Solidarity actions have erupted in support of the Mi'kmaq people who are leading opposition to fracking in New Brunswick. There have been actions in Caledonia and Burnt Church, where First Nations have had their own blockades defending their land, and also actions in dozens of other cities uniting indigenous and non-indigenous people.
Indigenous sovereignty and solidarity
Despite the possibility, and urgent need, of clean energy alternative, fracking and tar sands are destroying the earth. Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is a growing industry that injects water, sand and chemicals into the earth to release gas--destroying the environment in the process. Throughout the continent, opposition to fracking has grown rapidly. Residents in areas where fracking has gone ahead are spreading the word about poisoned water sources, ruined agricultural land and health impacts.
For months a coalition of indigenous, Acadian and anglophone people have been building opposition to SWN Resources Canada's plans for hydraulic fracturing (fracking). The land in question is claimed by Mi’qmak people, who were never consulted about the development in their territory.
The Elsipogtog First Nation band council passed a resolution taking authority over all unoccupied crown lands in their territory. On October 2, Elsipogtog Chief Arren Sock served an eviction notice on SWN Resources. A blockade of First Nation protesters, environmentalists and local non-aboriginal residents trapped the “thumper trucks” that test for exploitable shale gas beds.
First attack: financial
The provincial Tories, with Stephen Harper’s blessing, are hell-bent to develop shale gas extraction in rural NB. The Canadian state's first plan of attack was financial, using the withholding of resources as a weapon--a common colonial tactic. The band reported that the Canada Revenue Agency is demanding repayment of an three-year old debt, and the Aboriginal Affairs ministry is threatening to withhold transfer payments–including more than $2 million in tuition fees–until the debt is paid.
Activists accuse the Harper government of pressuring the community in punishment for the protests. “It is too coincidental. It popped up all of a sudden when everyone started protesting,” Elsipogtog councilor Scott Sanipass told the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN). “They could have done it six months ago, two years ago, but it just shows up now.”
Second attack: physical
When that failed to end the protest, the Canadian state resorted to physical violence. As one bystander described the early morning raid by para-military RCMP forces, "they came ready for war." A phalanx of police in riot gear advanced on the blockade with guns drawn, tazers and dogs. Camouflaged snipers hid in the surrounding brush.
The people linked arms and resisted. “A lot of women were attacked in the front line. One woman was praying and was maced in the eyes," Susan Levi-Perf said. "They were shooting our people with rubber bullets–and we were there with just our drums and eagle feathers.” The police arrested 40 protesters, including Chief Arren Sock of the Elsipogtog First Nation.
Third attack: ideological
Colonial racism has been driving and justifying the attack. An APTN reporter overheard a police officer participating in the raid saying "Crown land belongs to the government, not to fucking natives." Despite a para-military attack on people defending their land from destructive fracking, governments, police and media are working overtime to portray First Nations activists as terrorists--pointing to burnt police cars and supposed weapons collections.
But there is no evidence these were the result of the blockade, and these issues distract from the violence of fracking, the violence used against the blockade, the right of indigenous people to control and to defend their land. Disgracefully, the leadership of the New Brunswick NDP has fallen in step, calling for “the rule of law” to remove all blockades, and defending the “investment and jobs” falsely promised by the fracking industry.
But none of these attacks are working. Rallies in cities across the land have declared support for Elsipogtog; First Nations, like the Haudenosaunee at Caledonia, have peacefully blockaded highways and sent support.
As Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs said, “This could easily happen in any First Nation community across Canada and in particular in British Columbia and today, we stand in complete solidarity with the Elsipogtog people to express our full support and continue our mutual fight against the devastating and destructive practices of resource exploration and extraction activities within our territories. This display of brute force is completely ugly, outrageous and harkens back to the Oka, Ipperwash and Caledonia conflicts."
It is up to all of us to support indigenous activists as allies in the growing battle to defend the land and water from destructive corporate greed. The indigenous-led coalition resisting in Elsipogtog has called for solidarity: "Here are a few ideas on how to be part of it:
*Visit the sacred fire, meet people from around the Maritimes, share your own concerns, and be part of the day’s activities
*Make a monetary donation or a donation in kind
*Stage an anti-fracking event in your own community
*Organize public education, such as leafleting, mail drops and door-to-door canvassing
*Write your elected officials
*Tell your local media how much you value fair and balanced coverage of fracking and anti-fracking activities"
For those who can't attend in person, you can collect signatures from your neighoubourhood, campus or workplace on these solidarity signs, and then mail them to:
Council of Elsipogtog First Nation.
373 Big Cove Road
Elsipogtog First Nation, NB