Anti-shale gas protesters attend disobedience school

A workshop offered in St. Charles, Kent County over the weekend educated participants on how to peacefully oppose shale gas exploration and development in the province.

People in Kent County learning how to fight shale gas development.

People opposed to shale gas development learned how to peacefully rally against the industry at a workshop in Kent County over the weekend.

A workshop offered in Kent County over the weekend discussed how to peacefully oppose shale gas exploration and development in the province.

Philippe Duhamel, a member of a group called Our Environment, Our Choice, travelled from Quebec City to lead the workshop in St. Charles.

He said he was impressed with how proactive people in New Brunswick are when it comes to fighting the shale gas industry. 

"New Brunswickers are ahead of Quebecers because it took us 31 shale gas wells before we woke up and got mobilized and got organized and here people are getting organized and getting ready even before exploration starts," Duhamel said.

He described New Brunswickers as "well-informed" and said that will serve the province well moving forward. 

"Civil disobedience is something that requires training and it requires preparation so the more people prepare and think ahead, the more peaceful and organized and powerful they will be," he said.

The shale gas industry has been extremely controversial in the last two years and has forced the Alward government to make several regulatory and legislative changes to the oil and gas industry.

The New Brunswick government has said its new rules, introduced in February, are the strictest regulations on the oil and gas industry in all of North America.

Energy Minister Craig Leonard said the rules are strong but reasonable.

Premier David Alward said recently that New Brunswickers have to choose between economic development and a moratorium on shale gas.

Hydraulic fracturing, which is commonly known as hydro-fracking, is a process where exploration companies inject a mixture of water, sand and chemicals into the ground, creating cracks in shale rock formations to extract natural gas from areas that would otherwise go untapped.

Opponents are concerned the process will ruin the water supply and damage the surrounding environment.

Citizens concerned with industry

Shawn Stone owns a farmers' market in Shediac and attended the workshop because he is concerned about the impact shale gas development could have on his 150 vendors from the area.

Stone said he wants to do everything he can to make sure the industry does not flourish.

"We are going to get a plan and we are going to be able to implement a strategy that will be able to effectively deal with this industry from A to Z to have this industry removed from the province."

Stone said he and his fellow community members are gathering the tools and the skills and the intelligence necessary to move their opposition to the next level.

"I think one of the things that brought me here was to understand what my rights are and understand what the parametres are," he said.

"We have members of the community that are prepared to step forward and escalate our stand on this industry being removed ... and what we can do to effectively, peacefully reach our goal."

Duhamel explained that in Quebec a toll-free number has been set up to report any shale gas exploration or development activity.

He said the system is an early-warning system so protesters can be rapidly deployed to stop exploration by, for instance, standing in the way of trucks.

Alma Brooks of the Maliseet Grand Council said she attended the workshop to learn as much as she could about how to deal with shale gas companies.

"To be able to do it in the best possible way, a peaceful way," Brooks said.

"We have to protect our land we have to prevent the damage from happening here before it happens. We don't want to wait until it's too late."