Danny Knockwood/Shale Gas Alert, via Facebook
Protesters against fracking in Kent County, New Brunswick, Canada, slept on the ground overnight on September 30 to try and stop SWN Resources Canada from conducting seismic testing for potential fracking.

First Nation Moves to Evict Fracking Co. From Lands Held in Trust

Martha Troian

It is supposed to be a day that commemorates the signing of the 1752 Treaty of Friendship and Peace between the Mi’kmaq and the Crown, a day spent promoting Mi'kmaq culture and history across Atlantic Canada.

Instead, Elsipogtog First Nation leaders and members marked Mi'kmaq Treaty Day by defending their land from fracking. First Nations in New Brunswick said they've had enough of shale gas exploration in their territory, and they want a Texas-based exploration company to leave.

On October 1, Elsipogtog Chief and Council announced they were reclaiming all unoccupied reserve lands from the federal and provincial governments and issued an eviction notice to SWN Resources Canada, a subsidiary of Houston-based Southwestern Energy Co. Dozens of protesters blocked the main road traversed by company vehicles. The community was backed by the Signigtog District Grand Council, which represents Mi'kmaq communities across southern New Brunswick and northern Nova Scotia.

At a media conference in nearby Rexton, Elsipogtog Chief Aaren Sock said that the lands, never ceded or sold, had been held in trust by the Crown—but that the trust has been betrayed.

“The original people of the territory, together with their hereditary and elected leaders, believe that their lands and waters are being badly mismanaged by Canada, the province and corporations to the point of ruin,” Sock said. “Now facing complete destruction, they feel that the lands are no longer capable of providing enough to support the populations of the region.”

These threats to their survival and way of life left the Mi’kmaq of Signigtog no choice but to resume environmental stewardship in order to “save our water, land and animals from ruin,” Sock said.

The controversy began last spring, when SWN began seismic testing in Kent County near Elsipogtog First Nation. Mi'kmaq have been fighting the company and the province ever since. Twelve people were arrested in protests in June.

RELATED: Fracking Troubles Atlantic First Nations After Two Dozen Protesters Arrested

The company said it is only in the exploratory stages, but First Nations and their supporters say it's only a matter of time before shale gas is found and the company employs the controversial technique known as fracking to get at it. Fracking, short for hydraulic fracturing, involves pumping water and chemicals underground at high pressure to fracture shale gas formations, making it easier to extract natural gas. Although the method is being used in other parts of Canada and the U.S., countries such as France have banned it, and the practice is under contention throughout Indian Country.

The Elsipogtog leadership also posted an eviction notice demanding that SWN remove all exploration equipment by midnight on September 30. However, it is unclear whether the notice was actually delivered to SWN officials, and as of October 2, SWN had not departed. Still, said members of the local Mi'kmaq warrior society, a group of Mi'kmaq who are defending Mi'kmaq lands and communities, the company needs to leave.

“Right now we're standing our ground and asking [SWN] to pull their equipment out of New Brunswick so that it will resolve peacefully,” said John Levi, the warrior chief of Elsipogtog First Nation. “We're not going to back down.”

Support is growing. First Nations in New Brunswick and their supporters have set up three resistance sites since SWN first brought in equipment.

“People from other communities, native people from Nova Scotia, Quebec, Prince Edward Island, and there's other natives from New Brunswick,” said Levi of the indigenous nations on the ground.

Acadians, Metis, non-natives and environmental groups have also showed up. On Tuesday, 400 people came. Many supporters have been sleeping on the ground with just a blanket.

Some of the protesters, including a pregnant woman and several elders, have been hurt while facing off with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and private security forces. Lorraine Clair, 44, of Elsipogtog was struck by an RCMP vehicle during an incident this week. She was also injured in an earlier confrontation with the RCMP.

“She's a fish plant worker, so her wrists were already weakened, and she was still healing from that, and then when they arrested her they broke her wrist,” said protester Willie Nolan.

Nolan said he also witnessed Clair getting struck by the cruiser.

“There is a lot of bullying taking place,” said Levi about the RCMP and security.

But the protests seem to be having some effect. The activists have succeeded in stopping the SWN workers from proceeding.

“All the equipment has been fenced off,” said Miles Howe, a reporter with New Brunswick Media Co-op who has been following this story closely since the beginning. Howe said five SWN seismic testing trucks were still present in their compound.

“As of right now, we're not going to let [SWN] come out and do their work on the highway, that's for sure,” said Levi. “We will let them out but not let them back in.”

To date there has been no response by the New Brunswick government.

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Mary Rose Smyth's picture
Mary Rose Smyth
Submitted by Mary Rose Smyth on
Stand Your Ground! we ran them out of town in parts of Pennsylvania. They are bold, but don't give up. Same company also.

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on
for once I agree with France and others this destructive way of get "fuel" nets to be boycotted/outlawed world wide.

John Nelson's picture
John Nelson
Submitted by John Nelson on
Please ride with us to Washington Dc in 2014. Gus Higheagle will again be the lead person , having already made a successful trip to the UN a few weeks ago. It is time to get together with all Nations and territories

Shandrah's picture
Submitted by Shandrah on
Stand strong whanau, Papatuanuku needs all the help she can get at the moment. Nā tō rourou, nā taku rourou ka ora ai te iwi With your food basket and my food basket the people will thrive

juanita samuelson's picture
juanita samuelson
Submitted by juanita samuelson on
good for you. i wish white people were as empowered by the threat that they would do the same

judy's picture
Submitted by judy on
Only the rich and the greedy want this done so they can become more rich and more greedy.....we're destroying the lands that should be sacred not sacrefised.\

Chris Templeton's picture
Chris Templeton
Submitted by Chris Templeton on
The fracking industry produced 280 billion gallons of toxic wastewater in 2012 alone

Chris Templeton's picture
Chris Templeton
Submitted by Chris Templeton on
The fracking industry produced 280 billion gallons of toxic wastewater in 2012 alone

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on
"The fracking industry produced 280 billion gallons of toxic wastewater in 2012 alone" sorry that figure is in the US

eye red's picture
eye red
Submitted by eye red on
it's time too tell all we r in this to gether, our pass Chiefs toll us "We stand as one " we have our own laws . tell Canada it ends to day. we had it stand strong stand as one IT"S TIME TO STAND AS ONE

Joanne (Metis Abenaki from Quebec)'s picture
Joanne (Metis A...
Submitted by Joanne (Metis A... on
I don't have enough money If I could... I would stand there with you, against these Officers against the Fed, Shell and the Constitution For G*d Sake tbestawikw! Toldal8zi Nosokazik Niona Aho Wobenakiak Kizos Posiwaganogan NGAD8ZIK this damn Canadian Confederation make your independence TAKE BACK THE LAND! OMKI!