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….

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Guardian: New Brunswick fracking protests are the frontline of a democratic fight

SOURCE: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/oct/21/new-brunswick-fracking-protests

Images of burning cars and narratives about Canadian natives breaking the law obscure the real story about the Mi’kmaq people’s opposition to shale gas exploration

A girl plays the drums as she sings a traditional First Nations song during an anti shale gas demonstration in Montreal in support of the Mikmaq people of Elsipogtog First Nations in New Brunswick.
A girl plays the drums as she sings a traditional First Nations song during an anti shale gas demonstration in Montreal in support of the Mikmaq people of Elsipogtog First Nations in New Brunswick. Photograph: Oscar Aguirre/Demotix/Corbis

The image of burning police cars played endlessly on the evening news. Television and talk radio blared out reports of “clashes” between police and indigenous protestors. Last Thursday in New Brunswick near the Elsipogtog First Nation, we were told the government had enforced an injunction against a blockade of a US shale gas company. There was nothing about the roots of a conflict years in the making. An appeal to the stereotype of indigenous violence was enough: once again, the natives were breaking the law; the police had to be sent in. Catching the headlines, Canadian could shake their heads and turn away their gaze.

But smoke and flames from police cars can only hide the truth for so long. The exact chronology is not yet settled, but this much is clear: on Thursday morning someone in government sanctioned the Canadian police to invade a peaceful protest site like an army. In a dawn raid, snipers crawled through the forest, putting children and elders in their cross-hairs. Police carried assault rifles and snarling dogs, and sprayed tear gas and shot rubber-type bullets. The result was predictable: shocked and enraged people, a day ending in chaos.

There is only one reason the police were unleashed. Not because of the New Brunswick Premier’s claims about the dangers of an “armed encampment”; protestors had been unswervingly non-violent for months. 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. Petitions, town hall meetings, marches on legislature had slowly transformed to civil disobedience, and in October, to the blockade of equipment that Texan SNW Resources was using for seismic testing. The company was losing $60,000 daily, and the non-violent defiance had put a wrinkle in the Premier’s plans for a resource boom. The blockade had to go.

The pundits howl or hand-wring about destroyed police cars, but say nothing about the destruction wrought by fracking. Short for “hydraulic fracturing,” fracking pumps a toxic cocktail of chemicals, sand and water into deeply drilled wells. It shatters the bedrock to free shale gas. The chemicals – many of which are kept secret by industry – are linked to cancer and other illnesses. The process contaminates ground water and even causes earthquakes. And it doesn’t just do violence to the earth: it releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes massively to climate change. Such concerns have spurred citizen movements to win moratoriums in Quebec, New York and France.

But Premier David Alward, hell-bent on opening up the province to shale gas, has spurned consultation with First Nations and the rest of the population. His latest step is demonization. “Clearly, there are those who do not have the same values we share as New Brunswickers,” he cynically announced on Friday. But the opposition to the Premier’s shale gas agenda is not just a supposedly isolated Indigenous community: it is two of every three people in Atlantic Canada. Little wonder he has repeatedly rejected a referendum on shale gas. It turns out the residents of Elsipogtog aren’t criminal deviants. They are the frontline of a fight for the democratic and environmental will of New Brunswick.

“It is our responsibility to protect Mother Earth, to protect the land for non-natives too,” says Susan Levi-Peters, the former Chief of Elsipogtog. “My people are speaking up for everyone.” Others have heard. Since the beginning of the summer, Levi-Peters has seen indigenous Maliseet, Acadians and anglophone New Brunswickers drawn to this new epicentre of resistance on her community’s traditional lands. “People care about the water. People care about the environment. This isn’t just a native issue.”

But let’s be clear about one way this is a “native issue”: the rush underway for dirtier and more extreme fossil fuels and minerals, in New Brunswick and across Canada, is just the latest stage of colonial pillage. It’s a badly-kept secret that Canada’s oil, gas and mineral wealth, the key to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s reckless resource obsession, are mostly on Indigenous lands. And if industry is to have them, the country’s national myths must be summoned. In last week’s Speech from the Throne, Harper praised the “courage and audacity” of the country’s “pioneers,” who “forged an independent country where non would have otherwise existed.” A day later, the raid on Elsipogtog was effectively a footnote.

