Mi'kmaq protest-Jen Choi

RCMP clash with Mi’kmaq fracking protestors: Who provoked whom?

Mi'kmaq protest-Jen Choi
photo: Jen Choi/CBC

They may call themselves the Mi’kmaq Warrior Society, but from all indications, this group of indigenous peoples was leading a peaceful protest against fracking in their territory when a platoon of heavily-armed, camouflaged RCMP officers descended upon their camp in Rexton, New Brunswick, early this morning.

The officers were enforcing an injunction against a two-week-long blockade of shale gas exploration activities by a subsidiary of Houston-based Southwestern Energy. The injunction was sought by the company, with whom the government has explicitly declined to broker a stand-down. According to an RCMP statement, at least 40 arrests have been made, with “hundreds” of RCMP officers now on the scene, according to a Mi’kmaq witness.

Heavy-handed tactics

APTN has been reporting on the heavy-handed tactics deployed by the RCMP on the peaceful gathering – including the use of dogs and firing of rubber bullets at protestors from the trees surrounding the camp.

APTN reporter Ossie Michelin says she heard one of the officers shout:

[quote]Crown land belongs to the government, not to fucking natives.[/quote]

A former chief of the Elsipogtog First Nation who is acting as a liaison between protestors and police, Susan Levi-Peters, told the Globe and Mail by phone:

[quote]It is really very volatile. It’s a head-to-head between the people and the RCMP right now and the Warriors are in the middle surrounded by the RCMP and then the RCMP are surrounded by the people…There are people who have been tasered.[/quote]

Not a criminal problem, but a political one

The RCMP, province and courts apparently fail to recognize that this is not a criminal matter (injunctions fall outside of the criminal code), but a political one. These Mi’kmaq peoples have identified a very real threat to their lands and waters from fracking and they aren’t being meaningfully listened to by any of the above parties.

The clash comes on the heels of France’s constitutional court ratifying a permanent national ban against fracking – and while neighbouring Quebec faces a NAFTA challenge from an American company over its moratorium on shale gas.

In BC, various First Nations are raising serious concerns over fracking and the proposed Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) industry that it would feed. The Mi’kmaq are right to be wary of letting this industry in the door.

Government sitting on sidelines

And yet, any solution to this plainly political dilemma is being undermined by an American company, at whose behest the RCMP acted today, while the government sits on the sidelines.

During an emergency meeting last week between NB Premier David Alward and Elsipogtog First Nation Chief Arren Sock, Alward declined to ask the company to withdraw its injunction to allow time for a proposed government-nation working group to resolve the underlying issues that prompted the blockade.

According to APTN, “Alward said he would not be contacting the company to discuss the situation because the issue was out of his hands.

[quote]The government does not direct how an injunction or how a legal process takes place.[/quote]

A letter delivered to Southwestern Energy by a Texas environmental group on behalf of the Mi’kmaq Warrior Society failed to persuade the company to back down from serving the injunction this week.

“These attacks to our people’s water source infringe on the integrity of our cultural resources and heritage in our region,” the letter said. “Allowing further development violates our treaty rights to not only hunt, fish and gather…but our treaty right, Aboriginal right and title right to the land and water itself.”

Another Oka?

There are still many unanswered questions about today’s standoff, but it is clear that these legal and police tactics will only further inflame the situation.

Ms. Levi-Peters raised the spectre of Oka – the armed standoff between Mohawk protestors and Quebec police, RCMP and military that gave Canada a black eye on the world’s stage.

[quote]It’s Oka all over again and it’s sad because we said all we need is public consultation…These Warrriors, they are not militant. They are youth and they have had enough.[/quote]

The blockade was being mounted with drums and feathers, Levi-Peters told the Globe and Mail, “and instead the government sent in the army on them.”

Now, more than ever, there is a need for peaceful, rational dialogue around an industry that poses significant environmental, health and economic threats to Canada’s indigenous peoples and citizens.

