Members of the Mi’kmaq Warriors Society are on tour, building the successful resistance and solidarity that stopped fracking in Elsipogtog.
In December, shale gas exploration company SWN Canada withdrew its seismic equipment from rural New Brunswick. They claimed they had completed their tests and promised to return in 2015. The truth is that a resolute anti-fracking movement—led by Mi’kmaq people from Elsipogtog and Eskasoni First Nations and supported by local Acadian and Anglo working people—stopped or delayed SWN’s testing at every turn.
After seven months of blockades, encampments, occupations and mass protests, the movement forced the corporation to withdraw. Massive armed attacks on protestors by RCMP failed to shut down mostly peaceful resistance, usually led by Mi’kmaq women. SWN’s retreat occurred shortly after a day of solidarity actions in towns and cities across Canada showed growing awareness and support for the struggle.
This is an important victory, a battle won in the bigger war to protect the land and water from fracking. The victory did not come easy, facing financial, physical and ideological attacks—and ongoing criminal charges, fines and detention. The RCMP presence was massive and intimidating, and peaceful protestors report being insulted, taunted and threatened. Court injunctions were granted to break up the camps. The same courts refused to consider legal arguments that, since all the land was unceded Mi’kmaq territory, it was SWN that was illegally on the land.
The fight has also raised big debates within First Nations communities. Initially, the Assembly of First Nations New Brunswick supported government and corporate plans for fracking. An important early victory came when two Elsipogtog activists used a hunger strike to force AFNNB to reconsider and listen to grass roots opposition voices. Subsequently three Mi’kmaq First Nations, including Elsipogtog, have withdrawn from AFNNB.
In the face of all this, solidarity from settler communities in New Brunswick and nationally was crucial. “Often misunderstood by the general public, too, is that the people of Elsipogtog have widespread support from Acadians and Anglos in the area,” wrote Métis activist Chelsea Vowel in the Toronto Star. “In fact, the majority of people living in New Brunswick support a moratorium on fracking, in direct opposition to Premier David Alward’s wholehearted embracing of shale gas exploration. Opposition to fracking is not a fringe position; it is the majority position in the Atlantic provinces and elsewhere throughout Canada.”
Now members of the Mi’kmaq Warriors Society are on a speaking tour of the West Coast, prairies and Southern Ontario. As Suzanne Patles explained, “We’re going to be discussing the Mi’kmaq Warriors Society’s involvement in the indigenous resurgence that has occurred in our territory and we’re going to be discussing the mistreatment of our political prisoners of war. We’re also going to speak about our treaties and our rights, we’re going to be speaking about the sacredness of the water, how resource development negates our rights, and how important it is to take a stand.”
To find the tour date near you visit the facebook event page