18 June 2013
ELSIPOGTOG FRACKING PROTEST UPDATE: 9-14 June 2013
“The role of the warrior chief is to protect the land, the
water and the people. Our only
weapons are our drums, our sweetgrasses, our pipes, and our ceremonies. We are nonviolent.”
This description was how John Levi, warrior chief of the
Elsipogtog First Nation, explained his role to an emergency CPT exploratory
delegation to his New Brunswick Mi’kmaq community located north of Moncton.
The Elsipogtog First Nation and non-Aboriginal landowners in
Kent County, New Brunswick are fighting to stop shale gas exploration by SWN
Resources. They are concerned
fracking will lead to the depletion of groundwater and widespread water
Fracking is a slang term for the process of digging deep wells
(up to two miles) into the earth and injecting water under high pressure laden
with industrial chemicals to fracture shale. The procedure releases otherwise inaccessible deposits of
Each frack uses millions of gallons of water laden with
hundreds of different chemicals.
Resource companies have not had to disclose the types of chemicals they
are using because of patent protections.
Scientists have identified volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as
benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene.
In May of 2012, the Elsipogtog band council passed a
resolution opposing all “shale gas exploration and development within
Elsipogtog First Nation and within the Province of New Brunswick.”
A series of Peace and Friendship Treaties signed between the
British Crown and the Mi’kmaq in the years before Confederation enshrine
Aboriginal title to Crown land.
Crown land is the term used for “unclaimed land” held by the provincial
government on behalf of the Crown.
In New Brunswick, Crown land is unceded Mi’kmaq
territory. As one community member
told the delegation, “Crown land is Indian land held in trust by the
“We have to protect our waters,” Levi said. “We can’t live without water. The water flows into the streams, the
streams flow into the rivers, the rivers flow into the ocean. Water is a gift from the creator, and
should remain that way.”
In Mi’kmaq culture, women have a sacred responsibility to
On 11 June, members of Elsipogtog First Nation lit a sacred
fire along Highway 126 with the support of the Acadian and Anglophone
communities. Giant “thumper
trucks” are slowly making their way along Highway 126 as part of the seismic
On 14 June, the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police)
arrested twelve people who were trying to stop the progress of the trucks. At least twenty-one people have been
arrested so far. The police
roughly handled three Mi’kmaq women they were in the middle of conducting a
ceremony, a serious violation of cultural protocols. They arrested two of the women, injuring Lorraine Claire’s
arm in the process.
Seismic testing has not continued since the arrests. The sacred fire continues to burn at
the junction of Highway 126 and 116.
The emergency delegation comprised CPT reservists Jill
Foster (Montreal, QC), James Loney (Toronto, ON) and Allan Slater (Lakeside,
ON). CPT’s Aboriginal Justice Team
has been invited by Warrior Chief John Levi to accompany their efforts to stop
shale gas testing. CPT is
preparing to send a team as soon as it can.