Shale gas protesters defy order to remove Rexton barriers
Tense atmosphere near staging area for SWN Resources Canada's exploration equipment
More than 24 hours after they were served an injunction, shale gas protesters continue to block Route 134 near Rexton.
Demonstrators have barricaded a stretch of road and the entrance to an equipment compound used by SWN Resources Canada since Monday.
Many of the protesters are members of nearby Elsipogtog First Nation. On Tuesday, Elsipogtog Chief Aaron Sock issued an eviction notice to SWN Resources. The company ignored the notice. Instead, it went to court seeking an injunction to end the protest. It was granted Thursday by Court of Queen's Bench Justice George Rideout.
Despite the order, protester Suzanne Patles had no plans Thursday to leave the site.
"I think that our rights supersede that injunction because we are asserting our rights," said Patles. "We are asserting our treaty rights. We are asserting our aboriginal rights. And we are asserting our title rights over the land and the water."
Tensions were high at the protest site on Thursday night. RCMP blocked all highway access to the area. At one point, the protesters formed a human chain across the road.
On Friday morning, the barricades remained in place. Between 50 and 100 protesters gathered at the camp.
Police were present and there were many ambulances standing by in the area, according to Radio-Canada producer Paul Ward.
Protesters demand meetings
The protesters want a meeting with the provincial government, and want SWN Resources to stop seismic testing for shale gas.
Premier David Alward stated Wednesday that he will not meet with anyone while they are breaking the law. On Friday, Alward's office issued a statement saying the premier is prepared to meet with the leadership of Elsipogtog First Nation.
"I wish to reiterate my willingness to meet with the chief and council of the Elsipogtog First Nation," said Alward in his statement. "I have always been available to meet the leadership of the First Nations community, and I will continue to make myself available to meet with them at any time."
New Brunswick's energy minister said he won't give the RCMP any instructions on how to proceed with the court injunction.
Craig Leonard said he is getting updates from police on the situation.
The court order instructs any peace officer to arrest, remove and remand anyone in contravention of the order not to impede traffic, and to allow SWN to carry out its exploration activities without harassment.
Protesters said Thursday night the RCMP told them they would not be taking action for 24 hours. They have planned a meeting at the protest site on Friday evening to discuss the situation.
The protesters are concerned about the potential impact of the hydraulic fracturing used to release shale gas, on groundwater. The gas is released by injecting a mixture of air, water and chemicals into the earth to break apart shale rock formations, to release the gas.
With files from the Canadian Press