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Paper Tigers at Midnight

Elsipogtog Band notice to Texas-frackers goes unheeded.

by Miles Howe

Chief Arren Sock at yesterday's Treaty Day announcement. [Photo: M. Howe]
Chief Arren Sock at yesterday's Treaty Day announcement. [Photo: M. Howe]

Rexton, New Brunswick – After a euphoric Treaty Day, in which Chief Arren Sock of Elsipogtog First Nation announced to a crowd of hundreds that SWN Resources Canada had until midnight of last night to remove their seismic testing equipment from a currently blockaded compound along highway 134 in New Brunswick, an air of slight confusion has descended upon the encampment.

Midnight has come and past, and SWN's blockaded equipment, which includes five seismic testing trucks – or 'thumpers' – remains. Indeed, unconfirmed reports suggest that the Elsipogtog Band has not yet actually delivered their notice to representatives of the Texas-based gas exploration company.

Yesterday's announcement, did, however, serve to escalate tensions between the RCMP and those who continue to occupy the blockaded area. RCMP were not notified of the Elsipogtog Band notice prior to the chief's announcement, which understandably placed the police into a heightened state of readiness in the expectation of a potential pre-midnight action.

Indeed, it was up to the independently-run Mi'gmaw Warriors Society, who remain in force at the blockade, to re-open dialogue with RCMP negotiator Marc Boudreau, and assure the RCMP that they had also not been in dialogue with the Elsipogtog Band office concerning a planned action - and that they would in fact not be participating in any such action.

The Society is, for all intents and purposes, the only demonstrable force currently at the blockade with the potential ability to enforce the Elsipogtog Band's' notice, so there is a particular sense of confusion as to why the band would not engage in strategic dialogue with the Warriors as to how they planned on enforcing the notice.

It is important to note that during an extended summer campaign against shale gas exploration in Kent County, the RCMP at times ran roughshod over activists, dragging an elder to the ground, punching a woman in the mouth and disregarding sacred objects and people in prayer. Save for dragging one activist out of his car after he attempted to run the RCMP block with his automobile, there has not yet been an equivalent level of RCMP aggression. This despite the fact that activists have now created their own inner blockade of an Irving-owned compound.

Any analysis of RCMP reaction, and their current hesitancy to engage the activists, should not discount the presence of the Warriors.

As the midnight hour approached, neither the chief nor any band councillors returned to the encampment, nor have they yet returned.

Representatives of the Warrior Society have assured the anti-shale gas activists at the encampment that they will soon be engaging in negotiations with the provincial government of Nova Scotia, as well as the RCMP. These negotiations are expected to begin within the next few days, and the Society appears to remain committed to their originally stated position of no shale gas exploration in New Brunswick.

Questions remain, however, as to whether or not the Elsipogtog Band council plans on re-opening lines of communication with the Society, or if they have served yet SWN Resource Canada with their notice.

With midnight come and gone, and SWN's equipment still behind a fenced-in compound, anti-fracking activists at the roadblock now hesitantly await the Elsipogtog Band's next move, the as yet closely guarded 'Plan B'.


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