CBC: Mi’kmaq urged to reclaim all Crown land

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/mi-kmaq-urged-to-reclaim-all-crown-land-1.2288214

Band Council issues resolution in midst of shale gas dispute, plans reclamation day for Saturday

CBC News Posted: Oct 30, 2013 11:52 AM AT Last Updated: Oct 30, 2013 12:07 PM AT

Shale gas Rexton barricadesAn anti-shale gas protest began near Rexton on Sept. 30 and turned violent on Oct. 17 with RCMP vehicles burned, 40 people arrested. (Jennifer Choi/CBC)

Mi’kmaq Band Council is urging it members to reclaim all Crown land in the midst of the shale gas dispute in New Brunswick.

It plans to hold a “reclamation day” on Saturday. “We will become steward of the land,” a resolution issued on Wednesday states.

The resolution comes one month after First Nations people began an anti-shale gas protest near Rexton, which has since been relocated to across the street from the provincial legislature in Fredericton.

The band says it felt “compelled to act.”

“Whereas we have lost all confidence in governments for the safekeeping of our lands held in trust by the British Crown; and whereas a notice of eviction from our Keptin has been totally ignored by the provincial government and Southwestern Energy (SWN Resources),” which was conducting seismic testing for shale gas near Rexton.

​”Today we have instructed all our people to go out and stake their claims for land they intend to occupy,” it states.

People of Elsipogtog have received a form in the mail, asking them to sign up to become stewards, the resolution states.

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OKT: “Do We Need the Rule of Law to Deal with Native Protestors?”

SOURCE: http://www.oktlaw.com/blog/do-we-need-the-rule-of-law-in-new-brunswick-to-deal-with-native-protestors/

October 23, 2013 4:47 pm

By Michael McClurg

Elsipogtog First Nation is only the most recent in a long line of examples of Aboriginal communities protesting resource development on their lands without their consent, and police force being used to ‘take down’ Aboriginal protest sites.  This is not a “new” story – it has happened before. In some cases, like Oka and Ipperwash, it led to full blown public inquiries to get to the roots of why the Aboriginal protests occurred in the first place, why violence escalated, what could have been done to reduce violence, and how to avoid future conflicts.

You would think that after the Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples and the Ipperwash Inquiry Report, we would have learned a lesson or two about helpful and unhelpful ways to deal with these types of conflicts over resources, including appropriate police responses. But watching reactions to Elsipogtog, we at OKT have a strong sense of history repeating itself.

When conflicts arise about Aboriginal people protesting resource development, you often hear people talk about the “rule of law”; it has come up regularly in media reports and commentary during the current occupation and protests involving the people of Elsipogtog. The concept refers to the idea that power needs to be applied uniformly and not arbitrarily. Some people invoke this term to suggest that the Canadian authorities are not applying the rule of law to Aboriginal protesters in the same manner that they would apply them to non-Aboriginal protesters in similar circumstances.

This argument is often raised by people who support “cracking down on” or quashing (possibly through violence) protests in the same manner that the RCMP raided the occupation at Elsipogtog. This refrain has been repeated many times over the past decades, in response to Aboriginal protests in Canada such as Burnt Church, Kanesatake (Oka), Ipperwash, and Caledonia. It is a simplistic and emotional response to highly complex situations which often have deep roots in historical conflicts. It also  misrepresents the “rule of law” by suggesting that it means applying the law strictly under all circumstances regardless of context. This could not be further from the truth. Indeed, courts and other authorities have repeatedly endorsed a contextual approach to Aboriginal occupations and protests.

The Ontario Court of Appeal in Henco Industries Ltd. v. Haudenosaunee Six Nations Confederacy Council et. al. regarding charges for contempt of court for violation of an injunction spoke of the complex nature of the rule of law in the context of Aboriginal protest and occupation:

“… the rule of law has many dimensions, or in the words of the Supreme Court of Canada is ‘highly textured’… The rule of law requires a justice system that can ensure orders of the court are enforced and the process of the court is respected. Other dimensions of the rule of law, however, have a significant role in this dispute. These other dimensions include respect for minority rights, reconciliation of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal interests through negotiations, fair procedural safeguards for those subject to criminal proceedings, respect for Crown and police discretion, respect for the separation of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government and respect for Crown property rights.”

