A provincial court judge has granted an RCMP request to have access to videotape and photographs taken by CBC and four other media organizations during a clash between police and anti-shale gas protesters in Rexton, N.B., last October.
The RCMP wants the videotapes and photographs in an effort to identify who set six RCMP vehicles on fire near the protest, resulting in damages of more than $250,000.
A production order sought by the RCMP was granted by Judge Anne Horsman in Moncton provincial court on Wednesday. Along with the CBC, the order names Global Television, Brunswick News Inc., which publishes the Moncton Times & Transcript, the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network and Rogers Television.
Documents filed with the court in support of the RCMP's request to obtain information from the media offer new insight into the events of Oct. 17, 2013, and what led up to it. The documents contain allegations made by RCMP officers that have not been cross-examined in court.
Sgt. Tony Vienneau states in his affidavit that the atmosphere on the shale gas protest scene changed in June 2013 after two years in which the level of violence and property damage was considered minor.
"In June 2013, the RCMP began to receive information from confidential informants that factions were forming within the anti-shale gas movement and the level of hostility was increasing among some factions … a group who identified themselves as the Warriors had begun to take shape and were recruiting, trying to secure firearms, and money," states Vienneau.
"I learned that this divide began around June 20, 2013, when a group of six male and two female Warriors from Nova Scotia arrive in Rexton, N.B. It was only a couple days after the suspected arrival of the Warriors from Nova Scotia that the first serious criminal offence took place in 2013 related to the anti-shale gas protest."
The names of those individuals have been redacted from the court documents. The names of four confidential RCMP informants, those suspected of setting fire to the RCMP's vehicles, and witnesses are also among the information that has been redacted from the documents.
Vienneau states on June 24 and 25, 2013, two security personnel for SWN Resources Canada were forced to leave their work site by anti-shale gas protesters and a couple of hours later, a SWN drill rig was set on fire and destroyed. According to the documents, the cost of the drill rig was $374,949.
In October, SWN Resources was granted an injunction against the protesters. Vienneau states that after negotiations to end the protest failed, the RCMP were left with no option but to enforce the injunction on Oct. 17, with RCMP officers arriving at the site of the protest on Route 134 in Rexton at about 7:20 a.m.
"As the RCMP began to take up positions near the protest site, they were met by anti-shale gas protesters dressed in camouflage who began running and telling other people “It’s go time” and “We’re going to do this,” states Vienneau. "A couple of minutes later, RCMP officers were being attacked with Molotov cocktails...
"RCMP officers observed individuals removing firearms from the trunk of a red Pontiac Grand Am, which also contained improvised explosive devices and over 400 rounds of ammunition," he states.
In the initial enforcement action, Vienneau states the RCMP seized:
- Three rifles, including one with bayonet.
- Three hunting-style knives.
- One green metal ammunition box containing 341 rounds.
- A white plastic bag containing 90 rounds of ammunition.
- Canisters of bear spray.
- A spotting scope.
- 11 improvised explosive or incendiary devices.
The RCMP deployment in Rexton that day was close to 300 officers, states Vienneau. Forty people were arrested.
Vienneau stated it is not practical to summarize all of the investigations resulting from "the large number of criminal acts that were committed" in Rexton that day and focuses on the investigation into who set the RCMP's vehicles on fire. The estimated cost of the damages to RCMP vehicles and equipment was $250,092.
Vienneau states RCMP Cpl. M. Gaudet and three other officers were assigned to remove six RCMP vehicles that were behind anti-shale gas protest blockades shortly after 1 p.m. and approached the protesters in a marked RCMP vehicle.
"However, prior to reaching the RCMP vehicles they were tasked to remove, anti-shale gas protesters jumped on their vehicle, punched and kicked the vehicle, while others tried to box the vehicle in," states Vienneau. "They were able to withdraw from that location, however, a short time thereafter, the six vehicles they were tasked to remove were up in flames."
The documents include photographs taken by the RCMP's high-altitude surveillance plane that show "two individuals who appeared to be responsible for the lighting of three of the RCMP vehicles on fire, however the three other RCMP vehicles were already burning."
The names of the RCMP's suspects have been blacked out of the documents. No charges have been laid in connection with the vehicles being set on fire.
Information from confidential informants has identified other possible suspects.