(Photo submitted by Sandra Belliveau to APTN National News’ Facebook page. RCMP blocking Route 126 in New Brunswick)
By Tim Fontaine
APTN National News
It was another day of protest in New Brunswick as Mi’kmaq, Maliseet and their supporters voiced their opposition to shale gas exploration in Kent County.
About 100 people have gathered near the town of Birch Ridge, NB, where SWN Resources Canada and their subcontractors have equipment and vehicles used for shale gas exploration stored.
SWN Resources Canada is one of the largest companies involved in shale gas exploration in the province. Many Mi’kmaq and Maliseet are opposed to the exploration, saying that it will eventually lead to ‘fracking’ and cause serious harm to the environment, especially water.
First Nations also say there was insufficient consultation done by the province.
Amateur video and photos show a heavy RCMP presence at the site of today’s protest, although the situation remains peaceful.
This is the fourth day of protests in New Brunswick, sparked when members of the Elsipogtog First Nation seized a vehicle belonging to Stantec, which is a Fredericton-based company subcontracted to SWN Resources Canada.
One of the protesters is Susan Levi-Peters, once Chief of Elsipogtog and former candidate for the provincial NDP. She says frustration is building with shale gas exploration and with the RCMP.
Levi-Peters says with tensions running so high, the province’s Premier David Alward should halt further shale gas exploration until all sides can come together and discuss the path forward.
But she and others warn that with opposition against shale gas exploration so high, it’s unlikely First Nations will agree to allow the industry to develop.
Here’s a brief timeline of events:
Tuesday, June 4
Members of Elsipogtog First Nation in New Brunswick surrounded a vehicle owned by Stantec that was parked at a restaurant near the community. RCMP intervened and brought the vehicle to the local station. Community members followed and refused to allow the vehicle to leave. The vehicle was eventually returned to the company and no arrests were made. Following the incident, New Brunswick’s Energy Minister issued a call for protests to remain peaceful.
Wednesday, June 5
Around 100 people from Elsipogtog and surrounding communities gather on provincial route 126, at the SWN Resources Canada site. Witnesses say although the protest was peaceful, a large contingent of RCMP moved in and arrested 3, including a 16-year-old. The Chief of Elsipogtog, Arren Sock, issued a statement saying that the community is opposed to shale gas exploration and that Mi’kmaq voices must be heard. He also issued a call for calm among protesters, urging them to remain peaceful and lawful.
Thursday, June 6
Another afternoon of protests on route 126. Around 100 gather again and there was a heavy RCMP presence but no arrests are made.
Friday, June 7
Over 100 are gathered at the site on route 126, including St. Mary’s First Nation Chief Candice Paul. Chief Paul has been opposed to the shale gas industry since the province announced exploration would begin over the winter.