What’s Happening to the Humble Herring?

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For the past three weeks, a great tragedy has been unfolding along the eastern shores of the Bay of Fundy. Dead herring are washing up on beaches from east of Yarmouth to north of Digby. For those from “away,” this is in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia, which since time immemorial is unceded Mi’kmaq territory.

Darren Porter, a local weir fisherman, is an informed advocate for the health of the Fundy, Minas Basin and Cobequid Bay. Porter is a founding member of the Fundy United Federation, 1 a think-tank of scientists, people with profound experiential knowledge, and allied organizations concerned about regional marine life conservation, protection of habitat and sustainable and traditional fisheries, and food sovereignty.

For almost three weeks, Porter has been Fundy United’s “point-man” for people concerned about the future of the humble herring in western Nova Scotia. His phone has been ringing non-stop. He is bombarded with emails and texts from ordinary people alarmed at seeing the beached dead herrings. Porter estimates that more than 100,000 herring have already been found dead along the shore.

The Government of Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) is the agency responsible for protection of the Fundy shore and fisheries. DFO began investigating on November 22nd, after several reports of dead and dying herring. Darren Porter has been in daily contact with them, reporting on this awful situation.

The beautiful Bay of Fundy has a magnificently abundant marine life. Many people make a portion or all of their livelihoods from sustainable fisheries on the Fundy. It is also a tremendous eco-tourism attraction for both provinces abutting the Bay, as well as the north coast of Maine. Many come to the Fundy to see the “highest tides in the world,” and enjoy the beaches, trails, ferry ride, views, quiet resorts and bed-and-breakfasts, farmers’ markets, and gourmet wineries. There are also many recreational fishers on the Bay.

Whatever happens to marine life and health on one side of the Fundy impacts the economies and communities in the provinces on both sides. And, both the Government of New Brunswick (GNB) and the Government of Nova Scotia (GNS) have fisheries and environment departments.

Although one might assume that DFO or GNS would inform GNB, so far there is no evidence that GNB is concerned about this crisis.

Perhaps even worse, GNS does not seem deeply invested in the future of Humble Herring, Bay of Fundy fisheries in general or food sovereignty. On August 23, 2016, GNS Environment Minister Margaret Miller was nonchalant on fishery issues, telling Fundy United 2 that “Resources evolve – there was once 3000 farms in Nova Scotia and now there are only 300.” The question arises: is GNS forgetting that local fishers, farmers and tradespeople are what keep communities together in our rural Maritime areas?

Quite simply, more than three weeks after of massive die-offs, the abutting provinces are not really engaged in solutions. DFO appears no closer to identifying the cause of this mysterious crisis.

This backgrounder compiles information from community members, especially from the Fundy United organization. It is being shared to help the Humble Herring, on whom so much depends.

About the Humble Herring

Atlantic Herring usually travel in huge, fast-moving schools around fishing banks and near the coast. These migratory fish feed on plankton and small sea creatures found near or on the surface of ocean waters. Larger surface fish follow and feed on the herring, so during the day, they swim below the surface. The herring move close to the surface when night comes and the danger of predators lessens.

herring-1“Herring feed everything,” says Darren Porter. “Without herring, we have a catastrophe on our hands.” Predators of herring include seabirds, marine mammals, and larger surface fish such sharks, tuna, salmon, striped bass, cod, and halibut. People also eat this oily fish: raw, fermented, pickled, smoked, salted, etc. Herring roe is valued by some. Herring are commercially important in another way: they are used for shellfish traps and pots.

“Based on work I have been doing in the Bay,” says Porter, “here is the breakdown on the stock:

  1. “The Bay is the nursery area for four stocks (populations), three of these spawn here, and one spawns along the Maine coast, which all contribute juveniles to the Bay.
  2. “A small stock, estimated at 500 metric tons spawns inside Minas Basin in Spring (April-May). These are the large herring caught in weirs and gill nets inside the Basin in spring.
  3. “A larger stock estimated at 50,000 metric tons spawns in Minas Channel (off Scots Bay) in August-September. These are the large fish the herring seiners go after in that region.
  4. “The largest stock of 100,000+ metric tons spawns on Lurcher Shoal off Yarmouth in the fall (October-November). These also are the herring that seiners and gill-netters take in that region. They want them for their eggs to ship to Japan.
  5. “Finally a stock spawns on the Maine coast south of Grand Manan, and make their way to the Bay of Fundy. I do not know much about this population but could find out if needed.
  6. “The adults of each stock are more or less in their spawning area once a year to reproduce. Then when it is not spawning period these stocks mix together and move all over the Bay and north along the Nova Scotia shore to Chedabucto Bay, where most overwinter.
  7. “The young from each stock hatch out and the larvae largely remain near their spawning site until they become small juveniles or ‘brit’. As the juveniles grow, they migrate around the Bay of Fundy concentrating for longer periods of time in the regions of upwelling (Minas Channel and Passage, the Passamaquoddy Bay Channels, and off Brier Island).
  8. “At this point, the stocks are mixed together but individual schools are largely stock and size discrete. For example, in Minas Passage there is a large concentration of ‘brit’ (1 year old juveniles) during fall, winter and spring (probably many stocks). In late winter and spring the adults that spawn inside Minas Basin migrate through both in and out. From May to July, a huge migration of what we call ‘June Herring’ migrate through the Passage, moving inward and outward, and very occasionally penetrating as far as Cobequid Bay. ‘June’ herring are 2-3 year old juveniles and probably a mixture of all the spawning stocks in the Bay of Fundy. It is these fish that concentrate around Passamaquoddy Bay in late summer-fall and are taken in the weirs there for the sardine factory at Blacks Harbour.

“In short though, I want to emphasize that our herring has been in the best shape lately that it has been for years. I know that the World Wildlife Fund found that two herring stocks in the Gulf of St. Lawrence are in trouble, saying that predators are not being addressed adequately by DFO. However, those herring communities are quite distant from the current die-off.”

The Herring Troubles

Darren Porter estimates that well over 100,000 dead herring have beached on the eastern shore of the Bay of Fundy in the past three week. From what he has seen, it is pretty much all adults that are coming on the beaches dead or dying.

Many concerned people have commented that the number of dead herring in Nova Scotia is much higher than what has been reported, because many dead animals would have disappeared beneath the waves or been eaten by crows and gulls.

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In an November 30 2016 Digby Courier article, University of Saskatchewan wildlife biologist Dr. Ted Leighton poses the question, “What percentage of the fish is washing up? Is this one percent, five percent? No one knows. But it’s a lot of fish. What part of St. Mary’s Bay is affected? And now the Annapolis Basin? It could be millions. It could be much more.” 3

“This amount of mortality doesn’t look like a parasite to me, but that will be easy to determine,” continues Leighton. “It could be some kind of toxic algal bloom, the Gulf of Maine is crazy warm right now. But again DFO will be able to test for all the known marine toxins. If it isn’t one of those easy to test for causes, we may never know.” One of the issues raised by Leighton and others is that it appears only the one species is affected. “But we don’t know if herring is the only species dying because we don’t know what is behind this or where it is happening,” he said. “Are other animals washing up in other places? We don’t know.”

