Canada: Violence Erupts at Fracking Protest

B. McPherson
Peaceful fracking protest turns ugly in Canada as RCMP close in.
Violence broke out in the hamlet of Rexton, New Brunswick when police officers, armed and with dogs attempted to clear what had been a peaceful road blockade. The police were enforcing a court order to clear the road to a fracking company compound which held fracking equipment.

Access to equipment owned by SWN Resources was barred by local the local Elsipogtog First Nation when progress on negotiations broke down. The road was blocked on September 30th. A court order was issued on October 3rd to clear the access. October 18 RCMP moved in.

In the chaos that ensued Chief Arren Sock and Elsipogtog Council members were arrested. This sparked outrage among the protesters. Rocks were thrown, tear gas fired, non-lethal ‘sock bullets’ were fired and five police cars were torched.

The violence sparked protests across the country.

Ken Coates, an historian specializing in affairs of indigenous people, is quoted on the national news service:

"When you get to this point, sometimes you've been waiting too long and you've got a situation where First Nations have basically concluded 'We've got nothing to lose in this regard, we can't let this development take place because we haven't got enough assurances that our concerns are being taken seriously,''' he said. "And, so it actually is hard to get back from this place. CBC News

While there are those who say that a court order must be obeyed, when dealing with First Nations it is not so clear. Many land claims remain unresolved after more than 100 years, and native people are increasingly impatient with the delays. Younger people have also become more impatient with ongoing treaty talks leading to the Idle No More movement.

Shawn Atleo, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, was quoted in the Globe and Mail:

“Today’s actions and numerous arrests, including members of the Chief and Council, are a direct affront to your efforts at reaching a diplomatic solution,” Mr. Atleo wrote. “Please know that we – and First Nations across the country – stand proudly in solidarity with you and your community.”Globe andMail

Canadian taxpayers have paid large amounts of money to compensate the native populations over the years, but a huge bureaucracy eats up the lion’s share of the money. Currently a representative from the UN is touring Canada looking into the sometimes appalling living conditions of our native people.

The shale gas rush has sparked environmental concerns in many areas of the world. Concerns over the release of radioactive gases, methane, butane, benzene and secret fracking fluids damaging air and water quality have been raised. For every well fracked about a million litres of water is used and then must be dealt with as toxic waste.

In the US fracking has been touted as a way to make that country energy self-sufficient, but the corporations are liquefying the natural gas and exporting it leading to speculation that the boom will end in about 20 years.

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