are almost always temporary events, usually amounting to minor inconvenience, occasionally some damage to property, rarely an injury to anyone except the protesters.
Yet, every day of the last 250 years, the Crown has violated the rule of law. It will do so again today and again tomorrow. And there will be no public outrage.
The Peace and Friendship Treaty of 1761 between the Mi’kmaq and the Crown governs the area in New Brunswick where the anti-fracking protests took place. It did not cede any land, but that is inconvenient and so the Crown shows it no respect.
Nor is the Crown fully respecting other treaties across the country, whether historic or modern, another point UNSR Anaya mentioned. Nor is it respecting its own Royal Proclamation of 1763.
All of these documents are valid international law and enshrined in Canada’s Constitution domestically, surely more important law than a temporary injunction covering a few metres of highway.
The net effect of the Crown’s violation of the rule of law is a 50% poverty rate among First Nations children, a 30% earned income gap for Indigenous people, grossly disproportionate rates of suicide and other social ills, hundreds of missing and murdered Indigenous women, and the ongoing destruction of the environment, any one of which is surely more important than a traffic delay or a dent in SWN’s bottom line.
If, as I argue here, the significance of the laws being broken by the Crown is greater both as a matter of law and in effect, the priority for respecting those laws seems clear.
The hundreds of court cases won by First Nations against the Crown over the past 40 years are more than sufficient evidence of the Crown’s utter contempt for the rule of law when it comes to Indigenous rights in this country. And yet, politicians, media and members of the public will portray last week as another example of Indigenous peoples’ intransigence. None of them will give a moment’s thought to the ongoing violation of the Peace and Friendship Treaty of 1761, a continuing violation that preceded last week’s events by over 250 years.
It is time to put these matters in order, because clearly there is no peace. And with friends like these….
To view the video, go to:
Showdown at highway 134
With some of the only video from behind police lines, subMedia.tv witnessed the brutal raid by the Royal Colonial Mounted Police on the Mi’kmaq blockade of fracking equipment. But the fierce response of the community in defense of the warriors was also captured on camera. We bring you the real story about what really went down on Highway 134, the story that the corporate media doesn’t want you to see.
Internal bleeding went untended for two days due to shock.
by Miles Howe
Elsipogtog, New Brunswick – It has taken three days, but sadly there is now the potential of a very serious injury arising from last Thursday’s early morning RCMP attack on the anti-shale gas encampment that occurred on a piece of Crown land adjacent to highway 134.
Tyson Peters, a member of the Mi’kmaq Warriors Society, today appeared at a community meeting in Elsipogtog using two friends for support. His left leg was heavily bandaged. He tells the Halifax Media Co-op that after being shot in the leg by a ‘rubber bullet’ shotgun blast, fired by an RCMP officer at close range, there is extensive internal bleeding in his leg. Doctors have advised him that they will know better tomorrow whether the leg will require amputation.
Peters, who was asked by his uncle to join the Warriors Society, was amongst several people shot by the RCMP with rubber bullet shotgun shells during the violent arrest of 40 people on Thursday. Peters was at the second confrontation between anti-shale gas activists and police, which occurred after an RCMP tactical squad arrived in the pre-dawn hours with about 60 guns drawn to serve an SWN Resource’s Canada injunction to about 15 odd people.
“I had to jump in front of a woman and take a rubber bullet,” says Peter. “I didn’t go for help for two days. I was walking on it for two days and couldn’t feel it. I was in too much shock.
“[Doctors at St. Anne hospital in New Brunswick] told me I might be losing my leg.”
While the RCMP has been very forthcoming in their public display of three apparently-seized rifles from the Warriors encampment near highway 134 (none of which were ever used at the encampment), the police have remained totally mum on their use of rubber bullet shotgun shells during both confrontations with anti-shale gas activists on the 17th. Numerous incidents of maiming and blinding by rubber bullets and slugs have been documented over the history of their use.