Levi-Peters says the Mi’kmaq remember the “audacity” all too well. How their nation signed a peace and friendship treaty in 1761 to let the English settle but not to trample Mi’kmaq interests. How before they came for the shale gas, they came for the timber, the fish, the wildlife. And then for the children, locked away in residential schools and split from their connection to the land. The farms that were burnt to push them onto reserves. And how every act of resistance has been greeted by the same lectures from authority. “In no way can we as a country of laws condone the breaking of laws and violence,” Premier Alward reminded them on Friday.

Tell that to Levi-Peters and the rest of the Mi’kmaq, who have been betrayed again and again by the law. The Canadian Supreme Court’s judgment in the historic Marshall case in 1999 recognized the Mi’kmaq rights to fish for a living. But when the Mi’kmaq’s attempted to practice that right, their boats were rammed by government officials, their nets destroyed by non-native fishers agitated by state misinformation. That same judgment confirmed that the treaty of 1761 had never surrendered their lands. That Elsipogtog still owns, in fact, what SNW Resources now covets. And that the injunction order by a provincial judge is a convenient legal fiction, backed only by the power of brute police force.

This is the vast and enduring violence that is scarcely spoken of: a history of dispossession and resource theft under the guise of the “law.” What Harper and every premier now offers indigenous peoples are promises they will have “every opportunity to benefit.” They won’t. In Elsipogtog, unemployment tips 80 percent and they want jobs, but fracking is too great a risk. As many as twenty people crowd into one house, in a community that needs 500 new homes. Their share of a multi-billion dollar resource rush will be destitution and despair on its outskirts.

But in the protest movement against shale gas, many young Indigenous people have discovered a new reason for hope. Like one young man, 17 years old, who has camped at the site for the last weeks. “I’m worried about the water and the future of my children,” he says. He is among the terrifying warriors that shale gas-drunk politicians unleashed an armed police force on last week. Anxious that this might come, Levi-Peters sent a message this summer to the Premier. “You’re going to make criminals out of us, because there is no way we can allow the fracking,” she wrote him. His office never bothered to reply. She now has his response: Harper’s pioneers aim to march on.

Unless, of course, Canadians are prepared to break with the past. Many are. Tens of thousands have signed petitions, and many others marched alongside indigenous peoples in dozens of cities and towns since Thursday. It is a sign that the the actions of the New Brunswick and the Canadian government may backfire. What the government and corporate media crave now is more mayhem, to sell to the public the repression they have sought all along. What they fear most is a movement armed only with drums and eagle feathers and a sacred relationship to the land, touching the hearts of ever more Canadians.

Freed of the distractions, we will be left with a single question. Do we obey provincial dictates that grant a company license to pollute the water? Or the laws of Indigenous peoples, of the Supreme Court, and of our conscience, calling us to protect it? The answer will tell us everything about the kind of country we will have.

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.

OC: Op-Ed: Heavy-handed response to the Elsipogtog blockade in New Brunswick

SOURCE: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/opinion/op-ed/Heavy+handed+response+Elsipogtog+blockade+Brunswick/9054564/story.html

Op-Ed: Heavy-handed response to the Elsipogtog blockade in New Brunswick

By Peter Raaymakers, Ottawa Citizen October 18, 2013
Op-Ed: Heavy-handed response to the Elsipogtog blockade in New Brunswick

Photograph by: Andrew Vaughan , THE CANADIAN PRESS

On Thursday morning, RCMP officers were deployed with rifles, non-lethal bullets, pepper spray, and dogs to enforce a court injunction and attempt to disperse a blockade of protesters on New Brunswick Route 134, about an hour north of Moncton. At least 40 people were arrested for continuing a protest against natural gas exploration in the area, which comprises traditional lands of the Mi’kmaq people.

Perhaps it can be seen as an extension of the Canadian “pioneer” spirit mentioned by Governor General David Johnston in the most recent speech from the throne. That spirit, according to the current government, pushed settlers to build “an independent country where none would have otherwise existed.”

Of course, Canada wasn’t depopulated when settlers arrived here from Europe. Our country’s wealth and prosperity has been built through the persistent and usually violent removal of First Nations from their traditional lands in order to make room for resource development — and, as we saw Thursday, that’s as true today as it was centuries ago.

As we watched the blockade, we also witnessed the violent response that often follows violent provocation. Although thankfully there were no serious injuries reported, five flaming police cars have a way of catching the attention of the general public. After RCMP officers converged on the blockade, Elsipogtog First Nation Chief Arren James Sock — who was allegedly “roughed up” in the process, according to at least one eyewitness — was among those arrested, and as matters escalated, police also began using non-lethal bullets, pepper spray, and physical confrontation in an attempt to break the blockade.