Two shallow divers within the affected area have told Darren Porter they could “touch the herring in the water.” This is extremely abnormal for such a fast moving fish with evident awareness of the hazards of predation. As well, fishermen in the Minas Passage area report seeing fish swimming strangely. Other reports have noted seeing seagulls pick up herring in open water. Clearly, the herring are not behaving normally.herring-2

Community members who are reporting the beached dead herring are confounded by why so many are just lying there, not being eaten by scavengers. As some have pointed out, often an animal can tell if something is not fit to eat. Most agree it probably just looks like they are not being eaten because there are so many of them. Perhaps the gulls cannot keep up?

What We Know

Although we do not know what is causing this die-off, informed observers have listed a wide range of possible causes. These include:

  1. parasites
  2. noise from explosions such as seismic testing
  3. fishery by-catch or a dumped catch at sea
  4. predation, pushing them to shore
  5. contamination through toxins in the water, such as algae bloom, pollution runoff from herbicides and/or pesticides, an industrial sewage or chemical dump; leakage from Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station, etc.
  6. bacterial disease
  7. viral disease
  8. pressure on the species due to ocean acidity or higher temperature, due to climate changes
  9. lack of food
  10. environmental stress from in-stream tidal industry, including noise, vibrations, and pressure changes from turbines

Possible Cause 1 – Parasites

Parasites were strongly suspected by some because of the 1956 parasite infection that devastated the western Bay herring and some of the fish that eat the herring. In this case, the first round of tests done by DFO did not confirm parasites. DFO has now sent off samples to external labs with greater capacity. However, it looks unlikely that this is the cause.

Possible Cause 2 – Noise from Seismic Testing, etc.

Aside from the in-stream tidal turbines, it is not known if seismic activity or other very loud, very vibrational, industry has been occurring in the Bay of Fundy. There was some mention of work planned or underway to prepare the site on the other side of the Bay for the proposed TransCanada EnergyEast pipeline terminus, however it is not known if that could be relevant in any way, or if it is ongoing. The International Fund for Animal Welfare‘s research marine animals sensitivity to sound and vibration is summed up with “Anthropogenic noise interferes and overwhelms.” 4

Possible Cause 3 – Fishery By-Catch or Dump

Not likely a cause after three weeks of continuous beachings. Art MacKay from Fundy Tides 5on the New Brunswick side of the Fundy comments that he has seen research on “illegal catches, which are sold at sea, and if released, they can live for some time before they die.”

Possible Cause 4 – Predators

“I would go for ruling that out now, given the scope of the problem,” Biology professor Shawn Craik from Sainte-Anne University in western Nova Scotia said.6 Common sense also says it is not likely that predation is the cause. The herring are not reacting normally. As Porter said, divers have been able to reach out and touch herring, and fishermen have watched seagulls pulling live fish out of the ocean. This indicates a much more complex problem than predators.

Possible Cause 5 – Contamination through Toxins in the Water

Porter asked DFO if tests had been done on the water. He was told “that is the protocol,” but was not told if they had been done or not – nor, if so, what the results were. Hopefully this information can be forthcoming very soon. Dr. Craik also observed, “If there was a toxin getting into these fish and being passed on the scavengers, you would expect that someone, somewhere would find some dead gulls,” he said, adding that no such reports have come in (see footnote 6). MacKay also commented that Lepreau contamination is not a likely cause because Fundy Tides “did the current circulation for this, and it goes to Grand Manan on the ebb and the inner Bay on the flood.” However, all possible causes need thorough investigation.

Possible Cause 6 – Bacterial Disease

DFO has sent off sample fish for further study, but to date no one has suggested a bacterial infection that might actually have the seen effects. The point has been made by some concerned citizens that we may indeed be looking at something completely new. There is, however, a huge fish farming industry in Nova Scotia, accidents have been known to happen, and fish farms too frequently have problems with bacterial infections, which can spread to wild populations.

Possible Cause 7 – Viral Disease

This is another cause that some people strongly suspect. Viral Haemorrhagic Septicaemia Virus (VHSV) is also often a by-product of fish farms. On August 25, 2016, The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) confirmed that VHSV has been detected in wild Atlantic herring in Newfoundland and Labrador. 7 It remains to be determined by the further tests commissioned by DFO whether VHSV is the culprit, however most people who have reported seeing dead herring say they look healthy. Animals sick with VHSV usually do not look healthy.

Possible Cause 8 – Effects related to Climate Change on the Ocean

Prof. Ted Leighton was quoted above talking about the “crazy warm” temperatures we have been experiencing and it is well known that the ocean is rapidly becoming more acidic, for example. If this is the cause, it falls into the category of something entirely new and not seen before in human history. At this stage, Porter says, he has been assured by DFO that “nothing has been ruled out.” No stone can be left unturned with this crucial marine food-chain fish population.

Possible Cause 9  Lack of Food 

MacKay comments this is unlikely, having observed “Populations of copepods and krill in the Bay have been impacted in recent years, causing serious shifts in some marine species. Right Whales are actually the best indicator along with Phalarops. When they don’t arrive there is trouble. Actually this seemed like a good year.”

 Possible Cause 10 – Environmental Stress from In-Stream Tidal Power Industry

This is a difficult cause to assess for likelihood. On one hand, the dead herring we can see on the shores are quite distant from the location of the new Cape Sharp turbine installed at Minas Passage in early November. Some say this is irrelevant: we need divers to look at the Cobequid and Fundy bay floors to see how many dead fish have fallen down there.

Most significantly, the die-off started right after a new turbine was lowered into the Bay at Minas Passage area. So this possibility must be seriously investigated. To date, it seems to not be duly considered. “Fish die for many reasons when interacting with tidal turbines,” says Darren Porter. Although mortality from direct strike is a major issue, “actually the blades don’t have to hit the fish to kill them.”

Two years before the new turbine at Minas Passage was installed, the Vice-President of Fundy United Dr. Mike Dadswell challenged claims from the government and industrial proponents (GNS, FORCE, and Cape Sharp) that the installation would be environmentally friendly. In an October 2014 interview, Dadswell said, “there is no such thing as a ‘fish-friendly’ hydroelectric turbine,” and he “asks why Nova Scotia would risk collapsing a $100 million fishery.” 8

Dadswell is very familiar with the older tidal energy installation at Annapolis Royal. Regarding direct strike mortality, he recalls you can see a “wall” of seagulls come in when the turbines are in generating mode. 9 “Regardless of what they say” these two installations are very similar. Both are “axial-flow hydraulic-lift turbines,” although the one at Minas Passage spins a little slower. One difference is that Annapolis Royal has a tube entrance, where the Minas Passage turbine is open, but the opening is 16 metres across, backed by something with the impact of 1000 tonnes, moving at about 30 kph at the tip of the blades. From the herring’s perspective, he likens this to a person being hit by an 18-wheeler at 30 kph.

Herrings are particularly sensitive to noise, vibrations, and pressure changes.