The Halifax Media Co-op will update this story as new becomes available.
Christopher Majka, October 19, 2013
Since the violent confrontations between RCMP and protestors at Elsipogtog, New Brunswick on October 17, 2013, there has been an explosion of concern across Canada. Many solidarity rallies have been held across the country (including one in Halifax, Nova Scotia, that I attended on October 18, pictured in the photographs accompanying this article) and almost 23,000 people have already signed a petition calling on the RCMP to refrain from using violence against these peaceful protests by First Nations peoples and their supporters.
What’s at Issue?
First and foremost, fracking. This is a mining technique for extracting oil or natural gas from underground deposits. Typically clusters of holes are bored, first vertically then horizontally. Water mixed with chemical additives and sand is pumped at extremely high pressures into sections of these drill holes in order to hydraulically fracture (a.k.a., “frack”) the rock formations, thereby releasing hydrocarbons like methane (i.e., natural gas) or crude oil.
What’s the Problem?
There are two fundamental areas of concern.
1. Groundwater contamination
An enormous number (750+) chemicals have been used as additives in the slurry that is injected into boreholes. Typically 3-12 are used and they include, hydrochloric acid (for cleaning perforations), salt (to delay the breakdown of polymers), polyacrylamide (as a friction-reducer), ethylene glycol (to prevent scale deposits), borate salts (for maintaining fluid viscosity), sodium and potassium carbonates (to maintain crosslinks in polymers), glutaraldehyde (as a disinfectant), guar gum (to increase viscosity), citric acid (to reduce corrosion), and isopropanol (to increase fluid viscosity).
Although the fracking slurry is typically 90 per cent water, 9.5 per cent sand, and only 0.5 percent chemical additives, this soup of chemicals contains many substances of concern that one would not want in groundwater. Furthermore, when rock is hydraulically fractured — depending on its composition, depth, the bedding planes, and groundwater flows in the area — fractures and seams can open up that lead anywhere, and once opened, are virtually unstoppable.
Over time (this may take many months), these chemicals will work their way away to somewhere (Who knows where and with what consequences?), but what will not go away are the petroleum products (various oils and gases) released by the process of fracking — that, after all is the point. If channels through rock formations open up that lead to groundwater reservoirs, this hydrocarbon contamination can continue indefinitely. This is not only a problem in terms of drinking water from wells, springs, brooks, and rivers, but it also has the potential to affect aquatic ecosystems.
2. Methane leakage
Fracking releases gases, primarily methane, but also propane and contaminant gases such as hydrogen sulfide (which is very poisonous, corrosive, flammable, and explosive and needs to be flared-off to avoid dangers). Despite various technologies that are deployed, research done by investigators such as Cornell University environmental engineer, Anthony Ingraffea and his colleagues, has shown that some 10 per cent of fracked wells leak methane immediately (from defective cement seals and faulty steel linings), and some 20 per cent will eventually do so over time. They not only leak at the wellhead, but can (and do) leak virtually anywhere in the surrounding area, coming up through fractured seams in the bedrock. Since methane is colourless and odorless, it may not be easy to detect.
Besides not wanting to breathe methane, this leakage is a serious concern because methane is a very powerful greenhouse gas. Its Global Warming Potential (GWP) is calculated (most recently by the IPCC 2013 report) to be some 86 times that of carbon dioxide based on a 20-year atmospheric residency. This means that methane, as a Greenhouse Gas (GWG) in the atmosphere, traps heat 86 times as efficiently as carbon dioxide over a 20 year time period. Given that concerns with respect to climate change are climbing to critical levels, we have to be very mindful of the environmental impacts of processes like fracking that will inevitably leak methane into the atmosphere, essentially indefinitely.
Add to this concerns about radioactivity associated with fracking (flowbacks from some fracked gas wells have been found to contain high levels of radium) and seismic activity (i.e., tremors) induced by hydraulic fracturing, and it is clear that there are well-founded environmental concerns related to this practice. This is why many communities view plans to undertake fracking with deep suspicion.