Premier Alward had the right idea establishing a working group to foster vital dialogue with Mi’kmaq leaders – but those good intentions have been severely undermined by the arcane, heavy-handed actions of an American fracking company and the RCMP.



About Damien Gillis

Damien Gillis is a Vancouver-based documentary filmmaker with a focus on environmental and social justice issues - especially relating to water, energy, and saving Canada's wild salmon - working with many environmental organizations in BC and around the world. He is the co-founder, along with Rafe Mair, of The Common Sense Canadian, and a board member of both the BC Environmental Network and the Haig-Brown Institute.

21 thoughts on “RCMP clash with Mi’kmaq fracking protestors: Who provoked whom?

  1. Nice article Gilles. This is a wild time and more people need to stand up for what’s right.

    I’m shocked people still want to lean against the Indians.

    Canada is not doing enough to treat our people with respect and honor the rights we should have in place.

    Jason Lewis

    1. Thanks Jason. Clearly, we have a long way to go as a nation, but it’s good to see this discussion happening around these issues in light of Elsipogtog, Idle No More, and the work of First Nations in BC around energy issues.

  2. Who brings deadly firearms and Molotov cocktails to a “peaceful protest”?? THE POLICE DO!!!!!!! (guns, tear gas, pepper spray, ect….)I believe everyone has the right to voice an EDUCATED opinion. But when ignorance is the backbone of your statements – Glenn Dunn, you kinda make yourself look not so smart. The thing you may not realize is that they would shoot you too for protecting your own back yard. Then make you look like a lier when you try to get support. All in the name of money.

  3. I would like to use these photos to represent my work in a university level assignment. So I have used the correct citations to use the pictures to avoid any issues. Thank you.

    I am writing this for my native studies class. It would mean a lot if people would get educated on these important events before making uneducated guesses on media publications. I don’t always talk to uneducated people but when I do, they don’t reply back.

  4. Your article is extremely inflammatory and in most cases very inaccurate. Clearly, your absurd rhetoric was done on purpose to instill division and to promote your un-scientific, Environmental Radicalism with continued fear-mongering lies.

    1) “this group of indigenous peoples was leading a peaceful protest against fracking in their territory”…
    oh really??? Who brings deadly firearms and Molotov cocktails to a “peaceful protest”??

    2) “in their territory”
    oh really??? This native blockade WAS NOT on “their territory” it is on Crown Land.

    3) “when a platoon of heavily-armed, camouflaged RCMP officers”
    Oh really??? In FACT, if you look closely at the main picture you provided, these RCMP officers ARE NOT “heavily -armed” and ARE NOT “camouflaged”. Clearly you are distorting the FACTS, from what I’ve seen nearly everywhere, there may have been two or three “heavily-armed, camouflaged RCMP officers”. And I’m willing to say, with much confidence, there were probably 20 times more natives “camouflaged”. Hmmmm……

    I could go on and on but I’m pretty sure you are now seeing my point….the natives were at an ILLEGAL roadblock with deadly weapons on Crown Land. PERIOD. They are now and never have been “above the law” and “they” clearly and admittedly are BREAKING THE LAW…..PERIOD.

    And you wonder why most Canadians DO NOT take anything you ( Radical Environmentalists) say seriously? Quite trying to lie, mis-represent and fear-monger the populace and Canadians just might listen abit more. Because this crap rhetoric hasn’t and never will work to further a cause that has some merit that YOU and YOU alone are just destroying.

    1. MY article is inflammatory, Glenn? Who are you kidding?!

      What’s inflammatory is an American company obtaining an injunction against a group of peaceful protestors with legitimate rights and responsibilities to protect their land – then the government watching on the sidelines as heavily-armed police arrest their chief, their elders, fire rubber bullets, etc.

      Radical? What did I say? “Now, more than ever, there is a need for peaceful, rational dialogue around an industry that poses significant environmental, health and economic threats to Canada’s indigenous peoples and citizens.”

      That’s radical?

      As to your questions:

      1. I don’t claim to know exactly what happened with the cars – nor can you with any certainty, unless you were there – but it was a peaceful protest until the police showed up.