  • Sound waves can have a multitude of negative effects on the herring’s sensitive physostomous swim bladders. They can create lesions or rupture swim bladders, which is what fish use to control the depth at which they are traveling in the water. For a general discussion of the impact of sound waves on fish with swim bladders, see this footnoted article from the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 10
  • Herring are also very susceptible to the pressure itself. Turbines generate power using a “pressure drop across the blade,” as Dr. Dadswell explains. “When fish are moving in the water, they have a certain amount of gas in their swim bladders, and when they come to turbines, pressure changes cause their gas bladders to expand rapidly” (see footnote 9). A report from Washington State University observes:

“If the pressure change happens too quickly the fish would be unable to control their buoyancy and, like an inexperienced scuba diver, would either sink to the bottom or float to the surface. During this time the fish would become disoriented and risk being caught by predators. In a worst-case scenario, severe pressure changes could cause internal hemorrhaging and death.” 11

  • The industry has designed the turbine to set off a warning noise, which they say will keep the animals out of the turbine. However, this noise could have another very serious outcome, if the herring get stressed and disoriented by the decibel level, etc.

The Minas Passage acts as nursery for the herring. Herring populations all the way up and down the Atlantic coast are at risk when the nursery area no longer has suitable habitat, and “one way or another” this turbine is “eventually going to crash the stock” (see footnote 9).

The crux of the matter, explains Darren Porter, is that DFO is not set up to monitor the impact of the new turbine that was installed less than two weeks before the die-offs began.

  • A major problem with evaluating the impact of the new tidal energy turbine in Minas Passage is that the proponent’s baseline data for the 2016 federal science review was very incomplete. 12
  • As well, the proponent’s monitoring plan to assess adverse environmental impacts was so poor that DFO issued a directive to submit a new and better monitoring plan by January 1st, 2017.

Why did the project go ahead without that baseline data and monitoring plan? GNS makes the decisions on project approval. Basically, DFO is in an arms-length consulting role to GNS on proposals like this. All questions from Porter about environmental monitoring – such as how well cameras are working, if the corporation has people walking the beaches as it is supposed to do, if the water has been tested for toxins, when divers will be sent to investigate the floor of the Bay, etc. – are met with evasive answers and/or a corporate statement that they are not obligated under the regulations to provide public information until three months after the turbine is in operation.

Many of those concerned about the herring say they know the reason that government officials are not pushing the panic button to stop the turbines and evaluate further: the province has invested a huge amount of financial and political currency in this demonstration project. GNS remains enthusiastic about the possibilities of tidal power, even though the new turbine is producing what some call the most expensive energy in the world. 13 A CBC report said, “The electricity being generated is some of the most expensive ever produced in Nova Scotia, costing $530 per megawatt hour versus the current average of $60 per megawatt hour.” 14

herring-4As Porter says, “It does not look likely that turbines are the cause, because of the distance between the new turbine in Minas Passage and where the herrings are beached, but to not assess a factor that could be causing this kill is irresponsible, regardless of what factor that is. DFO has told me this could be related to food supply, predator avoidance, viruses, water conditions, etc. – all of which are not monitored or studied on a regular basis. For the turbines, we know the possible pathways of effects and can assess the likelihood based on the evidence collected.” Yet it appears that the turbines are not being properly evaluated.

Other Contemporary Herring Die-Offs

There have been other recent dramatic herring die-offs in the more eastern Atlantic.

In England, just the past week or so, “thousands of dead fish have washed up on a beach in Cornwall and nobody quite knows why…” apparently “mostly herring with a few mackerel.” 15 It may or may not be relevant, but two companies, OpenHydro (owned by naval defence and energy corporation DCNS based in France) and Emera (a publicly traded energy and services company based in Nova Scotia, specializing in renewable/alternative energy) have partnered to form the Cape Sharp corporation that installed the turbine at Minas Passage. OpenHydro has apparently installed two similar turbines in Ireland. Everything must be considered in this crisis situation for the humble herring, on whom so many others depend. It’s odd that concerned citizens on both sides of the Atlantic are saying they have never seen kills like these before. Further, they are happening in two separate places across the ocean where new tidal energy turbines from the same manufacturer have been deployed. It at least deserves some investigation.

In December 2012 and February 2013, in Iceland, there were two massive die-offs of herring. One expert estimated that 50% of the herring were wiped out. Various reports have attributed this to causes as diverse as local building, overcrowding of the population in one spawning fjord, related oxygen starvation, etc. However, for most informed observers, there really has been no satisfactory conclusion on cause, making it impossible to learn from this instance. Perhaps this could be the result of changes in the ocean arising from global climate alterations? In any event, it would behoove government to immediately consider the parallels of the Iceland die-off in regards to the current Bay of Fundy die-off. 16

Can We Help the Humble Herring?

DFO began conducting tests more than two weeks ago. Their preliminary results found no evidence of a virus or parasites. As the crisis has deepened, DFO decided to send some of the dead herring for external bacteriology, virology and histopathology analysis. There are different timelines for getting results from the various types of tests, some of them quite lengthy.

In general, it often seems to grassroots people that it can take years to get answers from government departments about the simplest things. As the situation stretches towards a month of beachings with no answers, fishermen, Mi’kmaq traditional knowledge experts, environmentalists, and other concerned people are becoming more and more critical and skeptical about whether DFO still has any capacity for responsible management and protection of life in the ocean.

Some people are concerned that DFO is too subject to the politics and hidden agendas passed down to them from Ottawa. This was very evident under former Prime Minister Harper’s regime. Not only were environmental regulations tossed out, but libraries and archives were destroyed and personnel stripped from relevant branches concerned with protection of marine life. Most people working in DFO now are survivors of Harper’s 10 year reign of terror on environmentalists; many who could not accept the regime’s decrees left, or were let go.

The current government’s new Oceans Protection Plan (OPP) does not offer much reassurance. Touted as a stewardship initiative, a careful read of federal government announcements shows something different. A lot of emphasis is put on additional resources being put towards mopping up environmental crises that may occur as a result of oil and gas industrial development in the water, or transportation over the water that has gone wrong. 17 This is not a bad thing, but protection starts with prevention.

Overall, fishermen and outdoors enthusiasts do not remember ever seeing so many dead fish on eastern Bay of Fundy shores. Some say that Government of Nova Scotia has prioritized industrial development over the wellbeing of the water and those whose lives depend on being in or near healthy water. Community members often point to the case of the salmon farms as the cause of the end of our wild salmon: DFO swore the farms were safe, but now we see viral and bacterial contamination of the indigenous species from these farms.

As mentioned above, rural life is hugely important to Nova Scotia. However, the government does not seem to understand that by allowing the “resource” to “evolve” – possibly towards extinction – it will destroy the capacity of rural areas to sustain themselves. This bodes disaster for food sovereignty and many other facets of holistic sustainable economic development.

One deeply alienated citizen said “government response is basically the Monty Python one: those fish are not dead they are just sleeping!” Politicians in power must read these frustrations as a warning sign. Consider the upheavals recently in England and in the United States, when ordinary community folk were convinced that big government was not listening and addressing community concerns?