Can it be done safely?
Well … maybe. There are an enormous number of different parameters having to do with the geology of the deposits, their depth, what hydrocarbons they contain, the hydrology of the region, how the fracking is being conducted, what chemicals are being used, the proximity to aquifers and settlements, how the well-casing are made, etc. There are some situations where potential risks are greater, others where they are less; some situations where potential benefits are greater, others where they are less.
What is essential is that a clear and detailed assessment of risks and benefits needs to be undertaken before any such project proceeds, and — critically — who will bear the potential risks and reap the benefits. Scenarios in which the risks are assumed by the environment (as a dumping-ground for the mistakes of humanity) and the communities of people who live in the area and depend upon the integrity of that environment, while the benefits are primarily accrued by distant corporations (that are solely concerned with shareholder profits and executive bonuses) should be assessed very critically.
The inescapable corollary is that the adjudication of such proposals is an environmental, social, and political matter. It should not under any circumstances be downloaded onto police authorities. To do so is an abuse of process. The hydrocarbons trapped in shales have been there for tens if not hundreds of millions of years. They will not go away. There is no need to rush an ethically corrupt process (see more below).
Should it be done?
Aye, there’s the rub. While it’s unquestionably the case that natural gas (which is what is at issue in Elsipogtog) burns more cleanly and with fewer carbon-dioxide emissions that other hydrocarbons such as coal or oil, it is still a fossil fuel and burning it (or letting it escape) emits greenhouse gases (GHGs), which on a daily bassis are bringing our planet closer to what many climatologists fear may be runaway global warming, the consequences of which could end civilization as we know it, something I would think should be of non-insignificant concern … (See Loaded dice in the climate change casino, In the valley of the shadow of peak oil, Acid bath: Evil twin of climate change, and Pestilence, famine, and climate change: Horseman of the Apocalypse).
We simply have to stop burning fossil fuels. While methane is cleaner than coal or tar sands, it is still emits GHGs. If extracting more natural gas would displace the burning of dirtier fuels, a case could be made for their exploitation. However, this seldom if ever happens. More extraction of fossil fuels almost invariably result sin more consumption of fossil fuels — and the cheaper they are, the more wastefully they are squandered.
Moreover, the more we as a society invest in fossil fuel technologies and infrastructure [i.e., pipelines, LNG (liquefied natural gas) terminals, fracking pads, etc.] the more we economically commit to these investments, and the less we correspondingly have to invest in critical renewable energy resources (i.e., wind, water, wave, solar, tidal, geothermal, etc.). It is impossible to have it both ways; we don’t have infinite financial resources, and the world’s atmosphere and oceans are not infinite reservoirs into which we can indefinitely pour our wastes. Climate change — an accumulation of the last several centuries of industrial society’s sins — is coming home to roost with virulent speed. We can’t continue to stick our head in the sands (tar or otherwise) — we simply have to stop burning fossil fuels.
Back to Elsipogtog
Having grown up in New Brunswick, this is an area I’m quite familiar with. The native community of Elsipogtog and the many surrounding Acadian towns of Rexton, Richibucto, Sainte-Anne de Kent, Saint-Louis de Kent, and many others, are located on the spectacular Gulf of St. Lawrence – Northumberland Strait coast of New Brunswick, a skipping stone’s throw away from Kouchibouguac National Park, itself a constellation of sand bars, barrier beaches, lagoons, and estuaries which is a scenic, natural, and wildlife gem of New Brunswick. The people of these communities are understandably attached to, and care for, the land, rivers, and ocean where they grew up, live, and make their livelihoods. They are understandably concerned by proposals by SWN Resources Canada (a subsidiary of a Houston, Texas based corporation) to frack for natural gas in their communities.
