A New Brunswick judge has ruled in favour of SWN Resources Canada, ordering protesters not to interfere with the company’s shale gas exploration and giving police power to enforce that order.
While the decision is a legal victory for the company, one demonstrator calls it a “draconian” limitation to protests against the seismic testing being done by the energy company.
SWN this week went to court seeking an injunction to keep protesters 250 metres away from its trucks and 20 metres from the side of roads where SWN is working.
Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Judy Clendening heard arguments Friday morning and issued her ruling late in the afternoon. She agreed to the injunction.
But at least one protesters is criticizing the process, saying those named in the application and accompanying lawsuit had no time to hire lawyers, nor the legal know-how to argue the case themselves.
Peter Dauphinee, a protester from Moncton not directly named by SWN in the injunction, said it was next to impossible to contest the case.
“All we have is the evidence of SWN to get this injunction, which is probably one of the most draconian injunctions issued in the province of New Brunswick,” Dauphinee said.
Earlier in the day, a lawyer for SWN said the company needs 10 days to complete in its exploration for shale gas in New Brunswick and is seeking the court's help to get it done.
The company's exploration efforts in Kent County this fall have been opposed by protesters who blocked roads. And last month there was a major clash between protesters and police in Rexton, N.B.
The company says most of its seismic testing equipment has also been vandalized.
SWN lawyer Matthew Hayes told the court Friday that people "absolutely" have the right to protest and keep camps.
"But not in the middle of the right-of-way," Hayes said. "We can't have a mob out there. It's inappropriate in a work zone, in a traffic area," he said.
Clendening granted the company's request for a buffer between protesters and trucks and workers
Some of the named defendants in the application appeared before Clendening in the hearing. They did not have legal representation.
Louis Jerome told the court he wasn't sure why he was named as a defendant.
"I'm a protector, not a protester," said Jerome. "I can't protect people if I'm kept 250 metres away."
Defendant Daniel Bernard, a Mi'kmaq from Cape Breton who goes by the name of T'uma, told the court he wasn't in Rexton on Oct. 17 when a previous protest erupted in violence after RCMP moved in and enforced a court order that was in force at the time.
"SWN has millions of dollars to tie us up in court," said Bernard, adding that he never stopped the company from doing its work.
The application and accompanying lawsuit filed by SWN also names protesters Maxime Daigle, Jedd Levi Poulette and Douglas Martin. Also named are "unknown individuals," referred to as John Doe and Jane Doe.
The company says its shale gas exploration efforts near Kouchibouguac National Park were thwarted by protesters earlier this month, with much of its equipment being vandalized.
That has resulted in the company filing a lawsuit against the protesters named in the injunction application.
In documents filed in the Court of Queen's Bench on Wednesday, SWN states it is losing more than $50,000 a day because protesters are inhibiting its ability to explore for potential shale gas development.
In its submission, SWN says almost all of its 1,000 recording stations used in seismic testing have been destroyed by vandals. It also says more than 300 batteries and boxes have been removed from its planned line of exploration in Kent County and thrown into trees.
SWN does not state how much it is seeking in damages.
Protesters prevented SWN from carrying out exploration in the Rexton area through the first half of October. A court order was made ordering that SWN be allowed to carry out its work, but protesters maintained barricades that prevented the company from accessing the compound where its vehicles and equipment were located.
RCMP moved in on the protest encampment on Oct. 17, leading to a violent clash that saw dozens of protesters arrested and six police vehicles destroyed by fire.
SWN Resources submission to court