By contrast, Dr. Bradley Walters, a professor of geography and environment at Mount Alison University, did a critical reading of the draft of this document. Walters’ view is too much attention is paid to the “highly unlikely possibility” the tidal turbines could be causative. It is his hope that the assistance of DFO’s Rob Stevenson, an expert on Atlantic finfish including herring and the Fundy weir fishery, is sought on this matter.

Leighton rejects “notions of government scientific incompetence or conspiracy,” but seems to be concerned that the issue is not being taken seriously enough. He says he would like to urge “someone get out on the water and try and find out how big a problem this is, how widespread is it, what are we dealing with?”

While we wait for government to do the job they are supposed to do, Porter emphasizes, “The biggest thing needed is continuous reporting of sightings. People are getting slack, thinking enough have been reported or possibly the kills they see are already reported. The message must be, ‘Report every single kill you see.Here is what citizen scientist beach-walkers are asked to document with photographs and in writing:

  • The exact location of the beach you walked, how much of the beach you covered, and the date and time of day;
  • The approximate number of fish you saw on the beach, per yard or metre;
  • The approximate number of fish you saw in the shallow water at the shore, per yard or metre;
  • Whether the dead or dying appeared to all be herring and if not what other species were present;
  • Percent of fish still alive when observed;
  • Any other dead birds or mammals found, and if so which ones and how many;
  • Were scavengers present to eat the dead fish?

When you have done your beach walk, and have photos and text to share, MacKay (from the western Fundy) and Porter (from the eastern Fundy) are teaming up and eager to share all their information with involved government agencies and non-governmental bodies:

There is a third way to report as well, if you are comfortable with computers:

One more thing: contact your provincial and federal politicians and ask them: “What are YOU doing about helping the Humble Herring, and thereby all of us?”

We need to get this crisis resolved and hopefully find some way to really help the herring. This humble fish is truly a crucial part of both the marine and terrestrial food chain. In the western Fundy, MacKay comments, “In general, the herring industry over here has undergone big shifts for many reasons, which all deserve more research. All the pressures are here in one form or another. We are not seeing similar mortalities right now, but we have observed huge impacts on prey species such as Calanus, krill, etc., from, I believe, aquaculture.”

On the plus side, people on the ground with the most to lose or gain from successful resolution are alarmed and motivated. This emergency effort could break “silos” and foster better collaboration

The document is intended to bring awareness and encourage everyone to work together for all our sake’s. It was prepared as a social action research report: ie., community information assembled and packaged to encourage social action.

Most often crises that affect ordinary peoples’ way of life or livelihood are reviewed and decided by people with more power and who are at a distance from the disaster. Following the priniciples of Freirean popular education, the opinions and concerns of grassroots people who live close to the situation, or in the midst of it, are given a lot of weight. Popular education social action research honours the input of those on the ground, as well as those who are specialists.

I have the support of the Kent County NB Chapter of the Council of Canadians to post this discussion document on the Chapter’s blogspace. If you want to contact me, the author of this document, email Ann Pohl at coc.kent.county.nb@gmail.com. Due to lack of time, I will have to leave it at that. I hope this helps. Please leave no stone unturned for the Humble Herring. 

16 The herring apocalypse: Fish worth millions in exports die in Icelandic lake after building work ‘starves them of oxygen

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An Open Letter re: the Outstanding NB Medical Officer of Health’s Report on Glyphosate Herbicides

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Council of Canadians – Kent County NB Chapter
FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/KentCountyChapterCoC/?fref=ts
email: coc.kent.county.nb@gmail.com
June 28, 2016

Acting Chief Medical Officer of Health
Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health
Government of New Brunswick
HSBC Place, Floor: 5
P. O. Box 5100, Fredericton, NB, E3B 5G8
transmitted by email: Jennifer.Russell@gnb.ca

Dear Dr. Russell:

We need to see that report on glyphosate that you promised we would have before the spray season begins. We need to see that report now. It is not clear to us if your report has been scrapped, suppressed, or something else has happened.

Dr. Russell, the spray season is upon us. Both CN Rail and NB Power have already publicly released their approved spray plans. Timber industries have already compiled their lists of acreage they want to spray for their monoculture conifer plantations. Their applications for taxpayer-financed provincial silviculture spraying are being reviewed, and they anticipate approvals within the next few weeks.

We remember all too well how the government of that day tried to bury Dr. Cleary’s report on fracking in 2012. They knew they could not “control” her when it came to matters of public health, and they knew the report did not agree with their stated view that fracking is perfectly safe and would be great for NB. A similar situation potentially exists with this matter because in recent weeks, Minister Denis Landry and Premier Brian Gallant have both said glyphosate is safe.

On May 18th, I and eleven other New Brunswickers hand-delivered a formal complaint to the New Brunswick Ombudsman. It addresses matters pertaining to the “no cause” termination of the former Chief Medical Officer of Health (CMOH), Dr. Eilish Cleary. Our major concern is the status of Dr. Cleary’s promise to investigate and report re: the risks of glyphosate herbicide compounds on population and environmental health. Our conversation with NB Ombudsman Charles Murray is ongoing.

During her exemplary tenure as CMOH, Dr. Cleary established a very high standard for independent and comprehensive research, both with her peer-acclaimed 2012 report on population impacts of shale gas development, and in the Health Impact Assessments model developed in 2015 for the NB Commission on Hydraulic Fracturing. Since we learned that Dr. Cleary was put on leave and then dismissed, I am only one of thousands of New Brunswickers who are concerned that we will not see a comprehensive and independent report from the Office of the CMOH on glyphosate herbicide spray use in our province.

In her communication to me promising this report (sent August 14, 2015), Dr. Cleary said that her office would develop “a plan” for reporting “in the coming year.” In response to the issues I raised on behalf of our group, the Kent County Chapter of the Council of Canadians, Dr. Cleary also made the following comments:

  • concurrence with the IARC/WHO conclusion that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans”;
  • there is need investigate “the nature, duration and intensity of the exposure to the toxins in this province” and to look into the high incidence of non-Hodgkins lymphoma among men in NB;
  • any further protections needed to protect the population in New Brunswick would be independently developed and not curtailed by Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency conclusions.

On September 24, 2015, I wrote the former-CMOH concerning some additional issues raised by members of our group. You responded to this letter, Dr. Russell, on November 9th, as follows:

  • re: “cases of poor compliance with setback distances, inadequate signage and ineffective advance notice of spraying,” your “office will bring these issues forward to the Department of Environment and Local Government which regulates these aspects of pesticide use”;
  • regarding when we could expect the report: “it is our understanding that its use is seasonal so we do not expect any significant spraying between now and the summer of 2016. We anticipate completing our action plan in advance of the next spraying season.” Subsequently, in a communication to Dr. Caroline Lubbedarcy, you promised the report this Spring.

Dr. Cleary’s impending and then actual dismissal broke in the media in early December 2015. At that time, the Deputy Minister of Health, the Minister of Health, and the Premier all affirmed that this report was forthcoming as originally promised. Spring is over, and the spray season has begun. Where is the report?

