HMC: Mi’kmaq Warrior bail hearings risks turning into week-long event

SOURCE: http://halifax.mediacoop.ca/story/mikmaq-warrior-bail-hearings-risks-turning-week-lo/19421

Zero down, six to go as first day draws to a close

by Miles Howe

Defence lawyer Gilles Lemieux speaks to a reporter after today's non-bail hearing. [Photo: Miles Howe]
Defence lawyer Gilles Lemieux speaks to a reporter after today’s non-bail hearing. [Photo: 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.

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HPC: Elsipogtog Protest: We’re Only Seeing Half the Story

SOURCE: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/leanne-simpson/elsipogtog-racism_b_4139367.html

In the mid-1990s I moved to Mi’gma’gi to go to graduate school. I was expecting to learn about juvenile Atlantic salmon on the Miramichi River. I was naive and misguided. Fortunately for me, the Mi’kmaq people saw that in me and they taught me something far more profound. I did my first sweat in the homeland of Elsipogtog, in the district of Siknikt. I did solidarity work with the women of Elsipogtog, then known as Big Cove, as they struggled against imposed poverty and poor housing. One of them taught me my first song, the Mi’kmaq honour song, and I attended her Native Studies class with her as she sang it to a room full of shocked students.

I also found a much needed refuge with a Mi’kmaq family on a nearby reserve. What I learned from all of these kind people who saw me as an Nishnaabeg in a town where no one else did, was that the place I needed to be wasn’t Mi’gma’gi, but in my own Mississauga Nishnaabeg homeland. For that I am grateful.

Nearly every year I travel east to Mi’gma’gi for one reason or another. In 2010, my children and I 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.

Rabble: Out of order: Indigenous protest and the rule of law

Out of order: Indigenous protest and the rule of law

| October 21, 2013

Out of order: Indigenous protest and the rule of law

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….

SubMedia: Frontline documentary on the October 17 Attack

To view the video, go to:

http://www.submedia.tv/stimulator/2013/10/20/showdown-at-highway-134/

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.

HMC: Mi’kmaq Warrior risks losing leg after being shot by RCMP rubber slug in Thursday’s cop attack

SOURCE: http://halifax.mediacoop.ca/story/mikmaq-warrior-risks-losing-leg-after-being-shot-r/19398

Internal bleeding went untended for two days due to shock.

by Miles Howe

Tyson Peters addresses a crowd today at a community meeting in Elsipogtog. [Photo: Miles Howe]
Tyson Peters addresses a crowd today at a community meeting in Elsipogtog. [Photo: 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.

Rabble: Frackas in Elsipogtog

SOURCE: http://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/christophermajka/2013/10/frackas-elsipogtog

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

Elsipogtog Solidarity RallyAn 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

Elsipogtog Solidarity RallyFracking 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?

Elsipogtog Solidarity RallyWell … 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?

 at left, Sherry Pictou, former Chief of the Bear River First NationAye, 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

Elsipogtog Solidarity RallyHaving 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.

Elsipogtog Solidarity RallyThey 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.

AMMSA: RCMP crackdown on Elsipogtog anti-fracking blockade spurs over 50 protests in support

SOURCE: http://www.ammsa.com/publications/windspeaker/rcmp-crackdown-elsipogtog-anti-fracking-blockade-spurs-over-50-protests-sup

Fracking protestor at Elsipogtog faced down by RCMP line
Author:
By David P. Ball Windspeaker Contributor Rexton, N.B.
Volume:  31
Issue: 8
Year: 2013

“Oh my gosh, they’re going to kill me before hearing me out,” Mi’kmaq anti-fracking blockader Amy Sock thought, as camouflage-clad tactical police with assault rifles and attack dogs chased her down.

“My spirit told me to just run,” she told Windspeaker. “I’ve never seen rifles like that; they were really big, Afghanistan-style guns. When I saw them, when I saw those outfits with the dogs, I knew, ‘This is it’ … I could have easily been shot. But my spirit is unharmed, it’s still strong.”

Sock, a member of Elsipogtog First Nation involved in a months-long fight against shale gas exploration by SWN Resources, arrived at the blockade on Oct. 17 after dropping her children off at school.

When she saw hundreds of riot police lined up across the road near the protest encampment – ostensibly to serve a court injunction in favour of the company – she approached waving a white towel in hopes of negotiating a solution.

Instead, she claims an officer punched her in the head so hard her glasses flew off, sparking an escalating confrontation that ended with 40 arrests, six torched police vehicles, and RCMP allegations they found bombs, rifles and bear spray in the camp. Media were barred from the site, and could not verify those claims, and some have speculated that several new faces that morning could have been police infiltrators.

The massive police raid – with estimates between 200 and 700 officers deployed with live ammunition and armoured troop carriers – sparked a flurry of at least 50 solidarity protests across Canada and even in some American and European cities. But police insisted they swept in because of alleged threats against private security contractors the night before.