In the tense standoff at Elsipogtog, what we are seeing is how aboriginal communities are once again on the literal and figurative front line of resisting an exploitative model of resource development that disenfranchises the rights of people and is accelerating the destruction of the planet. It is native people — who have repeatedly been run over by the vehicles of corporate greed — who are standing up once again for the sake of their own communities, for the well being of all Canadians, and to preserve the sacred vitality and integrity of the environment that nourishes us all.
They are expressing well-founded environmental and political concerns and are asking pointed questions about the models of resource development and extraction, and the corporate myopia and greed that drives them. These abuses have brought us to the global environmental, social, and economic mess that we find ourselves in today. They are unfazed about asking spiritual questions about the sanctity of the earth and whether this is any way to treat her. As a society, we have to listen to these concerns — calmly and respectfully. There is no need to rush. It is inexcusable to send in the police, creating pointlessly tense situations that can readily escalate into conflict and violence. The New Brunswick government needs to reciprocate the invitation from native people to engage in an environmental, social, and political dialogue and not try to download the issues of this dispute onto police authorities.
An encouraging aspect of these current anti-fracking demonstrations and those of Idle No More (see No less than Idle No More) that I have attended, is the degree to which they have drawn people of every age, gender, and ethnicity, and how welcoming First Nations communities have been of the involvement of their fellow Canadians. Native people have been subject to centuries of genocide, persecution, or sometimes indifference, by the representatives of the European nations that came and colonized their land. They have more than ample reasons to feel hostile and suspicious — instead they are welcoming and generous.
In the past few years I’ve witnessed a sea-change, from a time when aboriginal people and their societies and concerns were seen as peripheral to ‘Canadian’ values and interests. Now I am witnessing a growing awareness and understanding that native people are at the forefront of what we need to do and embrace as a society. If we are to survive as a civilization, we need to understand that humanity is intimately and inextricably based on our relationship to the natural world. If we abuse it, we abuse ourselves. If we threaten its well being, we jeopardize our own future. If we ignore it, we hide from our own destiny. If we debase it, we harm our own sanctity. These are the lessons emerging from Elsipogtog and Idle No More. These are lessons that we urgently need to learn.
Christopher Majka is a biologist, environmentalist, policy analyst, and arts advocate. He conducts research on the ecology and biodiversity of beetles. He is a research associate of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives-NS and a member of the Project Democracy team.
Elsipogtog: “Clashes” 400 Years in the Making
Corporate media coverage creates ignorance, which enables violence
by Dru Oja Jay
Under the Peace and Friendship Treaties of 1760 and 1761 in the Maritimes, the Mi’kmaq and the Maliseet signatories did not surrender rights to lands or resources.
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From the Halifax Media Coop: http://halifax.mediacoop.ca/story/rcmp-bring-60-drawn-guns-dogs-assault-rifles-serve/19358
RCMP bring 60 drawn guns, dogs, assault rifles, to serve injunction on the wrong road
After van, main blocker, removed the night before, RCMP seem hell-bent for violence in early dawn encounter with Warriors
by Miles Howe
War Chief Seven Bernard wasunarmed, outmanned and off the path of SWN’s injunction. Was any of this necessary? [Photo: Miles Howe]
Moncton, New Brunswick – I have been camping at the current blockade along highway 134 since the inception of the encampment, filing almost daily reports for the Media Coop. During June and July of this year, when protests against shale gas exploration in New Brunswick were of far less national interest, I was doing the same.
Around 6am yesterday morning, October 17th, RCMP forces again blocked off both sides of the anti-shale gas encampment along highway 134, this time with an as yet unseen amount of police force. For numerous days prior, RCMP were allowing first walking traffic, then one lane of automobile traffic, to pass freely through the blockaded area. Anti-shale activists, as a measure of good faith, and in deference to emergency vehicles in particular, had days earlier removed two felled trees that had completely blocked off vehicular traffic.