I am sure you are aware that new research is coming out all the time on these herbicide compounds.

A literature review by 14 diverse scientists called Concerns over use of glyphosate-based herbicides and risks associated with exposures: a consensus statement, was published in the peer-reviewed journal Environment Health on February 17, 2016. You will find the content in the appendices especially alarming. Other research suggests that glyphosate on its own is not nearly as bad as the complex herbicide formulation, glyphosate PLUS additives and adjutants, that make it work and are protected as “trade secrets.” As I understand it, these additional substances are what carry the glyphosate across cell walls and increase the hazards by untold magnitudes in a multitude of ways. Of huge concern to scientists studying glyphosate is that its use is so widespread: people’s exposures to the residue are pandemic, and tests show high concentrations in humans.

I am sure you are also aware that a 2001 Supreme Court of Canada decision affirmed government has a rightful mandate to apply the “precautionary principle” on the directly related matter of pesticides. The Consensus Statement referenced above clearly advocates for caution and care, and is part of the reason we are convinced that the precautionary principle must be applied to use of glyphosate here in New Brunswick. The precautionary principle can be understood as: first, do no harm; and, second, avoid doing things when there is a reasonable likelihood this could cause harm. The principle applies until the safety of the matter in question can be established.

Thousands and thousands of New Brunswickers share the concerns I have penned on behalf of our Kent County NB Chapter of the Council of Canadians. Valid population and environmental health research of the risks associated with these compounds is urgently needed. We sincerely hope that the report you have been working on will meet the tests for being valid, in depth and independent.

Please send me the report that we are promised.

Respectfully yours,

Ann Pohl
Chairperson, Kent County NB Chapter – Council of Canadians

Copies:

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Submission to Government of New Brunswick on “Water Strategy”

 

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Council of Canadians Water Protection Day, Brown’s Yard Bridge


Kent County Chapter, Council of Canadians
April 28, 2016

Department of Environment and Local Government (DELG),
Policy and Planning Division,
P.O. Box 6000,
Fredericton, NB E3B 5H1

Re: Public Input on “Water Strategy”

Dear Honourable Minister Brian Kenny:

The Kent County Chapter of the Council of Canadians is forwarding to you this submission regarding the new “Water Strategy.”

New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance Submission

On April 20, 2016, the New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance (NBASGA) submitted to you a document called “Remarks to the Department of the Environment and Local Government on Creating a Water Strategy.” Our group, the Kent County Chapter of the Council of Canadians is a longstanding member of NBASGA, and we are in accord with the points raised in that submission. We will not repeat what is said in that submission.

Like all the member groups in NBASGA, we also speak with and for a specific community in this province that is concerned about major environmental issues. Since 2010, people in Kent County have had to fight very hard to protect: our water and the rest of our environment; the health of people in all communities in our region; and, the creatures and plants that live in the water, soil and air here. This fight-for-our-lives has taught us a lot and especially shown us to what extent we can trust the government in Fredericton to care about us. On the following pages you will see why we are extremely concerned about the development of this Water Strategy. We conclude by asking you to start the consultation over again – and do it the right way.

The Government of New Brunswick does not have a good record on environmental protection.

In recent years some of the evidence of this includes:

  • issuing licenses for shale gas extraction exploration and development in 2010, without doing the research to determine if this was an environmentally sound activity;

  • ignoring the many recommendations about the links between environmental matters and population health contained in the Chief Medical Officer of Health’s 2012 peer-acclaimed, awarded, report on the risks, hazards, and benefits of the shale gas industry for this province;

  • revoking, in 2013, the very strong well water protection regulation that was passed in 2011, which required those doing seismic exploration for oil and gas to test every potable water well along the proposed route;

  • in 2013, stripping most of New Brunswick’s wetlands from their prior protected status, which many local Kent residents believe had to do with the damage to wetlands the government knew would happen during the seismic exploration for fracking that took place later that year;

  • passage of a 25-year forestry management plan in 2014, which overwhelmingly advantages one major corporation in the province, and even more so disadvantages the common, humble people who live near the province’s public forest reserves (also called “Crown,” formerly called “Indian” or “Native” land), and who rely on the forest for at least part of their local sustainable livelihood;

  • promising during the 2014 election to revise the forestry agreement and then saying they would not;

  • approving the permit to construct Sisson Mine in December 2015, without considering first the many environmental and other issues raised by the public, which were published in a report (dated January 2016) by the group of experts contracted by the province to collect public opinion;

  • in the absence of an in-place and functioning water protection regulatory system, eagerly and energetically promoting the development of the Energy East pipeline, which will cross approximately 300 waterways in the province as it snakes along the Saint John rivershed from the northwest corner of the province to the Bay of Fundy, also seemingly to benefit a major corporation, as it will create very few jobs and much risk to the rural areas and those who need water in this province.

The above list of examples does not include a truly major issue: the shameful mess associated with the Government of New Brunswick’s 2002 “Water Classification Regulation.” Incalculable millions of dollars and unquantifiable preparatory community volunteer and provincial staff hours were spent on preparation for the implementation of this regulation, which has been very successful in Maine. For more than a decade, this policy simply collected dust. It was never operationalized. 

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View of the River in Fords Mills, photo credit George Griffin

The Ombudsman’s Report on the previous, unenforced Water Strategy

In 2013, the Ombudsman for the Province of New Brunswick received a complaint from one of the community organizations involved in the early preparatory work for the 2002 Water Classification Regulation. On August 15, 2014, the Report of the Ombudsman into the Department of Environment’s Management of the Provincial Water Classification Program was published.

In that report, the Ombudsman identifies four aspects that are extremely relevant to this current policy development process:

  1. An apparent government preoccupation with being challenged for authority by corporate interests: On December 2, 2008, the Minister of the Environment said in the Legislature, “What was brought to our attention was that, in the Clean Water Act, we did not have enough authority to run the Water Classification Program… I think what is important to understand is that, right now, under the Act, neither the minister nor the government has the legal capacity to run the program. We do not have the authority. That is all. The only thing that we are asking for is to legalize it here in the House, so that the department and the government have authority to act. That is all. Right now, there are certain activities, for instance, that are not permitted. The minister cannot prohibit those activities because it would not be legal to do so. We could and would be challenged in court. The only thing that we are asking for is to make it legal. That is all… The Department of Justice told us: ‘Well, if you are challenged in court, it is highly likely you will lose.’ ” As the Ombudsman notes, this speech pertained to the passage of a Bill that would strengthen those regulatory powers, and this Bill was given Royal Assent later in December 2008. Still the Water Classification Regulation was not operationalized.

  2. A Troubling Use of Ministerial Discretion,” which the Ombudsman details on pages 6 and 7 of his report so there is no need to summarize here. Just the title of this section summons up the common experience of New Brunswickers: the lack of transparency and accountability by the Government of New Brunswick, especially regarding backroom deals made with corporations that disadvantage ordinary New Brunswickers.

