First Nations chiefs divided in approach to shale gas

A split in the aboriginal strategy on shale gas has emerged through the legal battle between Elsipogtog First Nation and the province.

Elsipogtog withdrew from Assembly of First Nation Chiefs of New Brunswick to fight for injunction

A split in the aboriginal strategy on shale gas has emerged through the legal battle between Elsipogtog First Nation and the province.

Elispogtog pulled out of the Assembly of First Nation Chiefs of New Brunswick and challenged the province and SWN Resources Canada in court this week in an attempt to have shale gas exploration suspended in its historic territory.

The federal and provincial governments recognize the Assembly of First Nations Chiefs of New Brunswick as their official negotiating partner on various aboriginal rights issues in New Brunswick. Despite the similarity in name, the New Brunswick group of chiefs has no formal affiliation with the Assembly of First Nations, which is a body of First Nations chiefs in Canada.

Elispogtog Chief Aaron Sock, right, with lawyer T.J. Burke outside the Justice Building in Fredericton on Monday (CBC)
But Elsipogtog's injunction application alleged the New Brunswick assembly didn't do a good enough job in handling the issue, so it pulled out of the group to seek the injunction on its own.

Elsipogtog Chief Aaron Sock is not sure if his First Nation will rejoin the group.

"That is still something that we wish to discuss as chief and council," said Sock.

The assembly's lawyer, Kelly Lamrock, says Elsipogtog rushed into its court action and suggests it was because Sock and his council are up for re-election in February.

"I think there was a need in Elsipogtog, given the political calendar there, to move a little more quickly," said Lamrock.

Energy Minister Craig Leonard says the division won't affect the province's promise to continue consulting aboriginal people on shale gas development.

"Whether it's the individual First Nations or a group, it'll be up to the First Nations themselves to make that determination themselves," said Leonard.

"It would be ideal if we could speak with one voice representing all fifteen First Nations, but at the same time if that doesn't take place, so be it," said Leonard. "We have to deal with individual First Nations that don't fall under that Assembly umbrella. Either way we know what our responsibility is."

Elsipogtog's bid for the injunction was dismissed by Court of Queen's Bench Justice Judy Clendening.



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