The move, of course, allowed traffic flow to resume to near normal. It also allowed unhindered access to RCMP, who as it will be made clear were scouting out the area and making plans for an ultimate take-down of the traffic-slowing, but completely peaceful, protest.
Yesterday, I first heard that the roads were blocked off by someone screaming in a tented area near the entrance gate to the compound that housed SWN Resources Canada’s seismic testing equipment, in the vicinity of where I was camped. At the time, I was asleep.
I could hear police beginning to identify themselves, and a rustling through the trees that suggested numerous bodies moving around. RCMP, I surmised, were everywhere, and the always possible event of the RCMP serving SWN’s injunction against blocking their equipment was upon us.
SWN, the Texas-based gas company, had earlier been given a ten day extension to their injunction against the encampment, due to expire on October 21st. We had heard that the injunction had been printed in Irving-owned newspapers. Due to Irving’s collusion with SWN (the compound in which SWN’s equipment was housed, for example, is Irving-owned), there had been something of a ban on Irving newspapers. We had also been advised by various sources that peace would remain at the encampment until at least Friday, October 18th, when a public hearing against the injunction was set to occur at the Moncton courthouse.
I grabbed my car keys and ran the 100-odd metres towards the Mi’kmaq Warrior encampment.
What I saw was surprising.
The ditch opposite me was already filled with 20-odd police in tactical blue uniforms, pistols already drawn. Three police officers dressed in full camouflage, one with a short-chained German Shepherd, were also near the ditch.
In the far field, creeping towards the Warrior encampment – which was comprised of one trailer and about ten tents – were at least 35 more police officers. Many of these wore tactical blue and had pistols drawn. At least three officers were wearing full camouflage and had sniper rifles pointed at the amassing group. The Warriors, for their part, numbered about 15.
Through a police loud speaker towards the highway 11 off-ramp, an officer began reading the injunction against the blocking of SWN’s seismic equipment. This was all before dawn.
Still in the pre-dawn dark, about seven molotov cocktails flew out of the woods opposite the police line stationed in the ditch. I cannot verify who threw these cocktails. They were – if it matters – lobbed ineffectively at the line of police and merely splashed small lines of fire across the road. A lawn chair caught fire from one cocktail. Two camouflaged officers then pumped three rounds of rubber bullet shotgun blasts into the woods.
Shortly after, three so-called warriors with a journalist in tow – who claim to have arrived two nights ago from Manitoba – appeared to have determined that the situation was too extreme for them. Two of them have since been identified as Harrisen Freison and ‘Eagle Claw’. They promptly ran down the road towards the far end of the police blockade. Until last night no one had ever seen these individuals before.
About ten minutes later, with tensions now becoming highly escalated between the encroaching line of police in the field adjacent to the encampment and the Warriors now on a public dirt road, two officers approached Seven Bernard, chief of the Warrior Society. They attempted to serve Bernard with SWN’s contentious injunction. Dozens of guns from all angles were pointed at all of us.
Seven Bernard began to walk away from the officer attempting to serve him the injunction. If it matters, the officer in question was the same Sergeant Rick Bernard who had earlier in the summer arrested me on charges of threats and obstruction of justice – both of which amounted to nothing and were subsequently dropped.
Sergeant Bernard threw the injunction at his namesake, saying: “Consider yourself served.”
I could hear the RCMP surrounding us speaking about someone having a gun. I did not see any Warrior carrying a firearm. I can say with certainty, however, that no live round was ever fired by the Warrior side. If, as the RCMP are now claiming, that a single shot was discharged, it was not from this altercation.
Before continuing, it is important to note that the Warrior encampment was on government – or Crown – land. Crown land, legally, is being held for Canada’s indigenous people, in this case the Mi’kmaq people. Through negligence of the Crown, this is often forgotten, especially by Canada’s non-indigenous populations.