  3. The “Mirage” Aspect, whereby the government claims to do, and makes it look as if they are doing, something they are not doing. Specifically, the Ombudsman identifies “focused political will is the missing element” for successful resolution of this issue, which is another way of saying the bureaucracy has been mandated to make it look like something is happening while the real attention of the political arm of government is focused elsewhere.

  4. The use of public resources for accomplishing nothing, or even worse allowing things to happen that are not in the true public interest. As the Ombudsman points out, this monstrous regulatory wreckage “perpetuated the illusion that the province has a water classification program” while “deflecting public pressure,” so it reduced “vigilance” simultaneous to providing “no protection.” It is from conduct such as this that the vast majority of New Brunswickers have become cynical and distrustful about our government and its (lack of) intention to protect our treasured and essential natural environment which sustains all life.

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Rexton Bridge, decorated with Blue Ribbons to Protect the Water

Distrust of Government, and Not Being Consulted or Heard

Within less than two weeks of the announcement that your government was working on this new “Strategy,” Town Hall meetings began around the province to discuss it. Some might think this was a good thing: to get public input early in the process. We doubt it is early in the process: you have had almost two years to figure out how to respond to the Ombudsman’s report.

Those of us who have been watching what the province has been doing on natural resource and environment issues for the past two years are regretfully skeptical regarding how serious your government really is about this “Water Strategy.” Why the enormous hurry? People had no time to arrange to attend these meetings feeling prepared. Or was that on purpose?

It is instructive to look at the independent panel soliciting public opinion on the Sisson Mine proposal, Summary of Public and First Nations Participation. It discusses in detail the lack of public confidence that New Brunswickers have in your government’s intention to protect our priceless natural environment: the same natural environment that sustains us all.

Most significantly, the independent “Summary” report on Sisson Mine discusses, at length, aboriginal and treaty rights and the obligations of the Crown (on matters of natural resources, this would be the Provincial Crown) in regards to Indigenous Peoples. (See pages 12 – 92, in particular.) Your government clearly needs to pay closer attention to this text, because once again on the development of this Water Strategy, you have failed to do your due diligence in consulting with our neighbour Indigenous community, Elsipogtog First Nation (EFN).

Our Kent County Chapter of the Council of Canadians works very closely with our neighbours at EFN on environmental issues. EFN’s mandated consultation delegation on natural resource issues is led by Kenneth Francis, of Kopit Lodge. (Kopit means “beaver” and the principal mission of the Lodge is to protect the water.)

It is our understanding that Mr. Francis sent you a letter in early March asking for information about this Strategy. Apparently, this sat on your desk, Minister Kenny, for more than five weeks. Your response, dated April 14th, advised the deadline for input is April 29, 2016. You must be aware that this whole process you have just used is a complete violation of the protocols for valid consultation with First Nations in Canada, according to relevant case law precedents from the Supreme Court of Canada, and other levels of the justice system across Canada.

In other parts of Canada, in regards to Aboriginal Rights and Duty to Consult, “provincial governments take Indigenous Peoples seriously,” said Bruce McIvor, a lawyer for Elsipogtog First Nation, at a community meeting on April 21, 2016. “I work across the country. Here in New Brunswick, I feel like we are starting back talking in the 1950’s or 1960’s. I talk to people here and say, ‘Yeah, this is crazy!’ I think New Brunswick must be the ultimate political,legal backwater for Indigenous People, and that’s a sad thing. No one wants that.”

As a result of oversights, or perhaps blind spots, such as this, the taxpayers of this province are in imminent danger of being forced to bear the enormous burden of lengthy Aboriginal rights litigation – which New Brunswick will lose!

Perhaps you will decide to extend the deadline for input for First Nations, as was done by the New Brunswick Commission on Hydraulic Fracturing (NBCHF), when their procedural errors were brought to their attention. But, to make your process valid, the “Water Strategy” process may need to be shut down and begun again, anew, bringing First Nations to the table at the very beginning. There may be other requirements as well, such as capacity building, but we will leave these to First Nations to elaborate as appropriate.

It is not only Indigenous people in New Brunswick who are ignored by the provincial government. The Final Report of the New Brunswick Commission on Hydraulic Fracturing also speaks at length about “one of the core findings,” which is New Brunswickers’ “distrust of public institutions runs deep.” Specifically, see page 6: “The government’s water monitoring record has caused rural residents to distrust government officials’ assurances that it can adequately monitor a new industry.”

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Local Resident who Loves the Water, photo credit Nancy Alcox

The Government of New Brunswick has consistently demonstrated that it does not value having adequate review, inspection and enforcement capacity.

You do not have enough trained staff in the civil service. You always rely on industry to police itself, which is like allowing the fox to guard the henhouse. We saw this over and over again during the year (2013) when we endured the invasion of the seismic exploration for shale gas drilling locations by SWN Resources Canada. We also see this when someone cuts through the river bank to create a place to load and unload their yacht. We see this when we complain about herbicide spraying that does not conform with the regulations.

It is clear to us that the government does not even seem to value this role in its bureaucracy. This was clear when the government fired, without cause, the one person in the civil service whom ordinary New Brunswickers trusted to protect the public’s health and our environment: Dr. Eilish Cleary, the former Chief Medical Officer of Health. Her departure has slowed progress on important environmental policy research for the people of this province, and many people here in Kent County believe this was the real reason she was fired. This has only heightened our distrust of how government acts – how government seems to have higher regard for corporate goals than ordinary peoples’ health.

This past Fall, we understand that the Director of Fish and Wildlife was put on leave from his position in the Department of Natural Resources. In that position, he actually had the personnel, resources and authority to try to protect wildlife during industrial review processes. His closest investigatory staff may also have been put on leave or moved. When the former Director was called back to work, he was put on a completely different job. Shortly after that, the permit to proceed with Sisson Brook was approved. A cross-check with the independent “Summary” report cited above shows there are many reasons why it would have been very inconvenient to have a wildlife champion in the bureaucracy when that permission was issued.

Returning for a moment to Dr. Cleary and the NBCHF: before being removed from office, Dr. Cleary made a cogent, well-researched plea for an overhaul of the industrial proposal review process used by the Government of New Brunswick. She recommended that the more comprehensive and independent “Health Impact Assessment” (HIA) be adopted in lieu of the current Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) process. New Brunswick’s EIA process relies on corporate identification of issues, and does not have adequate scope to consider impacts on the range of determinants relevant to population health.

The NBCHF, which was clearly subjected to corporate pressures, supported the HIA proposal. The NBCHF watered down Dr. Cleary’s proposal in their final report, proposing that the HIA could come under the umbrella of the EIA process. Dr. Cleary had specifically proven that the HIA approach is broader,offers superior protection for human and environmental health, and is inclusive of the EIA mandate. So the NBCHF got it the wrong way around, but did support the idea.

Consider as well that the HIA process was also favourably reviewed in the independent “Summary” report about Sisson Mine.

