Anti-shale gas protest resumes in Kent County
Demonstrators vow to continue protesting seismic testing, may seek injuction
An anti-shale gas protest resumed in eastern New Brunswick on Thursday, less than 24 hours after RCMP arrested three demonstrators.
A handful of people gathered along Highway 126 near Saint Paul during the afternoon, said Radio-Canada's Michèle Brideau.
There was a strong police presence, she said.
On Wednesday, the RCMP arrested three of roughly 100 protesters who attended an anti-shale gas rally in the area, including a 16-year-old boy.
Cpl. Chantal Farrah says the rally, which included traditional First Nations drumming and singing, started out peacefully, but some people starting blocking the seismic testing trucks from advancing.
A man, woman and youth were arrested for repeatedly ignoring police requests to move away from the trucks, she said.
"Now while there was no violence, some people were impeding the lawful operation of a business, which you can’t do," Farrah said.
"They were on the roadway and they were getting in front of some heavy equipment — that is very dangerous and also against the law."
The man and woman were arrested for mischief, while the youth was arrested for obstructing a police officer, said Farrah. The adults were released from custody on a promise to appear in court at a later date. The youth was released to a parent, she said.
More than 20 RCMP officers were on the scene.
Lorraine Clair, 44, said she was charged with mischief for her role in the demonstration.
Clair said she was singing and drumming her last song when she was arrested for blocking the trucks.
"Now they know that we mean what we say when we say we are going to protect our Mother Earth and we are going to exercise our treaty rights and that's exactly what I was going to do," she said.
She said she expects to participate in more protests against shale gas development in eastern New Brunswick, but she didn't know when they would occur.
May seek injunction
A lawyer for Elsipogtog and several other First Nations in New Brunswick contends there would be a lot less opposition if SWN Resources Canada had consulted them before starting any shale gas exploration.
T.J. Burke told Terry Seguin of Information Morning Fredericton there is a lot of community interest in seeking an injunction that would force the company to suspend its work until consultation has taken place.
"The First Nation believes that because of the lack of consultation, because of the inability for the parties to communicate, because of the detrimental effects of fracking in that area and the ability of it to harm its natural resources, where the people live off that land, that an injunction would be a possibility," Burke said.
The former New Brunswick justice minister and environment minister said there is a mechanism for such consultation through the bilateral agreement the provincial government signed with First Nation communities, but it's being wasted.
Chief urges peace
Wednesday's protest was the second one this week in eastern New Brunswick.
On Tuesday, a group of protesters surrounded and seized a truck owned by a contractor for SWN Resources Canada. SWN Resources has a licence to test for shale gas in the region.
"Tensions have escalated," Elsipogtog First Nation Chief Aaron Sock said in a statement on Thursday morning.
He said he supports future protests, but is urging they be done "peacefully and lawfully."
"[Mi'kmaq] peoples' connection to the land and Mother Earth is sacred. It is the source of our great resolve that has sustained ourselves as a Peoples since time immemorial," Sock said.
"We have asserted and court-established rights to the land and with these rights comes a responsibility to ensure our territory is protected for future generations," he said.
"We must never be afraid to raise our voice to protect our rights and interests, yet we must have the resolve to do so peacefully. This is the spirit and intent of the Treaties that our ancestors had the wisdom to contemplate and these values must be respected."
SWN quickly released a response, saying they "applaud" the chief's leadership and support his call for peaceful and law-abiding expression of views.
"We hope that people can safely and openly express themselves while allowing our work to continue in accordance with the licences and permits granted to us by government," an email from company spokeswoman Tracey Stephenson states.
"SWN Resources Canada is confident that if a commercially viable resource exists, then relationships with First Nations will be integral to achieving a goal of safe and responsible development in the province that First Nations can proudly participate in without compromising their rights, values and traditions."
Protesters vow to continue demonstrations
Organizers for the protests say the company should prepare for a summer of protests.
Heather McCabe, a Penobsquis resident, said opponents are concerned about the long-term effects of hydraulic fracturing.
"I think it's going to take a little while for them to realize that we're not going to back down," she said.
SWN Resources is not hydro-fracking in New Brunswick. The company is conducting seismic tests in parts of the province to see if there is enough shale gas locked under the ground worth developing an industry.
Hydro-fracking is a process where companies inject a mixture of water, sand and chemicals into the ground, creating cracks in shale rock formations. That process allows companies to extract natural gas from areas that would otherwise go untapped.
Opponents of the process say it could have a negative effect on local water supplies and many of them have held protests across the province
Michael McKinley, a member of the group Our Environment, Our Choice in Kent County, also promised to attend more protests throughout the summer if the seismic testing continued.
"As long as the industry is in Kent County, you're going to see that there's going to be protests and you're going to see a lot of non-violent protests and you're going to see concerned people coming together to show, to educate themselves and educate others," he said.
New shale gas rules
The New Brunswick government has already announced a series of legal and regulatory reforms that are intended to give the province some of the strictest oil and natural gas exploration rules in North America.
Energy and Mines Minister Craig Leonard said on Tuesday the government supported the protesters right to demonstrate "as long as it's done in a lawful manner."
Premier David Alward has said companies should be able to explore to see if there is enough of a resource available to create a shale gas industry.
Alward said revenue from a future shale gas sector could pay for social programs and employ citizens who are currently looking for work.
New Brunswick’s unemployment has been stuck above 10 per cent since July 2012.
Former Liberal premier Frank McKenna said in February the shale gas industry could generate more than $7 billion in royalties and tax revenues for the province.