Mi'kmaq urged to reclaim Crown land

Date of publication: 
30 October 2013

‘Reclamation day’ scheduled for Saturday

New Brunswick – Mi’kmaq Band Council is urging its members to reclaim all Crown land in the midst of the shale gas dispute in New Brunswick.

A “reclamation day” is scheduled for Saturday, Elsipogtog First Nation Warrior Chief John Levi told CBC News on Wednesday.

“Since the premier is not taking care of the land properly, we will take care of it ourselves,” he said.

“Right now the government is jeopardizing our water,” he said, referring to plans to develop the shale gas industry in the province and ongoing exploration by SWN Resources Canada. “What’s next? That’s the most sacred thing, you know. Water is life. Without water, there is no life.”

Mi’kmaq will be staking their claims to become stewards of public land in their territory by putting up plaques under the authority of the chief and grand council, said Levi.

“Are they [the provincial government] going to recognize it, or are they going to fight it? It’s up to them,” he said.

On heels of violent clash with RCMP

The move comes two weeks after an anti-shale gas protest near Rexton turned violent.

The protest, which began on Sept. 30 with a blockade of Route 134 and of SWN Resources Canada’s shale gas exploration equipment, ended on Oct. 17 with a clash between RCMP officers and protesters.

Six police vehicles were destroyed by fire and 40 people were arrested. Explosive devices, firearms,knives and ammunition were seized.

Solidarity protests also took place elsewhere across New Brunswick and the country, including Ottawa, Winnipeg and Calgary.

New Brunswick’s Maliseet First Nation leaders have since signed a letter, calling for a moratorium on shale gas development and have encouraged other First Nations to do the same.

They have also erected a traditional longhouse across the street from the provincial legislature andhave urged others to bring tepees in hopes the site will be crowded by Nov. 5, when the legislature’s fall session is scheduled to begin.

A similar longhouse is being erected along Highway 116, said Levi.

Premier ‘committed’ to developing natural gas

Premier David Alward, who met with Elsipogtog Chief Aaron Sock the day after the violent clash and agreed to a cooling-off period, told reporters on Wednesday he is unaware of any landreclamation plans by First Nations.

“What I can assure you is we are committed to consultation, we’re committed to dialogue and accommodation, but we’re also committed to continuing to develop our natural resources in our province,” said Alward.

“We cannot afford not to as a province,” he said. “I want to see our young people having the opportunity to work here in New Brunswick.”

Earlier this month, Elsipogtog Chief Aaron Sock said his band council would pass a resolution preventing the government and fracking companies from continuing their work by reclaiming all unoccupied reserve land and giving it back to First Nations.

“For centuries, the British crown claimed to be holding the lands in trust for us, but they are being badly mismanaged by Canada, the province and corporations,” Sock had said.

“We are now resuming stewardship of our lands to correct these problems and restore our lands and waters to good health.”


Fracking Thumpers To Return to Elsipgotog To Resume Seismic Explorations

APTN National News

10 November 2013

Elsipgotog First Nation, Mi’gmac Territory (NB), – SWN Resources Canada is planning to resume its controversial shale gas seismic exploration work on 13 November, according to Elsipogtog War Chief John Levi

Levi said SWN’s lawyer Michael Connors, who is a partner with East Coast law firm McInnes Cooper, met with several dozen people from Elsipogtog First Nation and the surrounding communities late Sunday afternoon.

Levi said Connors told the people that SWN would withdraw a lawsuit against several community members if the Houston-based firm was allowed to finish its exploration work unimpeded.

“We said no, we are going to be there,” said Levi, in an interview with APTN National News. “What we told him was we are going to be there Wednesday.”

The meeting was held at a longhouse erected at an anti-fracking encampment used over the past summer. The area sits off Hwy 116 near Elsipogtog First Nation.

Connors told the people in the longhouse that SWN would be working for 14 days and warned them not to block the company’s movements or they would face violence. “I’m not asking anyone not to protest, but I am asking that we don’t do anything that would lead to violence,” said Connors, according to video of the meeting posted on Facebook by Brian Milliea. “Unfortunately, blockades lead to violence.”

Connors said SWN just wants to finish its work and leave the area.

“We don’t want violence and if we can get through two weeks then we will go away for awhile,” said Connors. “I am not saying we are not going to come back, we may not come back, but I think everybody needs some time, you know, a break.”

Levi told Connors that the community would not be backing down.

“We are going to be there. Whatever happens, the ball is in your court. Whatever happens, you’re the ones who are going to make the calls,” said Levi, according to the nine-minute video. “Us as Natives and the protectors of this land, we are going to protect it, it is our land, we never ceded this land and we are going to protect it before these waters are contaminated.”

A woman in the crowd, who identified as non-Native, also pledged opposition to the exploration.

“As non-Natives we are going to protect the future of our children,” said the woman, in the video. “So non-Natives and Natives are together.”

SWN has faced intense and prolonged opposition to its shale gas exploration work around Elsipogtog First Nation which exploded after heavily armed RCMP tactical units raided an anti-fracking camp along Route 134 on Oct. 17. The camp was blocking several of SWN’s exploration vehicles in a compound owned by JD Irving Ltd. in Rexton, NB.

While the raid freed SWN’s trucks, it sparked day-long clashes between Elsipogtog residents and the RCMP. Several RCMP vehicles ended up in flames – where the fires came from has not been determined – and about 40 people were arrested.

A camp still remains on Route 134, which sits about 15 kilometres southeast of Elsipogtog.

SWN was initially expected to resume its exploration work last Monday. Elsipogtog Chief Aaron Sock told reporters last Sunday that SWN’s lawyers had informed him the company was planning to finish its seismic exploration work along Hwy 11.

While community members mobilized to confront the company, the thumper trucks, which are used in the seismic exploration, did not appear.

Levi said Connors told the meeting that the company would be laying out geophones on a section of Hwy 11 on Tuesday and that the thumper trucks would return on Wednesday.

Geophones pick up the vibrations from thumper trucks to create imaging of shale gas deposits.

The exploration area is about 46 km north of Elsipogtog.

People in Elsipogtog and surrounding communities fear the discovery of shale gas would lead to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The controversial extraction method is viewed by many as posing a dire threat to water sources.

“They are pretty desperate for trying to arrange something like that,” said Levi. “We are not taking the bait and we are going to be there protecting Mother Earth.”