So, the HIA proposal was brought to government three times in one year! Each time it was brought by people hired by the Government of New Brunswick to protect the public’s interest and wellbeing. Your government has not taken any position on the implementation of the HIA, relative to relying solely on the more limited and corporately-biased EIA. This is yet another way it is clear, to those of us watching, that you do not really care what happens to small people in rural areas that are viewed as sacrifice zones by industry and their allies.

Further, we are concerned that your government has historically not put enough resources into effective implementation of policies such as that being discussed in this Strategy. Without the money to inspect and enforce, the policy will be meaningless.

In summary, we simply have no basis to believe that there is any substance to the rhetoric in your “fact sheet” on Working towards a Water Strategy for New Brunswick: Programs and Approvals.

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The Trees are Wearing their Coloured Jewels to Impress the Water

Watershed Designation, Protection and Related Issues

We note that you have combined several distinct watersheds in our region into one called Northumberland Strait Composite.

  • At least seventeen (17) rivers and tributaries in Kent County are lumped together in this one watershed “Level 1” region. Most of these are not connected.

  • There are at least seven (7) different watersheds (pg 2) that have been locally identified.

  • It is difficult to tell by the information provided, but it may be the case that our Level 1 region has the largest number of rivers of any single Level 1 watershed identified on the “Water Strategy” map.

  • Certainly Kent County is in the region of the province that, in this decade, has been most severely under resource extraction industrial pressure opposed by area residents.

We are concerned about the underlying reasons for lumping together all our waterways into one super-sized watershed. Elsewhere in the “Water Strategy” document it is made clear that a significant purpose of this policy development is to facilitate a balancing of “environmental conservation and economic activities” and to “manage and use water responsibly… while allowing economic opportunities.” For those of us using the land and the waters in this county, for part or all of our livelihoods, the various rivers are not interchangeable. We would be more comfortable with smaller watershed areas that reflect local use patterns.

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Manifestation, Saint-Louis-de-Kent, Juin 2013

 

There is no Planet B.

No one is making drinking water. The climate will not heal on its own. Our generation has to turn things around. That means you need to show leadership: real leadership, not the appearance of leadership.

Despite the urgency, we are asking you to start this consultation over again. Without a hidden agenda, without narrow and/or meaningless questions, without your own ideas of how you want to do things, please invite the Indigenous, rural and urban people of New Brunswick to tell you what we want you to do to protect our water, and how we want you to do it. Then draw up your plan, and share the ideas with us before legislating.

It is very hard for us here in Kent County to trust a slick package of materials like this, with such a rush-rush series of meetings, and so little actual content to any of it. Regarding protection of the environment, most Kent County citizens have seen too much evidence of too little concern by your government. From our perspective, it usually seems the provincial government is listening far too closely to corporate industrial demands. You do not seem to pay enough attention to the urgencies and needs of common humble people in communities like those here in our area.

In the final analysis, the effectiveness of any government policy, including the case in point – this emerging Water Strategy – will be determined by your commitment to make it strong and comprehensive, and your will to enforce it. The resources provided to this initiative, and the behind-the-scenes guidance given by management to operations personnel, will determine whether or not even the best policy will succeed at its stated goals. Above all we need transparency and accountability.

Something you may want to consider is that, in other jurisdictions, young people have begun taking their governments to court for allowing the environment to be destroyed. They know their futures are in the hands of today’s governments.

Respectfully yours, on behalf of future generations,

Ann Pohl, Chairperson, Council of Canadians – Kent County Chapter
with: Debra Hopper and Denise Melanson, Council of Canadians – Kent County Chapter

copies:
Premier Brian Gallant
Council of Canadians – Atlantic Region network
New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance
Conservation Council of New Brunswick
New Brunswick Environment Network
Kenneth Francis, Kopit Lodge, EFN
Chief Arren Sock, EFN
Wolastoq Grand Council
Chief Candace Paul, St. Mary’s FN
Mr. Charles Murray, Ombudsman, Province of New Brunswick
The Hon. Minister Ed Doherty, Responsible for Aboriginal Affairs

TO COMMENT ON THIS, please email us at <coc.kent.county.nb@gmail.com>, we do not have enough people power to handle comments on our blog space and do all the other stuff!  

Remarks to the Hon. Brian Kenny, the Most Important Cabinet Minister in New Brunswick Government

On March 2, 2016, 17 member groups in the New Brunswick Environment Network (NBEN) attended a 1.5 hours meeting with Brian Kenny, Minister of the Environment for New Brunswick, and three of his senior staff. Thank you to NBEN’s Mary Ann Coleman and Raissa Marks for organizing this opportunity for an exchange of information and issues.

Major items discussed included: how “regional planning” might help with environmental protection (eg. through increased mandates to the regional service district committees); water protection legislation – including wetlands, and enforcement of riparian buffer regulations; the Environmental Trust Fund; and, the urgency of climate action and moving on to renewables.

During this session, the Ministerial staff set out their current major priorities and here is what I recorded from their remarks in approximate order of urgency:

  • modernizing municipal legislation (now 50 years old apparently)
  • updating the regulations associated with this legislation
  • working with other departments to define priorities and capture these in “statements of interest”
  • a comprehensive water strategy
  • improvements to wetlands policies

Concurrent with all that is making the department’s work more transparent, and various digital information enhancements that are already underway.

While looking at this list, it is important to remember that Brian Kenny is Minister for the Environment AND Local Government (one department). On reflection, it appears that they are putting their eggs in the basket of local government as their approach to improving protection of the environment. An interesting idea – not adequate certainly, but might well help if done properly. A lot can be accomplished through land use planning tools if used properly. So folks, if you want to make a point on municipal or regional planning systems, policies, issues, concerns, etc. — now’s the time!

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I took this photo so am not in it. That’s the Minister at the head table, on the left in front of the screen. I attended on behalf of the Kent County Chapter of the Council of Canadians. As always, when I have the chance to speak truth to power, I think about which of my closest allies are not “At this Table,” and what they might like me to communicate that seems appropriate to the situation.

Here is a picture of me and my confrere Mark D’Arcy who attended on behalf of the Fredericton Chapter of the Council of Canadians. image
Mark used his allotted time to speak about climate change issues and the need for the Government of New Brunswick to do its own EIA on the Pipeline proposal. Mark strongly emphasized the Minister’s Duty of Care in regards to the possibly serious, even lethal, risks related to both these issues. This photo was taken by Caroline Lubbedarcy, who represented Stop Spraying in New Brunswick, and used her alloted time to press for a full review of health and environmental hazards of herbicide spraying by forestry companies and NB Power, as well as an end to the spraying.

It is also important to mention Jim Emberger was present, speaking on behalf of the New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance. He addressed many of the points included in NBASGA’s Statement on the New Brunswick Commission on Hydraulic Fracturing Report, including the lack of social license, the science case against fracking, and the urgency of NB government undertaking nation-to-nation relationship-building with First Nations . Later in the meeting, Jim spoke about the importance of government recognizing that each region of the province is very different, something he has learned through NBASGA.

Unfortunately, none of our Indigenous environmental protection allies were present. For me, a smudge and a reading of the Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth would have been a welcome addition. Next time?

