Rexton, New Brunswick – An October 9th, 2013 story by Jorge Barrera, featured by APTN, brought into serious question the firm public commitment of Elsipogtog Chief Aarren Sock and his negotiating team towards ending shale gas exploration in the province of New Brunswick.
Despite still not knowing who actually penned the notes, the notes themselves suggest that Sock and his negotiating team did not seriously consider the possibility that the ongoing encampment which continues to block numerous pieces of seismic testing equipment belonging to SWN Resources Canada might actually be capable of spearheading any type of campaign to halt shale gas exploration by the Texas-based gas company.
Barrera's article, which goes on to interview two unnamed advisers who the reporter confronted with the notes, was met with a flurry of indignation by a few individuals close to the negotiating process.
Within the encampment, delegates from Elsipogtog First Nation relayed the message that they had not only banned Barrera from the site, but had also gone so far as to ban the Aboriginal People's Television Network entirely from the encampment. This so-called ban appears to have been overturned, as APTN is now back on site.
Barrera, for his part, is sticking with the story.
“I stand by my story and everything that's reported in it,” says Barrera. “It's based on notes that were taken during the meeting and with conversations [with the advisers] afterwards.”
While Barrera and APTN determined that they would not name the advisers interviewed after the negotiations, the Halifax Media Co-op has learned that the two advisers were Tobique First Nations band member John Deveau and Listuguj First Nations band member Wendell Metallic.
The HMC has also learned that Deveau, under the company name Wolf Industries, has been contracted by the province of New Brunswick in his advisory role at the meetings. It is assumed that Deveau, through his company, has subcontracted an advisory position to Metallic.
Deveau has himself confirmed his provincial pay check, although when interviewed he could not remember which provincial department was actually employing him in this advisory capacity.
What this means, in effect, is that the two advisers working alongside Elsipogtog Chief Sock are actually New Brunswick provincial employees. The province, for it's part, has wholeheartedly embraced shale gas exploration, having handed over leases totalling over 1.4 million hectares.
So while Deveau has told the Halifax Media Co-op that: “I want to see this all end peacefully,” in reference to the ongoing blockade of SWN's equipment, it also appears that his financial allegiances lie with the pro-shale gas provincial government.
With Deveau having a hotline to Chief Sock's ear in high level negotiations, this makes for a potentially one-sided negotiation session with the province.
Deveau, with a United State military and police background, is himself no stranger to the pursestrings of Elsipogtog First Nation, and is currently on band payroll as a 'Wabanaki Peacekeeper'.
On June 27th, during the summer campaign against shale gas, Elsipogtog First Nation established the 'Elsipogtog Peacekeepers'. In a situation where dozens had already been arrested, some members of the community publicly welcomed the force as a means to intermediate between the RCMP and protestors.
The total neutrality of the Peacekeepers began to be brought into doubt when Deveau confirmed that during the summer months the group engaged in almost nightly conversations with the RCMP and representatives of SWN Resources Canada.
Deveau, with this particular brand of 'negotiating' skills, appears to have his sights fixed on the potential of personal profit from future resource-based conflicts between Indigenous peoples, in particular, and industry.
A recent proposal to Elsipogtog First Nation, which unconfirmed sources verify has been passed, reads:
“Predictably, resource based conflicts will continue into the future, as provinces continue with exploration and development activities without the "social license" of First Nations and surrounding communities.
The need for a neutral, well-organized, trained peacekeeping team that is focused on public safety and injury prevention is clear. Within the Public Safety Protocol under section 1, paragraph 6 it indicates the responsibility to establish a “Joint AFN/RCMP crisis response team.
To that end, I am requesting funding to operationally fund a peacekeeping team. The success of the project depends on the neutrality of the team, therefore no funding source will have a direct role in the team's work that will impact the team's neutrality.”
Public safety, of course, is of extreme importance. However, to portend neutrality on the one hand when requesting funds for a “peacekeeping team”, while drawing a provincial paycheck as a high-level advisor to a First Nations chief from a decidedly pro-shale gas government at the same time, suggests anything but.
In any case, it appears that Deveau, as director of operations of the Wabanaki Peacekeepers, currently draws a $60,000 salary from Elsipogtog First Nation. The financial breakdown of Deveau's request is as follows:
“4 full time positions will include: Director of operations $60,000.00 Field Operations Manager $52,000.00 Security Manager $46,800.00 Administrative Assistant $36,000.00 6 part time positions will include: Public Affairs Officer $600.00 / week Field Operators (5) $500.00 / week
Additional Resources will be needed for the team’s success to include: (3) SUV or Full size 4 door trucks with off road capability (1) Base Radio (8) Portable radios (3) Vehicle mounted mobile radios (1 per vehicle) (3) Cellular boosting packs for vehicle mounting (1 per vehicle) (3) First Aid equipment to include AED (1 per vehicle) (40) Shirts indicating peacekeeper team members – 2 short sleeved & 2 long sleeved per member (4) Cellular phones with e-mail capabilities (3) Cellular phones only call/text capabilities (10) Reflective multi-season coats – one per team member (6) Fire Fighting water packs as well as fire extinguisher for each vehicle (6) Panasonic Tough book style laptop computers (3) CAA Membership (1 per vehicle) (10) Surefire flashlights (rechargeable) (3) Vehicle booster packs (1 per vehicle) (3) Portable water coolers (1 per vehicle) (3) Fuel Cards (1 per vehicle)”
Further financial incentives for Deveau and Wolf Industries delve into the realm of conjecture at this point, but merit at least a paragraph of thought.
Wolf Industries is listed as a company specializing in: “Site preparation contractor, other heavy civil and engineering construction and landscaping services”.
Knowing this, there is always the potential that Deveau and Wolf Industries will indeed be triple-dipping on resource development - and Indigenous unrest - for years to come:
Firstly as a provincially-paid adviser for a pro-resource extraction government.
Secondly as the director of operations of a Elsipogtog Band-paid 'peacekeeping' force that can liaise between between industry, the band and RCMP, all the while keeping close tabs on Indigenous activists.
Thirdly, as a industrial contractor with a track record of doing government bidding on a variety of pre-resource development missions.
You can follow Miles Howe on twitter at: @MilesHowe