SWN set to resume shale gas exploration Monday, chief says
Elsipogtog First Nation Chief Aaron Sock calls on Premier David Alward to impose 6-month moratorium
SWN Resources Canada intends to resume shale gas exploration near Rexton on Monday, just two weeks after a violent clash between RCMP and protesters, says Elsipogtog First Nation Chief Aaron Sock.
The company informed him of its plans, an angry Sock announced during a news conference, held Friday afternoon at the Moncton Casino.
Sock is calling on Premier David Alward to intervene.
He wants a six-month moratorium to allow time for meaningful negotiations, he said.
If the premier does not intervene, Sock could not speculate whether there will be more protests and blockades.
On Oct. 17, an anti-shale gas protest near Rexton turned violent after RCMP moved in to enforce a court injunction obtained by SWN against a blockade.
Six police vehicles were destroyed by fire and 40 people were arrested. Explosive devices, firearms, knives and ammunition were seized.
Sock met with the premier the following day and both sides agreed to a cooling-off period.
On Friday, Sock told reporters he felt deceived. He said Alward had told him he would contact SWN officials about postponing exploration, but it seems that did not happen.
In addition, Sock said no meaningful discussions have taken place since police raided the protesters' camp on Route 134.
He said although the province has appointed a lawyer to deal with the matter, every time he has contacted the lawyer, the lawyer has claimed to be unaware of what he's supposed to do.
On Saturday, members of Elsipogtog First Nation plan to begin reclaiming Crown land in Kent County by placing plaques on 50 separate 100-acre lots.
But Serge Rousselle, a professor of aboriginal law at the University of Moncton, contends it will be a symbolic exercise with no legal consequences.
Jailed protesters mistreated, lawyer says
Meanwhile, earlier in the day on Friday, at another news conference held on the steps of the Moncton Law Courts, a lawyer representing five of the protesters jailed on Oct. 17 said their rights are being violated.
Alison Menard said four men are still in custody. "It's been two to three weeks that these people have been detained, and it doesn't seem like things are necessarily changing for the people who have been in detention," she said.
Menard contends the arrested protesters have been mistreated while in custody.
"Is it normal for people to be held in segregation while waiting for their first court appearances? Is it normal for them to have access to no programs? Is it normal for them to not even have shampoo and in some cases toilet paper? Is it normal for them to be hit by somebody when they're being handcuffed?
"I don't think any of these things are normal," she said.
"They are presumed innocent and I think regular folks would be very concerned by the way these people, and other people, are treated when they're in the detention centre."
Menard is urging citizens to write the provincial ombudsman and ask that the allegations of mistreatment be looked into, saying such actions should concern all New Brunswickers.
Jason Augustine, one of the arrested protesters who has since been granted bail, says he wants ordinary citizens to know how he was treated while detained.
"I was in the hole, we called it the hole, for eight days. I was denied a lot of access there. Each time I said, 'I want to talk to my lawyer,' they said, 'No, you're not allowed, it's after hours, you can't talk to your lawyer.' With the rights I know, I am obligated to talk to my lawyer … the rights they were denying me of. That was uncalled for," he said.