15 July 2013
ABORIGINAL JUSTICE: A week with
the Elsipogtog anti-fracking resistance
by Bob Holmes
In November 2010 Canada finally signed the United Nations Declaration on the
Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which declares, “States will consult and obtain
free, prior and informed consent for any project affecting the land, territory
or resources of indigenous peoples.”
Elsipogtog, a Mi’kmaq First Nation in New Brunswick, was not consulted and
certainly do not consent to the seismic survey of their land in preparation for
fracking for shale gas. They have
joined with equally concerned non-aboriginal residents in the area to stop the
exploration. Canadian police
arrested thirty-three protestors in June.
On Sunday 30 June, Chris Sabas and I, representing the CPT Aboriginal Justice
Team, arrived in Elsipogtog at the invitation of John Levi, leader at the
Sacred Fire camp. Colourful flags,
abundant signage and a community of Indigenous, Acadian, and Anglo folk,
welcomed us to their tent-city and the sacred fire.
Monday 1 July, we met with the Elsipogtog Peacekeepers, who invited us to join
their ranks, a neutral liaison team between the protestors, Band Council
and police. As CPTers, “neutral” was not a good descriptor of our
anticipated role so we declined. The group celebrated Canada Day with a
“No Fracking Way” march to the Sacred Fire Camp.
Tuesday 2 July, we listened to some of the thirty-three arrestees who had stood
in front of the “thumper” trucks in June tell stories of their experiences. The RCMP officers were neither
respectful of aboriginal ceremony nor gentle in their arrest processes.
Wednesday 3 July, Chris, a lawyer in her pre-CPT life, offered a workshop for Elsipogtog
arrestees on expectations and possible consequences in their upcoming legal
encounters with the Canadian/New Brunswick justice system.
Thursday 4 July, police arrested an independent journalist with charges based
on one of the June actions. He
believes this harassment is due to his refusal that day to become a police
informer. In the afternoon, a community busload of “berry-pickers”
attempted to approach the current seismic testing now deep in the bush. The RCMP met the bus on a back road and
after long negotiation allowed the group to proceed eight kilometers further to
pick berries—but not beyond. When
requested to do so, the police moved well away so the group could drum and pray
before leaving the area.
Friday 5 July, police ordered Elsipogtog leader, John Levi, to appear in the
Moncton court. Thirty-seven people
stood with him as he was charged with obstruction relating to the June arrests
and with breach of parole because of these activities. He had a previous conviction for
fishing in Elsipogtog territory even though the Mi’kmaq have a treaty right to
fish. People involved with the anti-fracking
campaign believe the arrest is harassment aimed at deterring further protest.
Saturday 6 July, was a day of celebration and festival— groups from all over
New Brunswick, native and non-native, arrived at the Sacred Fire Camp to show
solidarity and unity in the struggle for a “Fracking Free” New Brunswick…
|Photo by Greg Cook SJ