Aboriginal shale gas protester ordered to stay away from SWN

A man seen as a leader in the fight against shale gas development in New Brunswick has been ordered to stay away from any activities by SWN Resources Canada.

John Levi, of Elsipogtog First Nation, pleaded guilty to obstructing an RCMP officer at June protest

A man seen as a leader in the fight against shale gas development in New Brunswick has been ordered to stay away from any activities by SWN Resources Canada.

John Levi, 45, a warrior chief in Elsipogtog First Nation, was in Moncton provincial court on Tuesday to face four charges related to an anti-shale gas protest in Kent County last summer.

He was one of 12 people arrested at the June 21 demonstration on Highway 126.

The charges against him included two counts of obstructing a peace officer, one of mischief for standing in front of SWN equipment, and a charge under the Motor Vehicle Act for failing to bring his vehicle to a stop, as requested by a peace officer.

Levi changed his plea to guilty Tuesday on one of the obstruction charges, for interfering when an RCMP officer was trying to make an arrest.

The Crown withdrew the other three charges.

Levi was handed a five-month conditional sentence, which will be served in the community, as well as six months of probation.

Just hoping they're not coming back forever.- John Levi, anti-shale gas protester

The judge also ordered him not to interfere with SWN and to stay 500 metres away from any SWN operations, equipment, or employees.

"Relief, but at the same time, you know, it was bogus charges," Levi told reporters outside the court.

"They offered a good deal, and so I accepted it."

"Just hoping they're not coming back forever," Levi said, referring to SWN. "I hope they don't come back."

SWN not done

SWN plans to drill two exploratory wells in New Brunswick, according to the company's website.

The site does not indicate where or when the drilling will be, but the wells are intended to help the company better understand the data gathered in the early phases of shale gas exploration.

Levi's defence lawyer, T.J. Burke, who spoke to his client and the Crown prosecutor several times before the trial began, is pleased.

"Mr. Levi made, I believe, a good decision to take the pleas, which was withdrawing three other charges in exchange for this one charge, which avoided him jail time," he said.

"What Mr. Levi had done, and instructed us, was compromise with the Crown and we struck relatively good plea bargain. The only thing better would be a not guilty finding."

SWN announced in December it had completed the exploration phase of its work in the province.

The company spent months conducting seismic mapping of shale gas deposits in Kent County and faced ongoing protests by people opposed to development of the industry in the province and the possible environmental impact.


  • An earlier version of this story incorrectly listed the charges against John Levi. The CBC apologizes for the error.
    Jan 15, 2014 11:15 AM AT