Equally as forgotten is the fact that none of Canada’s Maritime provinces are ceded land. The Crown is tied to the original indigenous inhabitants – and their land – through treaties of peace and friendship. Nothing more.
It is also important to note that the entire encroaching police formation was focused on a group of about 15 Warriors, all of whom were now on a public dirt road, away from SWN’s so-called blockaded equipment.
The injunction was meant to focus on protestors blocking access to SWN’s equipment on highway 134. All of the subsequent arrests at this end of the altercation were made on Hannah Road.
With RCMP forces having entirely overwhelmed any remaining activists at the compound gate, the question must be asked:
Why focus on a small band of Warriors, clearly away from all of SWN’s equipment and entirely incapable of reforming a blockade, with over 60 guns of various calibre drawn on them?
Indeed, a van belonging to one Lorraine Clair from Elsipogtog First Nation had the evening before been removed from the compound gate. It was the main blocking factor to SWN’s – or anybody’s, really – access to their equipment.
Tensions at this stand-off further escalated when a group of Elsipogtog youth began running up the dirt road towards the Warriors, and police. It is unclear how the youth, on foot, had managed to come up a back road towards a highly volatile situation. The police attempted to halt the approaching youth, for what reason is unclear.
Mi’kmaq Warrior Suzanne Patles, in a last ditch attempt to defuse a situation now spiralling into a screaming match with police guns pointing in every direction, ran into the middle of the field screaming: “We were given this tobacco last night!”
Now crying, in her hand she held a plug of tobacco, provided to her by RCMP negotiators wrapped in red cloth as a traditional token of peace the night before.
Skirmishes then broke out in every direction. From the highway side, District War Chief Jason Augustine was being chased by numerous police. In front of me, everywhere really, Warriors were being taken down by numerous RCMP officers in various clothes. Rubber bullet shots were fired by the RCMP, and both Jim Pictou and Aaron Francis both claim that they were hit – in the back and leg respectively.
I continued to try photographing what had quickly become a chaotic scene until one officer in camouflage and assault rifle pointed at me, saying: “He’s with them. Take him out!”
I was taken to the ground and arrested.
Myself and approximately 25 individuals then spent a varying amount of time at the Codiac detention centre. Some of us, apparently on a haphazard basis, were provided blankets and mattresses. Others spent about 20 hours on hard concrete.
At about 12am, I was taken for fingerprinting and told my charge would be obstruction of justice, for running at an altercation (taking photographs all the while, mind you). I was refused release when I could not procure a $500 note of promise.
An hour later, I was brought back to the release desk. My charge was now mischief, with conditions to stay 1 kilometre away from SWN’s equipment and personnel.
I refused to sign these documents at this point, preferring to see a judge the next day. At approximately 3am I was told that all charges against me had been dropped and that I would be read SWN’s injunction and then released.
I refused to sign the injunction, and at 3:15am was released into the Moncton night.
I can only assume that my ever-reducing charges were due in no small amount to a public outcry over once again arresting me while covering the ongoing seismic testing story in New Brunswick.
I give thanks for this continued support.
Again, one must wonder at the RCMP’s pre-sunrise, decidedly violent, means of attempting to enforce an injunction against blocking SWN’s equipment. Again, one must reiterate that neither members or the Mi’kmaq Warrior Society or anyone else was anywhere near the newly-unblocked compound gate. Nor were they at all capable of reforming any blockade style formation.
Again, it must be reiterated that Lorraine Clair’s van the main impediment to accessing the equipment had been removed the night before.
Instead, with guns drawn, the RCMP appeared intent on provoking a violent climax on the near three-week blockade.
I say in no uncertain terms that it is miraculous that no one was seriously injured yesterday, indeed killed. The RCMP arrived with pistols drawn, dogs snapping, assault rifles trained on various targets, and bus loads of RCMP waiting from across the province and beyond.
As solidarity actions spring up across the country, yesterday’s actions have perhaps invited a far greater climax to New Brunswickers fight against shale gas.
