First Nations chief issues eviction notice to SWN Resources
Elsipogtog Chief Arren Sock says council is reclaiming unoccupied reserve lands
The chief of the Elsipogtog First Nation delivered an eviction notice to SWN Resources Canada on Tuesday, as dozens of protesters continued to block Route 134 in Rexton to prevent the oil and gas company from moving its exploration equipment.
"We have been compelled to act to save our water, land and animals from ruin," said Chief Arren Sock to cheers from the estimated crowd of up to 400 people.
His band council will 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, he said.
"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," said Sock.
"We are now resuming stewardship of our lands to correct these problems and restore our lands and waters to good health."
Although it's still unclear exactly which land and how the band council will take it back, the chief contends getting SWN to remove its equipment is a start.
A handwritten letter will be delivered to SWN officials, demanding the equipment be removed by midnight, said Sock.
If the company refuses, the band council will take action, he said, declining to elaborate.
Energy Minister Craig Leonard is urging the protesters to obey the law.
"We support fully the right for people to protest. We just ask them to do it lawfully and safely," Leonard said during the annual energy conference hosted by the Maritimes Energy Association in Halifax.
"I was in Kent County last week and met with mayors and local service district representatives. Certainly we've had ongoing discussions with First Nations in the area. There is opposition, but there's also support there, and so we have to find that balance," he said.
During his speech to the conference delegates, Leonard said a well-regulated shale gas industry could create economic renewal in New Brunswick.
But protesters like Emmett Peters, of Nova Scotia, seemed more interested in the chief's declaration.
"So when and where are we going to stop destroying the earth? When are we going to stop this?"
Gerard Richard, of Rogersville, was also pleased.
"What they want to do is send these people home — SWN, the fracking company. If we're able to realize that, then I'd be a happy camper."
Other protesters, like Willi Nolan, contend the government needs to do its due diligence before proceeding with shale gas development.
"Stop. Look at this before you go ahead with this. Go get baseline human health data. They didn't do it. We looked for baseline environmental data, they didn't do it," said Nolan.
"Thirty thousand people signed a petition [against shale gas]. Why is the government going ahead?"
A Department of Energy and Mines spokesperson told CBC News exploration will continue.