“The weapons and explosives we seized show that this was no longer a peaceful protest and there was a serious threat to public safety,” RCMP assistant commissioner Roger Brown told reporters on Oct. 18. “Some in the crowd threw rocks and bottles at (police) and sprayed them with bear spray.

“Setting police cars on fire created a dangerous situation for everyone in the area, and it was at that point that police were forced to physically confront some in the crowd who refused to obey the law.”

Since early this summer, Sock has been part of a group of Mi’kmaq and non-Native protesters raising the alarm about SWN Resources. Residents fear seismic testing and search for shale gas will lead to polluted water through the controversial fracking process, in which high-pressure chemicals explode the earth deep underground.

Leaders of Elsipogtog First Nation have supported the blockade with band council resolutions, and have attempted unsuccessfully to negotiate with the province to prevent fracking on the traditional lands near their reserve.

“There’s no guarantee fracking will be safe,” Sock said. “To me, if there’s no guarantee it’ll be safe, we should not even bother.

“Water is a source of life, it travels far and wide. Without it, not even an insect will survive. They’ll pollute our water; no one has ever said that it won’t … It’s irreparable harm. We will not put up with that, if there’s any doubt that our water is in danger. We have to stand up.”

As reported by Windspeaker in July, the blockade has seen previous arrests as well as arson against SWN equipment. But Sock said the conflict came to a head on Oct. 17 when police raided the camp before dawn with pistols drawn, arresting several sleeping Mi’kmaq warriors at gunpoint. During that operation, police said at least one Molotov cocktail was thrown from the forest.

But supporters of the blockade say the police assault – photos show officers pointing live sniper rifles at unarmed protesters – was unprovoked and amounts to a violation of the Mi’kmaq peace treaty with the Crown.

Pam Palmater, head of Ryerson’s Centre for Indigenous Governance, said the confrontation reminded her of the 1990 standoff at Kanesatake, the so-called Oka Crisis: “overkill to the max.”

“You’re talking drums and feathers versus assault rifles, Tasers and pepper spray,” the Mi’kmaq academic told Windspeaker. “As soon as you send in RCMP or military, heavily armed, it stops being a peaceful protest.

“You can’t call sending in 200 RCMP with dogs and snipers, attacking protesters, anything other than hostile. They made a direct choice to violate the peace treaty.”

Palmater believes that it’s no coincidence that police only decided to enforce SWN’s injunction within days of the departure of UN Indigenous envoy James Anaya, and the Conservative government’s Throne Speech outlining its aggressive resource extraction priorities.
But with police withdrawing after a day of unrest, she declared the standoff and solidarity protests a “victory.”

“It showed that we as Indigenous peoples actually have the power to deal with this stuff – to stop what’s happening on our land,” she explained. “SWN and New Brunswick are now partnering together to get an injunction to prevent any future protests. That’s not conducive to a negotiated solution. It will fuel the fire.”

But although burning police cars and a televised Native standoff drew comparisons to Oka in 1990 or Ipperwash in 1995 – where unarmed protester Dudley George was killed by police – the author of Resource Rulers: Fortune & Folly on Canada’s Road to Resources – said that the parallel ends there.

“I don’t think this is another Oka or Ipperwash,” Bill Gallagher said. “Both of those had a burial ground connotation that went to the very heart of what Natives are prepared to go to the wall for and protest. Now the Native ability to stand up and push back has never been more strident and thought out, often with allies like eco-activists.”

However, in New Brunswick, an APTN reporter heard one police officer shout at blockaders, “Crown land belongs to government, not to f**king natives.” Those words echoed Ontario’s Ipperwash-era premier Mike Harris, who it was reported told his staff, “I want the f**king Indians out of the park,” immediately before George’s killing.
As Indigenous people and supporters stage solidarity rallies and several highway blockades across the country, however, the crisis in New Brunswick could still follow the path of Oka and “spin off and … replicate or draw adherents right across the country,” he said.

“The trouble with it happening the way it has is that Canadians have to get a crash course in why they have to be prepared to take a deep breath and cut First Nations some slack until they get all the facts,” he argued. “It’s incumbent for Canadians to get their heads around it and understand that all these events are interconnected with history.”

As the conflict unfolded on Oct. 17, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo wrote a letter to New Brunswick Premier David Alward warning that “the actions of police this morning have been completely unacceptable and are an extreme use of state force and control over First Nation citizens and territories.”

Sock sees a direct parallel to the Oka Crisis. At age 20, she journeyed to Kanesatake to support the Mohawks in their fight against a golf course on their cemetery.

“At Oka, they wanted to protect Mother Earth, and at Elsipogtog, we want to protect Mother Earth,” she said. “The issue is the same.

“When you’re a First Nations person, you have a strong connection to Mother Earth … We’re very proud of that. To us, it doesn’t matter if they drag us around or throw us in jail. We have no other choice. We can’t trust the government and we can’t trust the RCMP to protect us. We have to do it ourselves.”

– See more at: http://www.ammsa.com/publications/windspeaker/rcmp-crackdown-elsipogtog-anti-fracking-blockade-spurs-over-50-protests-sup#sthash.Pv2PvUkF.dpuf