New Brunswick

Teepee unites anti-fracking protesters

A group of shale gas opponents in New Brunswick have spent two nights sleeping in a giant teepee on the front lawn of the legislature as part of a larger campaign against hydro-fracking in the province.
Anti-fracking protesters plan to stay in the teepee at the legislature until Wednesday. (CBC)

A group of shale gas opponents in New Brunswick has spent two nights sleeping in a giant teepee on the front lawn of the legislature as part of a larger campaign against hydro-fracking in the province.

The protesters set the tent up on Saturday during a rally in Fredericton and are planning to stay until at least Wednesday, when there will be a demonstration to coincide with the opening of the latest session of the House.

Angee Acquin, a member of the St. Mary's First Nation community that loaned the teepee for the protest, said it isn't just for aboriginal protesters, but for everyone trying to protect the environment. A sign posted outside the teepee reads: All welcome.

"Sleeping in that place was just so beautiful, when I was waking up and realizing all these people are here today together, all different races, all different religions," said Acquin.

Angee Acquin, a member of the St. Mary's First Nation community, says the teepee has helped put the issue of hydro-fracking back in the spotlight. (CBC)
"I woke up and realized I had my English friends, and my French friends, my First Nation friends, all sleeping in this teepee with me on the legislature lawn. What kind of history did we make?"

The fight against shale gas has united many New Brunswickers in calling for a ban on fracking in the province and the teepee has helped to put the issue back in the spotlight, said Acquin.

Hydro-fracking, also known as hydraulic fracturing, is a controversial practice that injects a mixture of water, sand and chemicals into the ground, creating cracks in shale rock formations so that natural gas can be released from areas that would otherwise go untapped.

Opponents fear it will contaminate water supplies.

Feedback positive

"It doesn't matter what brings you to the issue of shale gas," said Acquin. "We're all in there together and we're all in this together. New Brunswickers are in this. We have a stake in what's happening with our province," she said.

"This, of course falls in with the (public) consultations that we believe did not happen, so we've come to them," said Acquin. "I mean, I'm not expecting Premier Alward to come into my teepee and sit and discuss and solve the world."

If he did, "we would tell him we as New Brunswick have a say and we say no to shale gas."

The public feedback, so far, has been positive, said Acquin. "Everybody that's been by has been very supportive, even at six o'clock this morning with air horns going off outside."

Members of the public have also attended ceremonies inside the teepee from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., as well as sharing circles, she said.

More than 600 people attended the anti-fracking rally in Fredericton on Saturday, the latest in a series of protests across the province.

The New Brunswick government has refused to put a moratorium on shale gas development in the province.

Last week, federal Environment Minister Peter Kent said he has the power to stop hydro-fracking in N.B., but the actual exploitation of natural resources is a provincial responsibility, not a federal one.

Meanwhile, Kent has asked the Council of Canadian Academies to review hydro-fracking.

The province says it will allow responsible development of the industry.

Earlier this month, Natural Resources Minister Bruce Northrup filed a complaint against an exploration company with the RCMP. He alleges Calgary-based Windsor Energy Inc. violated the Oil and Natural Gas Act by directing a contracted company to conduct geophysical exploration within the boundaries of the town of Sussex without the town's permission.

The investigation could take months, Northrup has said.