Today was a bit of a fiasco in the Moncton Courthouse. We arrived at 8:45 only to find a long line of people waiting to clear security. A comment was made that clearing to board an aircraft was a faster smoother process than entering the courthouse.
SWN was scheduled for 9:30am to hear the judge render his decision regarding the indefinite injunction against the people of New Brunswick. The sheriff announced it had changed to 1pm.
Warriors were scheduled for 9:30 am in two separate court rooms. People were splitting up, room 5 and room 8. Another announcement by the sheriff. The warriors would all be using the same lawyer, so they would be moving everyone to room 8, a small court room that wouldn’t hold everyone.
People jammed in the court room, and waited for about 45 minutes, then came another announcement from the sheriff. There was a delay, and court would resume at 1:00 pm.
Dashing off for a quick lunch, and headed back to the courthouse for 12:30 (the lines getting in have been long all day). Two sessions to cover, what to do? Warriors at 1pm, SWN at 1:30. The good news was the courts were on the same floor, and people can come and go when they like.
Lawyers arrived for the warriors, and the judge entered the courtroom. The crown had more evidence and more charges. The defense lawyers asked for time to review the material, and 3 warriors had their bail hearings held over until tomorrow morning at 9:30 am. The other 3 warriors had their bail hearing held over until Wednesday morning at 9:30 am.
While waiting in court for the proceedings to begin, we chatted with the sheriff. He seemed like a really nice guy, so we asked if we could sing. He said sure, as long as it wasn’t too loud, as to bother the other court sessions going on on the same floor.
We sang the Mother Earth Song. The sheriff said we should take it on the road and sooth some of the uprising in prisons, because it was such a soothing song. Once that proceeding was over (held over) we quickly headed to the swn court room.
The swn court room was packed. The same sheriff came in, and said “if you guys want to sing in this room too, it’s okay with me” and we sang the Strong Woman Song. It was beautiful.
The swn lawyer looked defeated. Judge Rideout didn’t read his entire decision, but quickly said the injunction was denied, and people could read his entire decision later. Copies were made available.
The swn lawyer rode the elevator with two women who were talking about the love in the room. He asked “do you still love me?” and they gave him a hug, and told him he still had time to come over to our side. Priceless!
Outside the courthouse there was jubilation, drums, the honor song, and a lot of hugs and tears. One more step towards a future of clean air and water for our children, their children, and the next seven generations and beyond.
Solidarity! To all our Brothers and Sisters! All My Relations!
A Canadian court ruled Monday to deny an energy company’s request for a permanent injunction to prevent interference with shale-gas exploration in New Brunswick. The ruling allows protests to continue and for demonstrators to once again occupy roads used by energy-company vehicles.
Justice George Rideout issued a ruling in the Court of Queen’s Bench against the motion of Texas-based Southwestern Energy, known as SWN Resources in Canada.
An informal coalition of First Nations and nonnative protesters had blocked a road to prevent the company from continuing its exploration. The judge did not state the reasons for his decision but said a written statement would be issued.
SWN Resources, which did not respond to Al Jazeera’s request for comment, argued in court that the protest was costing the company $60,000 a day.
The barricade and protests, part of a wider movement by dozens of local community groups that have opposed fracking there for years, began last month on Route 134 near Rexton, about 515 miles east of Montreal.
The protests gained international attention last Thursday when an anti-fracking protest blocking the company’s activities in New Brunswick turned violent.
“This is not just a First Nations campaign. It’s actually quite a historic moment where all the major peoples of this province — English, French and aboriginal — come together for a common cause,” David Coon, head of the Green Party in New Brunswick, told Al Jazeera. “This is really a question of justice. They want to protect their common lands, water and air from destruction.”
A temporary injunction was issued on Oct. 3 ordering the protesters to leave. This resulted in negotiations with the provincial government, local residents opposed to fracking and First Nation leaders — but did not end the protest.
‘When cops show up with guns and pepper spray and arrest 40 people and take a situation that’s been peaceful and attack them — then suddenly it’s a big story,’ Bennet said.
Last Thursday, over 100 Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers arrived with guns and dogs to enforce the injunction, resulting in violent clashes.
The RCMP reported it had seized weapons from some of the protesters and that protesters had torched police vehicles. Activists said the RCMP moved in aggressively — firing tear gas and pepper spray and setting dogs on them; about 40 protesters were arrested.
“In New Brunswick over the last three or four years, there have been continual meetings and demonstrations against shale-gas exploration, so clearly the people are not in support of the fracking industry coming to their province,” John Bennet, executive director of the Sierra Club Canada, told Al Jazeera.
He said the protests have been going on for years and have always been peaceful. He said he tried to get the media to cover the protests before but could not generate interest.
“Suddenly last Thursday, when cops show up with guns and pepper spray and arrest 40 people and take a situation that’s been peaceful and attack them — then suddenly it’s a big story,” Bennet said.
“For me it brings images of Custer and people attacking Indian villages to make them leave. It was done in the same spirit. They could have come in without weapons and tried to mediate. Instead the police did a dawn raid in camouflage. They caused the violence.”
Spoiling the land
Coon, who spent some time at the protest, described it as friendly, peaceful and welcoming.
“My impression was that the people were overwhelmingly local and all ages. The atmosphere was almost like a block party. People had lawn chairs out. They even had a turkey dinner,” Coon said.
Many local residents are opposed to fracking because they fear their water will be contaminated, their land degraded and air polluted, he told Al Jazeera.
“These are rural communities with very clear air, beautiful land, drinkable water. They don’t want to see that spoiled,” Coon said. “When energy companies move in, they industrialize the area, which completely changes the quality of life in those communities.”
Though the protest includes a diverse group of local residents who say they will not allow fracking on their land because of environmental and health concerns, the only legal argument can be made by its First Nations members.
‘These people have a democratic and constitutional right to be consulted about what happens on their land,’ Bennet said. ‘And if that’s not respected, then they have a right to protest.’
Since the mid-1980s, 186 rulings by the Supreme Court of Canada and lower courts have established a precedent that aboriginal people must be consulted and accommodated when development on their land is considered, according to Canada’s CBC news.
That’s because, unlike the rest of Canadian First Nations, the Mi’kmaq and Maliseet peoples — located in New Brunswick — never ceded their territory in treaties or lost it by force, giving them more legal rights over their land than most other First Nations.
“That certainly was not done when the license to explore the land was given to SWN,” said Coon. “It was not done when those licenses were extended.”
Off tribal lands, oil and gas resources generally remain under the control of the provincial or federal government. A request for comment by the New Brunswick government’s energy branch was not answered.
New Brunswick’s Assembly of First Nations Chiefs called on the provincial government Monday to revoke shale-gas exploration permits issued to energy companies until they have been consulted, CNC news reported.
“These people have a democratic and constitutional right to be consulted about what happens on their land,” Bennet said. “And if that’s not respected, then they have a right to protest.”
Regardless of the result of the court ruling Monday, local community activists are determined to do everything they can to stop energy companies from moving into their province.
“Fracking will not occur there. Those communities will not allow it to happen,” Coon said. “To impose the industry on those communities … would require continued police presence and lots of protection around the clock for industry activities.”
The injunction, which SWN obtained on Oct. 3, was to remove protesters who were blocking access to SWN equipment needed for shale gas exploration.
SWN Resources had asked for the injunction to be extended indefinitely.
BELOW: The original SWN injunction paperwork
It was hoped talks between the protesters — which included members of the nearby Elsipogtog First Nation and other First Nations, the company and the government — would help the situation come to a peaceful end.
WATCH: Elsipogtog First Nation leaders criticize RCMP over anti-shale protest crackdown