SWN drills more wetlands shot-holes, security guard finds prayer and white doves in the morning
Line 5 work continues, Holiday Inn action draws 35 women in white.
Women in white gathered at the Holiday Inn in Moncton to protest SWN Resource Canada’s continued seismic testing in New Brunswick. [Photo: Miles Howe]
While the activists remained peaceful at all times, the workers appeared surprised to be discovered, retreating deeper into the woods and calling Industrial Security Limited, the Irving-owned firm that has for weeks now been providing the majority of SWN’s private security needs.
Continuing along the workers’ path, the activists discovered a drilled shot-hole – a hole bored into the ground that contains an explosive charge that will later be set off to gather seismic data – directly in a wetlands area. This falls in line with an earlier discovery of SWN Resources Canada circumventing registered wetlands regulations further south along Line 5.
Two Industrial Security Limited employees then arrived, and, citing workplace safety policy which does not allow anyone without protective equipment to come closer than 50 metres to an explosive at a workplace, informed the gathering party that they would not be allowed to proceed further into the woods. This was despite the fact that the activists were less than 3 metres from the explosive-laden shot hole.
For the next several hours, something of a standoff ensued, with a growing number of security guards, RCMP and activists congregating in the woods. At one point, three Mi’kmaq women asked if they could lay tobacco at the site of the shot-hole. An Industrial Security guard offered to lay the tobacco in their stead, and while the group played the Mi’kmaq Honour Song, the guard prayed to the four directions. He later left the scene in tears.
As evening fell, it became clear that the security and RCMP were – as has been largely the case to this point – concerned almost exclusively with the well-being of SWN-contracted workers and not with the safety of those who continue to rally against shale gas exploration in New Brunswick. People questioning why they were, for example, allowed on one particular piece of the trail and not another – when the 50 metre boundary zone had already clearly been compromised – were given no clear answer.
RCMP, security and activists posed for pictures atop the shot hole, and once it was clear that the SWN-contracted workers were finished their shift, all security and police forces cleared out of the area, and the activists were free to continue along the trail. 5 more shot-holes were discovered drilled directly in wetlands areas.
The seismic testing trail continued for approximately three kilometres, crossed a small river, and wound it’s way up to Young Ridge Road.
Further inspection of the trail, to the south of the original cemetery entrance, was met with an increased security presence, including RCMP guards and armed security guards on All-Terrain Vehicles.
White Doves at the Holiday Inn
Earlier that morning around thirty-five Mi’kmaq, Acadian, and Anglophone women dressed in white, holding flowers and leaflets, occupied the parking lot entrance ways to the Holiday Inn hotel where SWN workers stay in Moncton.
Every morning the workers leave the hotel by truck and disperse to their respective testing sites and security posts – this morning to Line 5.
Nine of the women drummed and sang as they entered the lot and circled the company vehicles. Others handed out flyers to workers and regular hotel guests.
Ruth Wolpin, a cancer survivor, says short-term economic gains from fracking aren’t worth the long-term health effects caused by carcinogens contaminating the well water.
In their leaflets, the group argues the numbers don’t add up: “Jobs available to New Brunwickers will be few, low paying and short-lived. The typical well is productive for just five years, and its profits will mostly travel out of the province.”
Organizer Greg Cook, who first mobilized around resisting the sale of NB Power in 2009-2010, asserted the current Alward government does not have public consent around this issue – and will often try to compartmentalize it as First Nations or rural issue only. Cook said today’s action was meant to convey a message of solidarity among nations and backgrounds.
A Week of Civil Disobedience Trainings in Elsipogtog
Thirty people have been arrested in Kent County, New Brunswick this summer for resisting shale gas exploration in the region. After a week of civil disobedience trainings, there’s likely to be dozens, if not hundreds more.
On Tuesday, over 50 people (including me) gathered at the Elsipogtog Fisheries Centre in Kent County. We learned about non-violent direct action, practiced going limp when being arrested, strategized for effective protests, and talked about colonialism and treaty rights.
Participants were of all ages, both Native and non-Native, although the majority appeared to be white.
I asked Eliza Knockwood, a young mother from Abegweit First Nation in PEI, who has family in Elsipogtog and has been involved in the Sacred Fire encampment since early June, what she thought of the mix of people taking part in the trainings.
“We all have a common thread today. It’s not just about being a black person or a Native person or white person,” said Knockwood. “Today we are a people that are standing for a unified message. We are asserting our human rights and our treaty rights…We as a peoples stand firm on Mother Earth to hold our ground, to hold our water sacred. And each other.”
There was a sense of something significant happening, as Mi’kmaq warriors, Acadian grandmothers, and young people on summer holidays sat down and shared a potluck of bacon, watermelon, cornbread, and couscous.