Finally, while the mainstream media will go far to paint this as a “Native” issue, it is vital to remember that the blockade, until yesterday, had been supported by various allies from across the province. It is also key to note that an original 28 groups, representing New Brunswickers from all walks of life, had demanded an end to all shale gas exploration or development.
This all occurred long before images of bandana-ed Indigenous people, who veracity as true grassroots activists and not provocateurs is now being closely examined, ever set fire to a single RCMP squad car in Rexton.
Steve daSilva – October 9, 2013
After months of arrests and mounting resistance against shale gas exploration in New Brunswick on Mi’kmaq territory, the anti-fracking movement upped the ante this past week with a fresh blockade and a proclamation of a massive land reclamation, which has forced conservative New Brunswick Premier David Alward to a negotiation table with representatives of the anti-fracking movement.
A day after the September 30 blockade was established on Route 134 that blocked the entrance to an equipment storage site of SWN Resources Canada, Chief Aaron Sock, speaking for Chief and Council of the Elsipogtog First Nation, announced a sweeping Mi’kmaq land reclamation effective immediately.
“Harper and the Conservative government have lifted restrictions to environmental protections of our lands and water” and “the provincial government is turning over all lands… to a corporation for their own benefit… we have lost confidence in governments for the safekeeping of our lands.”
Sock added that “our notice of eviction has been completely ignored by the Provincial government and Southwest Energy, and… we have been compelled to act to save our water, land and animals from ruin.”
“Let it be known to all the we as the chief and council of Elsipogtog are reclaiming all unoccupied reserve lands… We have been instructed by our people that they are ready, willing, and able to go out and stake their own claims on all unoccupied lands for their own use and benefit.”
The October 1 announcement was read at the blockade site to an exuberant crowd of hundreds who gathered from across Kent County and beyond.
The New Brunswick government has been allowing SWN Resources to explore some 2.5 million acres of lands for the purpose of shale gas extraction through hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”. Fracking involves drilling deep wells that fracture shale rock beds and requires the pumping of millions of gallons of pressurized fresh water and toxic chemicals, including known carcinogens and neurotoxins, into a well to force the gas out. However, the provincial government’s case for hydraulic fracturing took a huge blow this past September when Louis LaPierre, the researcher at the New Brunswick Energy Institute who wrote the report encouraging the government to proceed with gas exploitation, was discovered to have lied for decades about having a PhD in Ecology.
On Wednesday, October 2, a new Brunswick court issued an injunction against the blockade at the request of SWN, which is enforceable until October 12, 2013. But the papers have yet to be served by the RCMP, and Miles Howe of the Halifax Media Co-op has reported that the RCMP would not enforce an injunction until dialogue with the Premiere had ceased.
On Sunday, October 5 Premier Alward and three members of his cabinet met with and the Elsipogtog chief and 15 representatives of the protesters for three hours in a Moncton hotel, with negotiations continuing in Fredericton as of Monday. The delegation reportedly excluded the Mi’kmaq Warriors Society, who Alward would not meet with, and who have reportedly been the main and most visible force at the blockade. The Warriors are independent of the Chief and Council.
Two Row Times asked Elsipogtog counsellor Robert Levi whether the negotiations that had opened up related to the blockade or the larger land reclamation, and Levi told us that “I think the [reclamation] is a larger issue that will take on a life of its own. But since we have an injunction hanging over our heads, this is what needs to be resolved right now, since we want a peaceful resolution to the blockade and for no one to get hurt.”
On October 7, the Mi’kmaq Warriors Society took their own initiative and hand-delivered a letter (via a Houston-based environmentalist group) to SWN Resources reading, “all projects, leases, and permits issued to SWN Resources by the Government [of New Brunswick] come to a halt until all Mi’kmaq-L’nu, and Wabanaki communities, as sovereign individuals are Meaningfully Consulted, and that we are able to come to an informed decision as individuals.”
