New Brunswick

SWN granted injunction extension against protesters

SWN Resources Canada has been granted an extension of a court injunction that prohibits protesters from interfering with the company's shale gas exploration work.

Court order comes as RCMP make 7 more arrests, close Highway 11 for several hours

Anti-shale gas protesters wore tape over the mouths after a judge granted SWN Resources Canada an extension on its injunction. (Jacques Poitras/CBC)

 SWN Resources Canada has been granted an extension of a court injunction that prohibits protesters from interfering with the company's shale gas exploration work.

The 14-day extension comes as RCMP blocked Highway 11 near Rexton for several hours throughout the day on Monday and arrested at least seven protesters for violating the original injunction — five men and two women.

RCMP are advising motorists to avoid the area.

Ambulance New Brunswick confirmed two people were also transported by ambulance to the Stella-Maris-de-Kent Hospital with minor injuries following an "automobile vs. pedestrian" collision on Highway 11 near Saint-Louis-de-Kent shortly after 2 p.m.

Several protesters gathered on the steps of the Fredericton courthouse immediately following the ruling. Some of them were wearing blue tape over their mouths as a symbol of what they claim is their being gagged by the justice system.

Others were chanting, "Shame, shame."

They vowed to continue to protest SWN's seismic mapping in Kent County, but say they will do so peacefully.

Protests were held in other provinces on Monday to show support for those in New Brunswick.

In Montreal, a female protester was struck by a car that had been blocked by several people.

A video of the incident was posted on YouTube. The driver, who appeared to be talking on a cellphone and had a dog in his lap, tried to speed away as the woman clung to the hood. She eventually slid off when the driver swerved.

The condition of the woman is unknown.

In Toronto, a banner that read "We support Elsipogtog. No fracking on Native land," was hanging from the Gardiner Expressway.

Work behind schedule

SWN lawyer Matthew Hayes told Court of Queen's Bench Justice Paulette Garnett during the hearing the same issues that led to the original injunction, which was set to expire, continue.

The company is only testing about three kilometres a day due to protests, instead of the anticipated five or six kilometres, he said.

SWN expects to be able to complete testing within seven days, provided there are no more interruptions, said Hayes.

Garnett said the only issue was whether the time line of Justice Judy Clendenning's original injunction issued on Nov. 22 should be extended.

"I am satisfied that it should be," she said.

The injunction is now set to expire on Dec. 17.

Under the terms of the injunction, protesters must stay 20 metres away from the side of roads where the company is working and 250 metres away from the front or back of its trucks.

Garnett told the courtroom she respects the views of anti-shale gas activists and believes they are sincere, but the issues they are raising are best addressed in a full trial, which is likely months away.

Defendants get tongue-lashing

Garnett had previously agreed to give three defendants who were in court to object to SWN's request two hours to prepare a response to the application.

But she gave them a tongue-lashing first. Garnett told the defendants they couldn't expect to be taken seriously by the court if they didn't take court rules seriously.

She noted they filed no defence in SWN's main lawsuit against 13 protesters for damages the company claims it has suffered as a result of protests and no affidavit in response to the injunction.

Garnett eventually agreed to let Melissa Augustine, of Esgenoôpetitj, file an affidavit, despite objections from SWN's lawyer and provincial government representatives.

She then agreed to give the defendants, who did not have legal representation, until 4 p.m. AT to prepare a response.

Despite the court order, protesters have continued to gather along Highway 11 where work is ongoing. On Friday, RCMP closed the highway for about three hours and arrested at least five of the estimated 50 protesters.

No arrests were reported over the weekend, but 21 people have been arrested since the injunction took effect, RCMP have said.

SWN lawyers previously argued protesters had been hampering the company's work for months.

They said some equipment and trucks had been vandalized and the company claimed it was losing more than $50,000 for every day it could not do its work.

The company has argued it will suffer irreparable damage if it is unable to complete its work.



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