It seems that cooler heads have prevailed and the RCMP pulled back their offensive for the time being, but it’s unfortunate that the violence seems to be what’s generating headlines in the aftermath. It’s distracting many from the injustice of gas exploration and fracking around Richibucto and Canada’s relations with First Nations in general.

The Mi’kmaq people of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, including the Elsipogtog First Nation, have never signed a treaty relinquishing authority to the land on which the Route 134 blockade stands today, or that on which SWN Resources is conducting exploratory testing. They signed a Peace and Friendship Treaty in 1761, which was re-affirmed in 1982 with Canada’s Constitution Act and then again in a 1999 Supreme Court of Canada decision, but that agreement included no mention of the surrender of any lands. Although the federal and New Brunswick governments are currently engaged in exploratory discussions to address issues of land ownership, rights, and sovereignty, there has been no agreement yet.

Given this reality, SWN Resources’ exploration permits aren’t legitimate. Nor was the court injunction criminalizing the blockade, and the police action was ridiculously illegitimate, not to mention unjust, unreasonable in its heavy-handedness, and terribly bad public relations for the RCMP.

In the above-mentioned Supreme Court case, the federal government was encouraged to negotiate with all First Nations in Canada in order to resolve the many outstanding issues and fulfil its treaty obligations. The negotiation process takes a lot of time, but that’s the point. It’s designed to be a meaningful engagement to avoid violent confrontation and find a mutually acceptable solution to these complex issues. If we hope to avoid more destructive events like that which took place on Thursday in New Brunswick, negotiation is the only way forward.

Negotiations are taking place with the provincial government, too. Premier David Alward and Chief Sock met as recently as last week to find a way to end the blockade, and they agreed to form a working group with representatives from the governments of the province and the Elsipogtog First Nation as well as the energy industry. Why the RCMP felt that it was appropriate to intervene in what was at the time a peaceful protest in the midst of active negotiations is unclear, but thankfully all sides have agreed to resume negotiation now that the police have stepped back.

Before gas exploration continues, those negotiations must reach a settlement. Continuing them while the industry conducts testing is disingenuous, putting the cart before the horse and assuming that the settlement will allow fracking without any indication that it’s an acceptable component. If New Brunswick was negotiating in good faith, SWN Resources would be required to stop looking for shale gas deposits — and if testing were halted, the blockade and the hugely excessive police response that followed it could have been avoided.

This year marks the 250th anniversary of the Royal Proclamation of 1763, which outlined the First Nations land rights. That proclamation was further guaranteed in 1982 within the Canadian Charter or Rights and Freedoms. With that in mind, it’s high time the federal government redoubles its efforts to resolve the many outlying issues that are causing conflicts such as that in New Brunswick.

Peter Raaymakers is an Ottawa resident who thinks 400 years should have been long enough to build peace between Canada and the indigenous people who live within its borders.