All the while, the Acadian presence in the anti-fracking movement and at the most recent blockade has also been quite strong, which many see as a welcome development between the two communities. Fourteen years ago, the crisis of Burnt Church unfolded 100 km to the north, where non-native fishers destroyed thousands of Mi’kmaq lobster traps to protest native fishing rights, which was followed by violent confrontations. However, Acadians and Mi’kmaq have also had strong of unity against a common oppressor in the region’s history. After the mass expulsion of the French-speaking Acadian people by the British in 1755, the remaining Acadians and the Mi’kmaq made a treaty that saw the two peoples unite in a guerilla war against the British that led to the 1757 defeat of a British detachment in 1757 in the Battle of Bloody Creek.
Gone for the summer – SWN Resources Canada folds ’til September
Shale gas company allowed to detonate 11 more un-exploded shot holes – charges against 25 of 35 will be dropped.
by Miles Howe
» Download file ‘johnlevi.mp3’ (3.4MB)
ELSIPOGTOG, NEW BRUNSWICK – Minutes ago, afternoon negotiations between the RCMP, Elsipogtog Chief Arren Sock, Elsipogtog War Chief John Levi, former Elsipogtog Chief Susan Levi-Peters, Mi’kmaq Warrior Society Chief ‘Seven’ and others concluded with a few key announcements.
- SWN Resources Canada will be permitted to detonate 11 un-exploded shot-holes along ‘Line 5’, the backwoods seismic testing line west of highway 126 that the company is currently attempting to test for shale gas. A team of observers from Elsipogtog First Nation, which will include 8 scouts, 3 Grandmothers and 2 Elsipogtog Peacekeepers will be tasked with observing the completion of SWN’s work. No more testing will be allowed for these remaining 11 shot holes.
- Charges laid against 25 of the 35 arrested in the protests against SWN’s seismic testing will be dropped, pending an unmolested completion of SWN’s detonation work. This work is expected to be completed by Friday, August 2nd.
- People who have already entered the court system will not have their charges dropped. These include Elsipogtog War Chief John Levi and activist Susanne Patles, as well as others.
- SWN is expected to return to seismic test in Kent County in mid-September. It will then focus it’s efforts on lines ‘3’ and ‘4’. These seismic test lines are far closer to Elsipogtog First Nation, in some instances bordering the community by only a few kilometers. SWN’s earlier attempts to seismic test these lines resulted in significant equipment destruction.
SWN issued notice of eviction by Geptin of District Grand Council
Shale gas company’s eviction notice follows earlier public notice issuance
by Miles Howe
ELSIPOGTOG, NEW BRUNSWICK – Noel Augustine, Geptin of the Migmag Grand Council of the Signigtog District, has issued a notice of eviction to SWN Resources Canada. The district of Signigtog comprises much of southern New Brunswick and part of northern Nova Scotia. As Geptin, Augustine represents the traditional form of government for the area.
All night Anti-shale gas truck seizure, road block, ends peacefully despite RCMP negotiation failure.
Interview with District War Chief Jason Okay
by Miles Howe
» Download file ‘ste-036.mp3’ (11.5MB)
Indigenous, Acadian and Anglophone anti-shale gas activists seized a 20 ton truck for over 8 hours on July 27th. [Photo: M. Howe]
ELSIPOGTOG, NEW BRUNSWICK – Last night, July 27th, about 35 anti-shale gas activists blockaded a 20 ton truck, subcontracted to SWN Resources Canada, for over 8 hours. The truck, filled with helicopter bags – each containing dozens of geophones – was attempting to exit southward along Irving Road, a back road west of highway 126 in New Brunswick. The truck, as well as eight other equipment trucks subcontracted to SWN, were conducting seismic testing in the hopes of finding shale gas deposits along a 35.9 kilometer north-south line known as ‘Line 5’. All the equipment and workers were halted until about 3:30am Atlantic Time.