Shale gas Rexton barricades

An anti-shale gas protest began near Rexton on Sept. 30 and turned violent on Oct. 17 with RCMP vehicles burned, 40 people arrested. (Jennifer Choi/CBC)

Mi'kmaq Band Council is urging its members to reclaim all Crown land in the midst of the shale gas dispute in New Brunswick.

A "reclamation day" is scheduled for Saturday, Elsipogtog First Nation Warrior Chief John Levi told CBC News on Wednesday.

"Since the premier is not taking care of the land properly, we will take care of it ourselves," he said.

"Right now the government is jeopardizing our water," he said, referring to plans to develop the shale gas industry in the province and ongoing exploration by SWN Resources Canada. "What's next? That’s the most sacred thing, you know. Water is life. Without water, there is no life."

Mi'kmaq will be staking their claims to become stewards of public land in their territory by putting up plaques under the authority of the chief and grand council, said Levi.

"Are they [the provincial government] going to recognize it, or are they going to fight it? It's up to them," he said.

On heels of violent clash with RCMP

The move comes two weeks after an anti-shale gas protest near Rexton turned violent.

The protest, which began on Sept. 30 with a blockade of Route 134 and of SWN Resources Canada's shale gas exploration equipment, ended on Oct. 17 with a clash between RCMP officers and protesters.

Six police vehicles were destroyed by fire and 40 people were arrested. Explosive devices, firearms, knives and ammunition were seized.

Solidarity protests also took place elsewhere across New Brunswick and the country, including Ottawa, Winnipeg and Calgary.

New Brunswick's Maliseet First Nation leaders have since signed a letter, calling for a moratorium on shale gas development and have encouraged other First Nations to do the same.

They have also erected a traditional longhouse across the street from the provincial legislature and have urged others to bring tepees in hopes the site will be crowded by Nov. 5, when the legislature's fall session is scheduled to begin.

A similar longhouse is being erected along Highway 116, said Levi.

Premier 'committed' to developing natural gas

Premier David Alward, who met with Elsipogtog Chief Aaron Sock the day after the violent clash and agreed to a cooling-off period, told reporters on Wednesday he is unaware of any land reclamation plans by First Nations.

"What I can assure you is we are committed to consultation, we’re committed to dialogue and accommodation, but we’re also committed to continuing to develop our natural resources in our province," said Alward.

"We cannot afford not to as a province," he said. "I want to see our young people having the opportunity to work here in New Brunswick."

Earlier this month, Elsipogtog Chief Aaron Sock said his band council would pass a resolution preventing the government and fracking companies from continuing their work by reclaiming all unoccupied reserve land and giving it back to First Nations.

"For centuries, the British crown claimed to be holding the lands in trust for us, but they are being badly mismanaged by Canada, the province and corporations," Sock had said.

"We are now resuming stewardship of our lands to correct these problems and restore our lands and waters to good health."