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Injunction against anti-shale gas activists issued, but Elsipogtog councillor says Premier Alward is willing to talk

It now comes down to trusting the RCMP...

by Miles Howe

RCMP negotiator Denise Vautour on the phone with 'Kevin'. RCMP negotiator Boudreau looks on. [Photo: M.Howe]
RCMP negotiator Denise Vautour on the phone with 'Kevin'. RCMP negotiator Boudreau looks on. [Photo: M.Howe]

Rexton, New Brunswick – News has arrived at the anti-shale gas blockade that a New Brunswick court has issued an injunction against the action, which will be enforceable until October 12th. Apparently, SWN Resources Canada applied for the injunction on Wednesday, and that a judge issued it only hours ago.

Moments ago, Robert Levi, councillor for Elsipogtog First Nation, addressed an understandably tense crowd at the compound. Levi noted that he had met with New Brunswick Premier David Alward earlier in the day. Levi said that Alward is in fact prepared to meet with a small group of the anti-shale activists, and that removing the tree barricade that now blocks SWN's equipment was not a precursor to any meeting. Levi noted that the Premier was hesitant to meet with any member of the Mi'kmaq Warrior Society.

During the meeting, Levi also noted that he had just received a text from 'Kevin', a senior member of the RCMP's 'J Division'. Levi noted that 'Kevin', whose name has been heard numerous times in discussions with RCMP negotiators Denise Vautour and Marc Boudreau, guaranteed him that the RCMP would not enforce the injunction against the blockade until dialogue with the Premier had ceased.

There are, of course, several loose ends that now loom over the anti-shale gas blockade.

The first, of course, is the necessity of taking a text from an as-yet unseen RCMP negotiator at face value. RCMP forces remain at both ends of the treed-in area. While foot traffic is currently still allowed in and out of the RCMP block, the police have today placed down orange barriers at both sides of their block.

The second unknown in this situation is that Chief Sock's eviction notice, now being called a 'Notice of Trespass', has still not been amended by the Mi'kmaq Grand Council. Needless to say, without the proper signatures from either Sock, his councillors, or Grand Keptin of district six, Noel Augustine, the notice, whatever it is at this point, has not even been delivered to SWN.

The third unknown, which is an unfortunate commonality amongst many of Canada's First Nations' reserves, is the financial pressure now being applied to Elsipogtog First Nation.

Rumours have circulated for days that the proverbial financial screws are being applied to the band, and that third party receivership is a looming threat. In his address to the activists, Levi briefly alluded to issues of federal and provincial financial pressures that comprised the brunt of today's discussions with Premier Alward.

Of course, this third point remains within the realm of internal band politics, but it does cast a measure of doubt on how far the push from the Elsipogtog Band can take the current action against a Texas-based gas company with deep pockets.

The American financial situation has caused SWN Resources stocks to recently take a fall, but millions of dollars of seismic testing equipment now being held by a committed band of anti-shale gas activists must surely stick in their proverbial craw.

Something along the lines of a hand delivered notice of eviction, or trespass – whatever – from Chief Sock to SWN Resources office in Moncton might go far as a show of good faith from levels of Indian Act and 'traditional' government.

Undoubtedly, the opposition against shale gas exploration and drilling in New Brunswick goes far beyond the community of Elsipogtog, or even the Indigenous community of the area.

Even now, with the overhanging threat of an injunction in which every John or Jane Doe has been named, the road blocked compound along highway 134 streams with Acadian and local non-Indigenous families. It remains, as it has from its inception, a safe and welcoming space for children to play amongst the fallen trees. Whether the intimidatory effect of a New Brunswick court injunction changes the mood of this encampment remains to be seen.

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