Shale gas protesters stake claims on Crown land

Dozens of members of the Elsipogtog First Nation in New Brunswick are gathered to stake claim on Crown land in their opposition to shale gas exploration.

Elsipogtog members lay symbolic plaques

Imelda Augustine of Elsipogtog, aided by Malcolm Ward, stakes claim along Route 11 (Jacques Poitras/CBC)

Members of the Elsipogtog First Nation in New Brunswick are staking symbolic claim on Crown land in their continuing opposition to shale gas exploration.

About 20 members gathered on Saturday to reclaim public land in Kent County by placing plaques on 50 separate 40-hectare lots.

Chief Aaron Sock said SWN Resources intends to resume operations on Monday.

Now, band members, like Kenneth Francis, are taking action.

“The plan today for us is to go out and plant our stakes of claims in areas that are very vulnerable to exploration. Because it seems to be the only way to get our message across that we are very, very determined on this issue," he said.

The demonstrators are using a bus to travel throughout the county, nailing stakes into the ground to assert their sovereignty. Eachmember of the band said they'll take ownership for the care of the land.

Some of the plaques that will be laid to reclaim crown land. (Matt Bingley/CBC)

But Serge Rousselle, a professor of aboriginal law at the University of Moncton, said it's a symbolic exercise with no legal consequences.

Rousselle told CBC News in order to prove their claim to the land the Elsipogtog First Nation would have to show regular occupancy and use of the land for hunting and fishing.

Sock said he was assured the premier would ask SWN Resources to delay exploration to hold more negotiations. On Friday, he told reporters he felt deceived.

After violence broke out during protests near Rexton last month, both Sock and the premier agreed to a cooling off period.

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