Aboriginal Justice: Elsipogtog Resistance to Shale Gas Exploration Intensifies

by CPT's Aboriginal Justice Team (AJT)

John LeviElsipogtog protectors of the land and water, together with a broad coalition of allies including CPT, stepped up their nonviolent resistance natural gas seismic testing by SouthWestern Energy Resources Canada (SWN) in July 2013.

Protectors discovered unexploded ordnance behind a cemetery near Rogersville on 21 July 2013 near SWN seismic ‘Line 5.’ SWN has received licenses to test along multiple sites in New Brunswick's Kent and surrounding counties, with five testing lines designated for exploration, most of them remote.  Line 5 in particular has been heavily patrolled by RCMP and private security.  A C4 plastic explosive canister was observed in a private driveway designated for testing, only yards away from a private residence.

Beyond unexploded ordnance concerns, SWN appeared to be in violation of regulations requiring a minimum fifty meter setback of seismic energy sources from cemeteries, with equipment sitting just two meters away.

On 23 July on another portion along ‘Line 5’ several protectors bypassed Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and private security lines and positioned themselves along the testing line. A female protector reportedly chained herself to a tree and the group remained overnight. The next day, scouts determined that SWN had relocated to another portion of ‘Line 5’.

Local resisters asked CPTers Stewart Vriesinga and Chris Sabas to proceed with two other vehicles to the work site. As protectors began arriving there, one, identifying herself as ‘Poca­hontas,’ strapped herself to seismic equipment bundles slated for helicopter transport, delaying work by one hour. She left the site voluntarily and was not arrested.

On 27 July at approximately 3:00 p.m., protectors seized an SWN truck.  ‘Pocahontas’ later chained herself to the top of the truck.  Protectors had initially negotiated with RCMP for a three-hour work stoppage to engage in ceremony to honor the Ghost Dance, a part of the ongoing Sun Dance ceremony occurring in Elsipogtog.  Elsipogtog had previously requested SWN to cease testing during the week-long ceremony but SWN refused. 

The standoff ended peacefully at approximately 3:00 a.m. Vriesinga and Sabas participated in relief efforts, attempting to bring in food and water, but RCMP denied them entry.