Maliseet anti-shale gas letter delivered to premier’s office
Crowd continues to grow at longhouse erected across from provincial legislature in Fredericton
A letter signed by several First Nation leaders, calling for a moratorium on shale gas exploration and development in New Brunswick, has been delivered to the premier's office.
Meanwhile, members of the Maliseet First Nation continued to gather Monday at a traditional longhouse set up one block away from the premier's office over the weekend.
Others are being urged to bring tepees to set up there as well, in hopes the site will be crowded by Nov. 5, when the legislature's fall session is scheduled to begin, said Ron Tremblay, of Wolastoq Grand Council.
Tremblay wants more than a temporary moratorium to allow for more research. He wants the shale gas industry stopped before it's started.
"Gone. Period. Forever," he said.
But the gathering at the legislature will not be like the anti-shale gas demonstration in Kent County that turned violent earlier this month, stressed Tremblay.
"Oh much, much different," he said. "Our total focus is on peace and friendship and unity and solidarity. We are not protesters, we are not warriors. We're protectors. That our main message going out to all people."
Protesters clashed with RCMP near Rexton on Oct. 17 after officers moved in to enforce a court injunction obtained by SWN Resources Canada against a blockade. Five RCMP vehicles were burned and 40 people were arrested.
On Sunday, members of the Maliseet First Nation carried a sacred fire across the St. John River for a ceremony at the longhouse, where six elected Maliseet chiefs and the traditional chief of the St. John River Valley signed an agreement, stating all are unified in their opposition to shale gas development.
Premier David Alward was in Ottawa on Monday, St. Mary's First Nation Chief Candice Paul hand delivered the letter to one of his staff members.
Paul contends there needs to be an independent review of the contentious issue.
"It would involve qualified people that we would pick … and with the proper credentials," she said.
Bronson Acquin-Mandisodza, 17, of St. Mary's First Nation, says it's an historic occasion.
"My mom, in her lifetime, said she's never seen all the Maliseet communities being brought together until this week," said Acquin-Mandisodza, the keeper of the sacred fire at the longhouse.
"This gathering here is a show of unity and solidarity among the nations here," said elder Alma Brooks.
Harry LaPorte, grand chief of the Maliseet First Nation, said he hopes the unity shown among the Maliseet will be echoed by the Mi'kmaq and Passamaquoddy nations they also invited to the longhouse.
"I think they showed their support by being here, witnessing what we did," said LaPorte
Organizers said the longhouse will remain until they are able to present their stance to Premier David Alward.
Laporte said Alward is welcome to visit the longhouse any time.
"Our unified front has already been established by us meeting in here today in our government longhouse. Mr. Alward probably should come talk to us. Then he'll have a better understanding of who we are. And what we are. And why we are."