      2. Mi’kmaq have a constitutional claim to unceded territory – so as to being on crown land, that’s an open question. They are rightly concerned that opening the door to fracking will negatively affect their territory. As I’ve stated here, this is a political matter, between indigenous and non-indigenous governments – not a situation for the police to interject themselves into.

      3. There are lots of other pictures available online of officers in camouflage with assault rifles. The CBC carried these images early yesterday. Just because the photo I chose here doesn’t contain an officer in camouflage doesn’t mean they weren’t there.

      1. You don’t bring explosives, firearms, Molotov cocktails and various other things to a peaceful protest. The cops are supposed to enforce a court injunction, they didn’t just make it all up. And they didn’t make the energy policies. Some people were there just to push the envelope. There are lots of video’s showing behaviour a normal person would not have to put up with. And if you want pictures of natives in camouflage, that’s out there too. Peaceful?? I think not. Being extreme left wing is no better than the extreme right wing.

    2. I have been following this, and as you are challenging several statements in the article can you provide any support?
      Where does it say they were armed and carrying Molotov cocktails? If not in this article is it mentioned anywhere else?
      The article states they were fired upon from the trees, I am assuming thats where the camouflaged people were involved, and would not be visible in a single picture…is the use of dogs also being disputed?

  5. I can’t believe that a bunch of heavily armed men cannot prevent their cars from being set on fire. A put up job perhaps. We are being occupied by the oil and gas corporations. If the farmers in the Peace area complain about what is happening to their water and livestock the police come around and threaten them.

  6. Sorry you can replace thee’ cursing with something more “Profound!!!” I’m just about fed up with this ALL!!! Thank you “VERY,” much for allowing me to comment, even though I went a lil’ over board… Guess thats why “Proof,” readers/ “Editors,” are “GREAT,” to consider!!! 😀 ONE LOVE!!! This Planet “NEEDS,” all of us as one & all the “HELP,” it can Receive!!! Truly does… Have a “More,” than “Great,” evening…

  7. This is “OUTRAGEOUS!!!” if they decided they don’t want you “DESTROYING!!!” or USING there land for “CORPORATE,” GAIN instead of “CARING,” about our planet & the nature involved, this WHOLE Business ran world isn’t keeping up with the people that don’t want it that way so, in the END you are LOOSING this SILENT WAR!!N GAURANTEED!!! MARK MY WORDS!!! They/ These BEASUTIFUL!!! SOULS the “MI’KMAQ,” have “EVERY,” RIGHT to stand up and fight for the “EVOLUTION,” the “PURITY!!!”of this planet, how do you “RCMP,” officers fucking feel about yourselves now, are you FUCKING “PROUD!!!” of what you became & how you are “HELPING,” the “WRONG/ DISGUSTING!!!” people of this GOD DAMN planet do, You don’t “ACTUALLY,” think you “BETTERED!!!” this place by “ARRESTING!!!” 40 PLUS “INNOCENT,” PEOPLE, MY GOD, WHAT HAVE YOU; “LACK OF A HUMAN!!! RACE BECOME” YOU MAKE ME FUCKING “SICK!!!” KARMA IS GOING TO GET “ALLLLL!!!” OF YOU!!! JUST WAIT AND SEE HOW QUICK IT HAPPENS TOO!!! YOU JUST WAIT AND SEE!!! THIS IS THE NEW WORLD!!! YOUR TIME AND THE FOLLOWERS BEHIND YOU, YOUR TIMES UP!!! THIS ENDS NOW!!!

  8. Its interesting when you think about it.

    The fracking agenda in New Brunswick amounts to what BC has done before breakfast today, yet in New Brunswick there is militant protest, and here in “green super natural BC” its all milk and honey.

    I wonder if what we are seeing is a difference between the leadership of Atleo from BC and his nemesis Pam Palmater from New Brunwsick?

    The Mi’kmaq lands like BC are unceded so the similarities are striking yet the response could not be more different.

    BCs Fracking agenda is many many times greater and our response seems far far less.

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