RCMP explain lack of intervention in Rexton protest
Judge extends injuction authorizing removal of shale gas barricades on Route 134
The RCMP's commanding officer in New Brunswick is defending the force's approach to dealing with the ongoing shale gas protest at Rexton.
Despite an court injunction being issued on Oct. 3 ordering an end to the protest and authorizing the police to make arrests, no action has been taken by the RCMP.
The injunction was set to expire on Sunday. However, a lawyer for SWN Resources Canada was in court in Moncton on Friday, requesting an extension.
The request was granted, with the injunction extended until Oct. 21.
There is a strong police presence around the roadblocks on Route 134, but no arrests have been made.
In the Court of Queen's Bench in Moncton Friday, the
Cmmr. Roger Brown defended his force's approach Thursday at a news conference at J Division headquarters in Fredericton.
"(Until) this point in time, things were going well," said Brown. "There were negotiations between the interested parties.
"While conversations were going on between the parties, there was no need for intervention,'' he said. "Obviously, things change on a daily basis. Things change on an hourly basis."
The protest started on Sept. 30 when people opposed to shale gas exploration blocked entry to a staging and storage area off Route 134 used by SWN Resources Canada. The protesters also erected roadblocks on Route 134, which connects Rexton with Highway 11.
The RCMP called the news conference Thursday to address the perception they are not doing anything to end the standoff.
"A lot of people ask questions - `What is the RCMP doing?" said Brown. "That's what this is about, to be quite frank.
"There are a lot of people that would sit home at night and say, `Okay, the RCMP have been there for two weeks. What are you doing?
"Our role is quite explicit," he said. "If all interested parties are bringing this to a resolution, our role is simple. We don't need to do anything.
"But if it comes to a point where talks break off, things happen," he said. "Make no mistake about it, we are in a position to respond and will respond."
Negotiations involving Premier David Alward, other government representatives, Elsipogtog First Nation Chief Aaron Sock and the protesters' coalition were initiated on Oct. 6.
"Those negotiations are probably somewhat fragile at this point in time," said Brown. "But there is still hope the situation can be resolved."
Brown refused to discuss RCMP operational details involving the protest, but described the RCMP response as "measured."
"We're there to uphold the law and when laws are broken, and if indeed it comes to a point where laws are broken, we will intervene and we will take the approach necessary to be able to move this whole situation forward at that point in time."
The protesters are concerned about the potential impacts of shale gas development in New Brunswick using hydraulic fracturing. That technology involves injecting water, chemicals and sand into the earth at high pressure to fracture shale rock to release the natural gas within it. Protesters are concerned that process could harm groundwater supplies.