CTV: Protesters hope sacred fire will put a stop to shale gas exploration

CTV Atlantic
Published Wednesday, November 6, 2013 6:31PM AST

Anticipation is growing as protesters await the arrival of SWN Resources to resume shale gas testing in Rexton, N.B.

When they do, First Nations members plan to light a sacred fire that, according to tradition, can’t be crossed without permission for four days after it is lit.

“We believe there’s spirits there and ancestors arrive here to help use and to protect us,” says sun dancer Louis Jerome. “This is why the sacred fire is very important.”

Photos

Shale gas protesters gather in Rexton, N.B. on Nov. 6, 2013. (CTV Atlantic)

The protesters hope the lighting of the sacred fire will stop shale gas exploration in Rexton.

“They have to really respect that because we cannot move, even the RCMP, they can’t move that,” says Jerome.

Police say they don’t have a problem with the sacred fire, as long as it’s off the road.

However, police say the protesters could be breaking the law if they light the fire too close to the highway, which could endanger motorists and the public.

“I think it’s really important for people to understand that public safety is paramount and that anybody lighting a fire or blocking a road is certainly putting people’s lives at risk,” says RCMP Const. Julie Rogers-Marsh.

SWN Resources was supposed to resume shale gas testing this week but the easily recognizable thumper trucks are nowhere to be seen.

However, geophones lining sections of the highway suggest the company is present.

As support for the protesters continues to grow, it appears neither side is backing down.

On Tuesday, Premier David Alward reconfirmed his commitment to shale gas exploration and protesters reconfirmed their commitment to stopping it.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Jonathan MacInnis

 

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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]

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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.

HMC: SWN Resources Canada’s ordinance sits behind a New Brunswick cemetery

SOURCE: http://halifax.mediacoop.ca/audio/blasts-wake-dead-swn-resources-canadas-ordinance-s/18340

Blasts to wake the dead – SWN Resources Canada’s ordinance sits behind a New Brunswick cemetery

Interviews with family members of those buried at the Rogersville cemetery

by Miles Howe

click here to download the audio file» Download file ‘cemetery.mp3’ (11.5MB)

Reggie Pitre stands beside the tombstone of his cousin. [Photo: M. Howe]
Reggie Pitre stands beside the tombstone of his cousin. [Photo: M. Howe]
Paul Bourque stands beside his brother's tombstone. [Photo: M. Howe]
Paul Bourque stands beside his brother’s tombstone. [Photo: M. Howe]
Gathered crowd at Rogersville cemetery. [Photo: M. Howe]
Gathered crowd at Rogersville cemetery. [Photo: M. Howe]

ROGERSVILLE, NEW BRUNSWICK – On July 21st we learned that SWN Resources Canada had an undetermined amount of unexploded ordinance behind a cemetery on Pleasant Ridge Road, in Rogersville, New Brunswick.

The cemetery sits adjacent to SWN’s ‘Line 5’, a 35.9 kilometer long seismic testing line that for weeks now has been heavily guarded by RCMP and private security firms.

It is important to note that the Rules for Industry section of the Responsible Environmental Managment of Oil and Natural Gas Activities in New Brunswick notes that the minimum setback for a cemetery from a seismic energy source is 50 meters. At this particular cemetery, seismic testing equipment was measured at under 2 meters away from the boundary line.

I spoke to a few residents from amongst the gathered crowd of about 35 Acadian, Anglophone and First Nations people. I asked them to tell me about the relatives that they had buried at this particular cemetery; the lives their relatives had lived; and what they thought of shale gas exploration.

Please enjoy the following interviews.

HMC: SWN drills more wetlands shot-holes, security guard finds prayer and white doves in the morning

SOURCE: http://halifax.mediacoop.ca/story/swn-drills-more-wetlands-shot-holes-security-guard/18314

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.

by Miles Howe and Rana Encol

Security guard prays for Mother Nature at the site of a wetlands shot-hole. [Photo: Miles Howe]
Security guard prays for Mother Nature at the site of a wetlands shot-hole. [Photo: Miles Howe]
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]
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]
Shot hole driller takes a flower. [Photo: Miles Howe]
Shot hole driller takes a flower. [Photo: Miles Howe]
ELSIPOGTOG, NEW BRUNSWICK – Yesterday, a group of anti-shale gas activists stumbled across a team of SWN-contracted workers laying a string of ‘geophones’ – the equipment used to received seismic data created when an area is tested – on a walking trail bordering a settler cemetery at 2304 Pleasant Ridge Road. SWN Resources Canada continues to seismic test ‘Line 5’, a 35.9 km north-south line that cuts through sensitive wetlands and traditional Mi’kmaq hunting grounds west of highway 126.

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.

Women Protesters in White Greet Shale Gas Workers at Dawn

Images from a July 18 dawn demonstration when indigenous and non-indigenous women “white dove” protesters peacefully (but loudly) made their presence felt at the Moncton Holiday Inn where the SWN workers are staying while they conduct seismic testing in Kent County.

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