Picking up on this language two years later, the Ontario Court of Appeal in Frontenac Ventures Corporation v. Ardoch Algonquin First Nation endorsed its holding in Henco that enforcing the rule of law involves a complex balancing. It said that this balancing should be performed before an injunction is ordered in an Aboriginal protest and it emphasized the importance of negotiation in this balancing.

In other words, the rule of law is not just about issuing and strictly enforcing court orders. Upholding the rule of law involves looking at each matter contextually through the lens of the long history of relations between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in Canada. An excellent synopsis of this history and context is provided in the report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, a commission that was created in the wake of the Kanesatake (Oka) standoff. You can read the highlights of that report here.

A very helpful resource for better understanding the rule of law in the context of Aboriginal occupation/protest is the report of the Ipperwash Inquiry. The Ipperwash Inquiry was headed by the Hon. Justice Sidney B. Linden, a judge of the Ontario Court of Justice and was formed by the Government of Ontario in the aftermath of the shooting of Dudley George during the protest at Ipperwash Provincial Park. Part of the purpose of the inquiry was to consider how violence could be avoided in similar circumstances. The report that emerged from the Ipperwash Inquiry is invaluable to understanding these conflicts and the appropriate police response to them.

If you want to understand what is happening at Elsipogtog, and recommended ways to deal with a conflict like this, we highly recommend reading the Ipperwash Inquiry report, as there are many parallels and many of the final recommendations are relevant.

Here are some highlights from the Ipperwash Inquiry report that provide important context on the current events at Elsipogtog:

  • Aboriginal occupations and protests are a symptom of our collective inability to fairly resolve centuries-old tensions and conflicts between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities over the control, use, and ownership of land. Until we “design institutions or implement processes that can resolve these tensions more effectively”, protests and occupations are very likely to continue
  • Aboriginal occupations differ from other kinds of protest and occupation in part because of the long history of mistrust between the police and Aboriginal people – “Police strategy must emphasize the development of communication networks and trusting relationships with Aboriginal people before, during, and after protests”
  • The role of the police is limited to maintaining public order. It is not the role of police to resolve the underlying issue, that is the role of government and government should not duck it – “(G)overnments should not avoid their constitutional obligations to First Nations and Aboriginal people under the cloak of keeping out of police ‘operational matters’”
  • Occupations and protests over land and resources are not new: Historically both non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal communities have used occupations and protests to secure lands and resources from one another, however, non-Aboriginal people have secured much more land and resources this way than Aboriginal people have
  • Studies have shown that, despite commonly held misconceptions, Aboriginal occupations and protests over the past 50 years have been notable for their low levels of violence

It is this context that informs the “rule of law” as it pertains to Aboriginal occupation and protest. Respecting the rule of law is about more than simply charging and arresting people according to the strict letter of the written law. A nuanced and contextual approach is required. An approach that recognizes the underlying history of these protests is needed. An approach that addresses the need of governments to uphold the rule of law by meeting their legal obligations to respect Aboriginal rights is needed.

An extremely important part of the legal context at Elsipogtog is that the protests are occurring on land (and are about land) that the people of Elsipogtog never ceded title to. Aboriginal people in this part of Canada signed Peace and Friendship Treaties with the British in which they never ceded any territory. Canadian law recognizes that the occupation of land by an Aboriginal community at the time of the arrival of Crown sovereignty means that the Aboriginal community owns that land. So, the rule of law in this case would arguably dictate that the protesters have every right to be on their traditional land and that in fact, others, including the Crown and resource extraction companies, are trespassers.