MC: Elsipogtog: “Clashes” 400 Years in the Making

Elsipogtog: “Clashes” 400 Years in the Making

Corporate media coverage creates ignorance, which enables violence

by Dru Oja Jay

"What the RCMP are aiming at," a photo from the blockades in Rexton. Photo by @mykelone
“What the RCMP are aiming at,” a photo from the blockades in Rexton. Photo by @mykelone
RCMP snipers. Photo by @ToddLamirande
RCMP snipers. Photo by @ToddLamirande
Department of Fisheries and Oceans patrol boat running over Mi'kmaq fishers in 2001.
Department of Fisheries and Oceans patrol boat running over Mi’kmaq fishers in 2001.
“NB protest turns violent,” a CBC headline solemnly proclaims. 1,280 news stories about anti-fracking protests in Rexton, New Brunwick, indexed by Google use the word “clashes.” Most stories are decorated with photos of burning police cars.
All this points to one thing: the way that Canada’s corporate media discusses Indigenous protests is fundamentally broken.
Let’s put it this way. If a hockey player gets in a fight or takes a boarding penalty, we can count on the intrepid investigative team at Hockey Night in Canada to find the footage, if it exists, of the “victimized” player instigating the conflict by making a nasty play when the ref wasn’t looking.
When it comes to Mi’kmaq traditional territory, the stakes are infinitely higher, but the effort reporters put in falls short of a typical Don Cherry segment. Most of the reporters currently flocking to rural New Brunswick can’t be bothered to crack one of hundreds of history books that might give them the background they need to understand the situation.
In fact, they’re not even interested in the months of peaceful protests which “turned violent” when the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) brought in snipers dressed in camouflage and armoured riot police who attacked protesters with pepper spray, physical assaulting those who stood in the way of violations of treaty rights and the destruction of their land.
The corporate media’s interest in the issue seems to have coincided with the exact moment when unprotected police cars were set on fire (by whom, we have no idea), and their curiosity does not extend back from the present moment. Reporters and editors seem happy to allow the racist anti-Native narratives, which are themselves hundreds of years in the making, fill in the blanks for their readers and viewers.
Are we to understand that reality and accurate understanding is what reporters are supposed to provide? If so, it’s worth telling them that the situation in New Brunswick is impossible to understand the situation without a bit of history.
In the mid-1700s, the Crown signed Peace and Friendship treaties with the Mi’kmaq. The Crown — the entity that puts the “Royal” in “Royal Canadian Mounted Police” — understood that to maintain their settlements on someone else’s traditional territory without worrying about attacks, they needed a treaty relationship with the folks who live here.
Here’s what the Mi’kmaq warrior society says about the treaties:
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.
Oops, that wasn’t the warrior society. It’s actually what the Canadian government said about the treaty. It’s what they have to say, because a long string of court decisions has upheld that the Mi’kmaq nation holds collective rights to the land they share with European settlers.
Let’s put this another way. If the British hadn’t signed a treaty that acknowledged the rights of the Mi’kmaq to the land, British, Scottish and Irish settlement (as well as subsequent waves of migration) might have either not happened at all, or happened in a totally different way.
All those who live on the land governed by the treaty are bound by that relationship, by law and by history. That, at any rate, is how many Mi’kmaq people see it. Non-Native Canadians are more likely to know nothing about the relationship that allows them to live in parts of New Brunswick or Nova Scotia. If they do know, they probably see it as a social studies curiosity rather than the basis of their legal rights in this country.
And that’s where the media comes in. People who have been reading newspapers and listening to CBC News on the radio for years still have no idea about what should be the most basic self-awareness.
It’s hard to say why any given reporter or editor chooses to continue not providing this essential information. But we can identify the effects of this ongoing neglect.
In the early 1800s, Mi’kmaq people were forced onto reserves. Then the colonial government made a law which allowed European squatters to claim ownership over lands set aside for Mi’kmaq. During this time, Mi’kmaq status was taken away from anyone who decides to become Canadian (necessary at the time to gain voting and other rights).
In the 1900s, Mi’kmaq settlements were encroached upon continuously, with many imposed relocations. The Canadian government forced children into residential schools starting in 1930, followed by “centralization,” which again forced Mi’kmaq families to move into two reserves (Shubenacadie and Eskasoni). Many resisted the move, and the government was only able to centralize about half of the Mi’kmaq population. It was only in 1951 that a ban on traditional ceremonies was lifted.
All of these actions violated the Peace and Friendship treaties, but settlers have simply ignored the law because their numbers are greater. This history leads straight up to the present.
In 1981, Mi’kmaq at Restigouche were attacked by police to prevent them from managing their own fishery (there’s a film about it).
In 2000, Mi’kmaq fishers near Burnt Church once again decided to assert their right, which had been upheld by the Supreme Court, to fish for lobster. They were subject to racist violence from both the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, which literally ran over boats of people trying to fish, and non-Native mobs, who attacked people trying to fish and destroyed traps and boats. (There’s a film about that, too.)
Every day, non-Native Canadians make a choice. Are we governed by laws and treaties, or by the will of those with the power to use violence and legitimize it via the media? So far, laws have won in courts while violence has won on the ground.
When Mi’kmaq people stop fracking trucks from entering their territory, they’re defending land that they never gave up. Land which the Supreme Court says they have rights to, rights which they government continues to prevent them from acting on.
The growing list of solidarity actions speaks to a different way of doing things, but ongoing widespread ignorance of the actual situation is what makes this violence possible. It’s far beyond time for the corporate media to stop talking about clashes, and start talking about reality.

2RowTimes: “FRACK OFF!” Elsipogtog First Nation announces major land reclamation in ongoing anti-fracking struggle

SOURCE: http://tworowtimes.com/news/national/frack-elsipogtog-first-nation-announces-major-land-reclamation-ongoing-anti-fracking-struggle/

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.