But of course, it wasn’t that simple. Barbara Low, a Mi’kmaq woman named the “elephant in the room” on Tuesday afternoon when she brought up the different realities people were bringing to the table. She spoke about how Native people are criminalized and treated differently by police. She spoke about how the battle against fracking might simply be about the environment for white people, but for First Nations, it is about home, land and colonialism.
It seemed like this was a message that non-Natives present were starting to understand.
Sue Adams is part of anti-fracking organizing in her own community of Antigonish, Nova Scotia. Resistance to shale gas exploration has not been the primary reason for her visits (this was her third) to Elsipogtog and the Sacred Fire, however.
“My main concern here at this time is First Nation treaty rights,” said Adams. “The right to free, prior and informed consent. Some of my friends here feel like that hasn’t been respected.”
Philippe Duhamel travelled from his home in Quebec to facilitate the trainings. He has been involved in movements for social and environmental justice for decades and arrested more times than he can count.
He believes there’s something special happening around the Sacred Fire in Elsipogtog.
“What’s especially interesting is the coming together of the Maliseet, Mi’kmaq, the Acadians and the Anglophone New Brunswickers,” says Duhamel. “To stand their ground against the destruction of millions of gallons of water and the fracking of wells, that we know now poison whole communities.”
Duhamel says he’s never seen a community organize so quickly or so effectively.
“I know it’s difficult. I know we’re riddled with conflict,” he says. “It’s very hard work. But I see the promise here of developing a model to work interculturally to build a people’s movement to stop the land grab.”
“People here have a good chance of creating a model victory,” says Duhamel. “By a model, I really mean something that can be replicated everywhere. What are the ingredients of [effective] mass civil disobedience?”
Willie Nolan is hoping to find out. Nolan lives in Kent County and has been working against shale gas in New Brunswick for over four years. She’s been involved at the Sacred Fire since June 3, and is hoping her community is at a turning point.
“I’m hoping we’ll be able to collaborate and implement strategies that will force the industry to get out of here,” says Nolan.
But to do that, “We need more numbers,” she says. “We will win, [but] we’ll win quicker the more people who are ready to jump on board and help.”
There is an open, non-violent direct action training at the Elsipogtog Fisheries Training Development Centre on Saturday. To register, email email@example.com with “REGISTER” in the subject line. Include your name, contact information, and that you would like to attend Saturday’s training.
He says he’s a warrior chief defending the land from environmental destruction.
John Levi leads a group from Elsipogtog First Nation in New Brunswick who are fighting against a fracking company looking for shale gas.
The battle may be unwinnable, but Levi isn’t giving up.
APTN’s Ossie Michelin has the story.
“The Great Spirit will look after people that look after water.”
Interview with AFN Regional Chief for NB and PEI, Roger Augustine
by Miles Howe
ELSIPOGTOG, NEW BRUNSWICK – Yesterday, July 10th, was Roger Augustine’s birthday. Augustine is the Assembly of First Nations’ Regional Chief for New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.
As promised on June 30th, Augustine spent the morning of his birthday at the sacred fire encampment in Elsipogtog, which for over a month now has represented the physical rallying point for those opposed to SWN Resource Canada’s attempts at shale gas exploration in New Brunswick.
When I spoke with Roger on June 30th, he didn’t have an opinion on shale gas, or at least not one he was willing to share publicly.
I wondered if the hours he spent at the sacred fire had given Augustine something upon which to make a public stand in regards to shale gas exploration in New Brunswick.
Please enjoy the following interview with AFN Regional Chief for New Brunswick and PEI, Roger Augustine.
Elsipogtog First Nation Shale Gas Protests Update from Halifax Media Co-op Reporter Miles Howe
Two weeks ago Indigenous Waves spoke to Warrior Chief John Levi from Elsipogtog First Nation regarding the protests being led by his community against SWN Resources and the shale gas exploration they are engaged in on Mi’kmaq traditional territory. Since then, John Levi has been arrested, and as of Monday July 8th, 2013 was released. Halifax Media Co-op reporter Miles Howe has been covering the story since early June 2013, and was himself arrested for an incident RCMP claim took place two weeks prior to Howe’s arrest. Miles Howe joined Indigenous Waves this past Monday to discuss the events leading up to both his and War Chief John Levi’s arrest, as well as to give some further background to SWN Resource practices, the RCMP offering him cash in exchange for information and the Crown attempt to prevent Warrior Chief John Levi from giving advice to his community.
Miles Howe is a reporter and photographer for Halifax Media Co-op.
Darah – Australian History 101
A Tribe Called Red – Different Heroes f. Northern Voice
A Tribe Called Mi’kmaq – Calling All Warriors
Ode’min Kwe Singers – A.I.M. song
Whitefish Bay Singers – Anishinaabe Round Dance
Originally Aired Monday July 8, 2013