In cases like Elsipogtog, injunction orders and police enforcement cannot and should not exist in a vacuum, separated from the extremely complex historical, cultural, and legal nuances of the situation. If such a simplistic approach is taken to Aboriginal protests, as some in the media would encourage, trust and the potential for negotiation and reconciliation is greatly reduced and the potential for violence and continued protest greatly increases. Those results are not consistent with upholding the rule of law. And they will not bring peace to the land …

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.

HMC: Gone for the summer – SWN Resources Canada folds ’til September

Gone for the summer – SWN Resources Canada folds ’til September

Shale gas company allowed to detonate 11 more un-exploded shot holes – charges against 25 of 35 will be dropped.

by Miles Howe

» Download file ‘johnlevi.mp3’ (3.4MB)

Eslipogtog War Chief John Levi. [Photo: Miles Howe]
Eslipogtog War Chief John Levi. [Photo: Miles Howe]

ELSIPOGTOG, NEW BRUNSWICK – Minutes ago, afternoon negotiations between the RCMP, Elsipogtog Chief Arren Sock, Elsipogtog War Chief John Levi, former Elsipogtog Chief Susan Levi-Peters, Mi’kmaq Warrior Society Chief ‘Seven’ and others concluded with a few key announcements.

  • SWN Resources Canada will be permitted to detonate 11 un-exploded shot-holes along ‘Line 5’, the backwoods seismic testing line west of highway 126 that the company is currently attempting to test for shale gas. A team of observers from Elsipogtog First Nation, which will include 8 scouts, 3 Grandmothers and 2 Elsipogtog Peacekeepers will be tasked with observing the completion of SWN’s work. No more testing will be allowed for these remaining 11 shot holes.
  • Charges laid against 25 of the 35 arrested in the protests against SWN’s seismic testing will be dropped, pending an unmolested completion of SWN’s detonation work. This work is expected to be completed by Friday, August 2nd.
  • People who have already entered the court system will not have their charges dropped. These include Elsipogtog War Chief John Levi and activist Susanne Patles, as well as others.
  • SWN is expected to return to seismic test in Kent County in mid-September. It will then focus it’s efforts on lines ‘3’ and ‘4’. These seismic test lines are far closer to Elsipogtog First Nation, in some instances bordering the community by only a few kilometers. SWN’s earlier attempts to seismic test these lines resulted in significant equipment destruction.
Please enjoy the following interview with Elsipogtog War Chief John Levi.

HMC: Undercover RCMP crash anti-shale gas press conference, activists remain in woods on ‘Line 5’

SOURCE: http://halifax.mediacoop.ca/story/undercover-rcmp-crash-anti-shale-gas-press-confere/18362

Undercover RCMP crash anti-shale gas press conference, activists remain in woods on ‘Line 5’

Nightfall finds unknown number of activists still in woods along SWN’s woodland testing line.

by Miles Howe

By now a familiar site. Police and security together bar entrance to SWN's seismic testing lines. [Photo: M. Howe]
By now a familiar site. Police and security together bar entrance to SWN’s seismic testing lines. [Photo: M. Howe]

See also:

