Judge’s ruling on Monday favors fracking company over Elsipogtog’s water, land, treaty rights
Last week, the Elsipogtog First Nation filed an application for an injunction to stop SWN Resources Canada from conducting seismic testing for shale gas. The “urgent” application called for a suspension of SWN operations under oil and gas licenses, and said that it was
required to preserve the peace and rights of the First Nation. It says the exploration by SWN is illegal and unconstitutional because it violates aboriginal and treaty rights.
“On the other hand, there is credible evidence that outside radical elements are converging in significant numbers on New Brunswick [in] the vicinity of the shale gas exploration work that the respondents SWN proposes to recommence,” the application says.
Canada’s CBC reports that in
her decision Monday, Justice Judy Clendening said it was an “odd request” for the First Nation to seek an injunction against SWN due the risk of violent protests.
“The respondents [SWN and the province] are not inciting this reaction and there is no evidence that the respondents will interfere with a peaceful protest,” she wrote.
“The threat of radical elements converging is not a reasonable factor to be considered.”
Following the ruling, Elsipogtog Chief Aaron Sock said, “It is a small step backward, I guess. But in the big picture we’re going to be regrouping and coming back with a different strategy.”
“The fight between Elsipogtog First Nation and the government of New Brunswick concerning the lack of consultation is far from over,” added T.J. Burke, the lawyer representing Sock and band council of the community.
Opposition to fracking in the province is widespread.
“New Brunswickers aren’t going to give up – not those of us who are intent on sending this industry packing,” said Shawnee Main, a Fredericton resident and one of the many allies of the protesters. “And our indigenous people have a lot of people standing up behind them in this cause.”
Resistance to fracking in New Brunswick has been raging for weeks, despite SWN’s failed attempt to get a permanent injunction against protests.
Just four days ago, First Nations protesters attempted to blockade SWN trucks from conducting seismic testing.
And in mid-October, a paramilitary-style assault on an Elsipogtog blockade of SWN’s fracking activity sparked protests that swept the nation.
“SWN is violating our treaty rights. We are here to save our water and land, and to protect our animals and people. There will be no fracking at all,” said Louis Jerome, a Mi’kmaq sun dancer of the Gesgapegiag community, in a statement earlier this month. “We are putting a sacred fire here, and it must be respected. We are still here, and we’re not backing down.”