DIEPPE, NEW BRUNSWICK – Yesterday, Upriver Environment Watch called a press conference at the Super 8 motel in Dieppe, New Brunswick. Attended by about 50 people, including 4 representatives from the media, the anti-shale gas action group from Kent County hosted a panel of speakers with a variety of expertise and experience.
“Impunity is the word we’re working with today,” said Anne Pohl, host of the press conference.
Pohl had, on July 19th, sent an open letter to New Brunswick Premier David Alward. The letter was at once an invitation to Alward to attend the press conference (neither he nor any member of his caucus attended) as well as a point by point description of the experienced hardships that those continuing to call for a moratorium on shale gas exploration in New Brunswick have experienced in their dealings with the RCMP, SWN Resources Canada as well as their elected government representatives.
If there was a continuous thread to the press conference, it was a general sense of frustration.
“We feel it is time for your government to stop directing the RCMP to harass us and to throw us in jail,” read the open letter to Premier Alward from the Upriver Environment Watch.
“It is time for your government to start talking with us. We have been trying to communicate with you for a long time. We have tried petitions, letters, requests for meetings, protests and everything else we could think of to get your attention. Your avoidance of us has been complete. We are extremely disappointed in your government’s failure to respond and acknowledge our concerns. We ask for you to respect and recognize the legitimacy of our concerns.
Chris Sabas, one of two members of the Christian Peacemakers Team that has been invited to document the anti-shale actions by Elsipogtog War Chief John Levi, was the first presenter. Her information focused on her recent excursions visiting post-testing areas along ‘Line 5’, the backwoods seismic testing line that has for weeks now been the focus of SWN Resources Canada’s testing efforts.
Sabas’ had photographic evidence of unplugged ‘shot holes’, as well as disturbing photographs of animal tracks that she noted appeared in large numbers around post-explosion zones.
Willi Nolan, a long-time resident of Kent County, as well as a member of Upriver Environment Watch, focused her presentation on the dangers of the chemicals already being used in SWN’s exploration processes.
Nolan noted that while information was not readily available, SWN was most likely using a TNT explosive to detonate it’s shot holes. Having already detonated dozens of shot holes throughout the backwoods along ‘Line 5’, Nolan noted that there was no evidence of independent monitors looking after post-testing zones.
Celianne Cormier, another lifelong resident of Kent County, recounted her personal story of being bullied by SWN and Stantec Engineering when it came time for her water to be tested leading up to testing in 2011.
Cormier related a situation where it did not appear that Stantec, ostensibly a third party independent water testing company, was acting at an arm’s length from SWN, the company required to do the water testing. In fact, every time a “water tester” called the Cormier residence, she noted that they claimed to be calling on behalf of SWN. Cormier felt increasingly skeptical when water testers consistently refused to produce identification that they were in fact Stantec employees.
“Why were the callers introducing themselves as calling from SWN and why was SWN calling the shots if the testing was being done by an independent or third party?” asked Cormier. “I lost all confidence in the process, I felt violated and bullied because I felt I was not asking for anything special. In fact I felt I was only insisting on the world class safe ans secure practices as promised by our provincial government.”
Ann Pohl spoke about the difficulty of having the concerns of the citizens of New Brunswick properly heard and represented by a mainstream media almost completely controlled by the powerful Irving empire. Pohl noted that Irving, who stands to benefit from shale gas extraction  in any number of ways; from trucking, to shipping, to processing, and on, was knowingly marginalizing the message of those opposed to shale gas extraction, often framing it as a ‘Native issue’.
After fielding questions from the media, the press conference then turned into an open forum, with various concerned citizens from around the province voicing their concerns about the increasingly obvious signs of industrial hostility, whether in disregard for the natural environment, complicity with law enforcement bodies, both public and private, and lack of concern from elected officials.
As if on cue, as one woman was describing the difficulties of trying to continue to live alongside a pot ash mine in Penobsquis, it became apparent that two undercover RCMP officers had been taking notes throughout the entire press conference. When asked what they were doing, constable Dave Matthews noted that he was taking notes on “the mood” of the press conference. When cameras were trained on the officers, they quickly fled the conference.
Rogersville heats up
It may well be that the blatant disrespect of laying seismic testing equipment immediately adjacent to a cemetery where family members and war veterans lie has begun to galvanize Rogersville’s Acadian population into action.
Today, only two days after the RCMP lied to activists attempting to park on parish land adjacent to their cemetery, telling those attempting to gather that it was private property, an emboldened crowd of about 60 Acadians, Anglophones and Indigenous people – united in their purpose – gathered in the pouring rain next to an active testing line.
Fearless of the potential danger of un-exploded ordinance, a number of people ventured southward down the active testing line, heading away from Pleasant Ridge Road towards Salmon River Road. With the constant hum of a helicopter transporting bagged geophones as a backdrop, activists wandered the freshly cut seismic line. Many noticed the presence of traditionally used medicinal plants growing directly next to un-detonated shot holes.
While most people exited the seismic test line by nightfall, as of press time an unknown number of individuals remain in the woods near the ordinance.