In the order of our NBEN agenda, I was given the opportunity to make the final presentation, before the wrap-up. Following are my remarks…


 

“The Final Report of the New Brunswick Commission on Hydraulic Fracturing, released last week, speaks of the distrust, mistrust, and alienation of New Brunswickers regarding our provincial government. The Commission heard this loud and clear in Kent County.  In fact, Commission members seemed to stop in their tracks and feel overwhelmed by our perspectives here, about how government has betrayed us.  (∗ : in the footnote on this post are links to submissions that prove this sentiment.)

“Another example of that betrayal connects to something that was discussed at the outset of this meeting today. Our Kent Regional District Service Commission passed resolutions unanimously opposing the new Forestry Management Act, and opposing Shale Gas Fracking Exploration in Kent County (actual vote 15-1 abstention, I believe). But, Mr. Minister, as you know, there is no systemic pathway for resolutions from the Service Districts into the government here in Fredericton. The fact that the Government of New Brunswick totally ignored the only local body that represents our municipalities and local service districts contributed mightily to our sense that government deserted us to our fate of being a “Sacrifice Zone” for resource extraction industries.

“I am going to assume that you, Mr. Minister, and your three staff at the head table, have children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, perhaps godchildren… When thinking about the future they will face, it is clear and evident that your Ministry is the most important department in the Government of New Brunswick.

“At the core of your mandate is ensuring environmental sustainability in this province we all love. You have the tools and responsibilities for all manner of impact assessment, regulatory powers, inspection and enforcement services, in order to protect our environment. There is a huge urgency to bring all these into active service due to the ecoapocolypse that is lurking over our shoulders due to our rapidly deteriorating, changing climate.

“For us in Kent County, your department certainly has the most urgent and important mandate in this government:

  • We love our Acadian Forest, and all its inhabitants.  We want our Forest Relations to survive and thrive. This means stopping the rapacious clear-cutting, the softwood plantations, and the spraying of poisonous herbicides.
  • We want water protection legislation for our fresh drinking water, our inland fisheries, and our precious wetlands.
  • We want shale gas mothballed for the long term by legislation. Your department’s mandate re: “impact” and “sustainability” strengthen your hand at arguing this in cabinet.
  • We are passionate about biodiversity. The diversity of wildlife in our region — the forests, the waters, and the soils — contributes directly to the livelihoods of virtually everyone in Kent County, all the way down in scale to the bees we rely on to pollinate our fruits and vegetables in our gardens — so take a look at the neonicotinoids as well, please.
  • We fully support implementation of the Health Impact Assessment (HIA) process, proposed by the former Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eilish Cleary to the NB Fracking Commission. The Commission endorsed this approach but in an inappropriate and ineffectual manner. An HIA trumps an EIA, and as Dr. Cleary pointed out, the current EIA processes will and can be addressed and included within the broader scope of the HIA process she outlined. This is what we want to see. It will begin to restore our confidence that government is capable of looking after us over here in Kent County.

“On behalf of our group, the Kent County Chapter of the Council of Canadians, and all our united Mi’kmaq, Acadian and Anglo environmentalist allies in Kent County, I beg that you hear what I am saying. There is no time to lose on these matters. Please instruct your staff to walk into all interdepartmental meetings — and you, please,Minister Kenny, walk into all Cabinet meetings — with your heads held high, insisting on full implementation of the environmental protections your broad mandate offers.

“Yours is the most important Ministry in the New Brunswick government. Our future generations are depending on you.”

Ann Pohl, Chairperson, Council of Canadians – Kent County Chapter, March 2, 2016

 

 

DontPanicalltreatypeople

∗ See for example: “Powerless Citizen” and “Illusion of Certainty”,  Some of the Human Rights Issues Related to Fracking , Lise Johnson’s Story, No Shale…, Kent County Chapter Council of CanadiansNotre environnement, notre choix / Our Environment, Our ChoiceYvon Daigle’s Submission to the Commission, The Requirement to be InformedIt’s about Trust, To Make Critical Decisions, We Must Employ Critical Thinking, Personal Submission to the Shale Gas CommissionGroupe de développement durable du Pays de Cocagne Sustainable Development Groupe.

THIS IS GOING TO HURT

We are in a real mess.

Continue reading

Other Policing Issues — directly relevant to RCMP Conduct in Kent County during 2013 Anti-Fracking Protests

November 12, 2015

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To:      The Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP

From:  Kent County NB Chapter of the Council of Canadians
(Author: Ann Pohl, Chairperson <coc.kent.county.nb@gmail.com> )

Introduction

Our Kent County chapter of the Council of Canadians, a group of citizens previously known as Upriver Environment Watch, has been corresponding with your office for more than a year. In addition, many allies in Kent County NB have been cooperating with Commission staff on your investigation into policing conduct during the 2013 anti-fracking environmental protection and protest activities in our region. Following is supplementary information on several issues that are very closely related to your investigation.

It is likely you are as frustrated as us about the length of time it is taking to produce your final report: almost 2.5 years from original complaints. We believe it is not the writing process that is slowing you down. Your Commission has the task of slogging through a mass of complicated complaints, attempting to verify information presented to you, reconstructing events, and seeking interviews with the RCMP to corroborate or deny these complaints. Then there are the tasks of reviewing pertinent RCMP policies and procedures (or lack thereof), and analyzing your findings. Not the least of your problems must be actually getting relevant RCMP paper and digital files.

Still, this time delay is worrisome for a very practical reason. While your commission carries on this investigation, some of the same experiences we had with the RCMP are being repeated in other regions of Canada.

If your report addresses only 2013 circumstances without at least acknowledging the matters we present below, there is risk of producing a “freeze frame” document that makes it look like the issues are in the past. To our knowledge, Critical Infrastructure Intelligence Assessment: Criminal Threats to the Canadian Petroleum Industry remains the RCMP’s perspective on united groups of people acting to protect the environment. If this document is still central to RCMP analysis, nothing has changed or will change. We hope this is already within the scope of your investigation.

We do not wish to further delay your work with the information below. However, we do think it is important that you consider, as you write this report, the “2015 reality” regarding RCMP operations and strategies at protests and protector camps that involve Canadian settler and indigenous environmental activists.

Standard Operation Techniques Still Being Used,
…and Sometimes Not Used, in Telling Ways…

Much of the information in the next few pages comes from a Forum on Fracking sponsored by KAIROS, an ecumenical Christian network that unites eleven national churches and religious orders on work related to ecological justice and human rights. Motivated by this mission, KAIROS sponsored a two-day national forum on fracking, environmental justice and human rights, held October 30/31, 2015.

I was a speaker at the Moncton end of the forum, which was linked by digital technology to a simultaneous forum in Vancouver. Two indigenous women at the Vancouver portion spoke about policing abuses of rights that occurred in the environmental protection campaigns with which they are involved. Some of the matters they raised are identical to some of the issues we have raised here in New Brunswick in regards to RCMP conduct against our united anti-fracking movement. Following is some information about this, from my notes from their presentations, intermixed with some commentary from me.

From the Unist’ot’en Camp, Freda Huson:

In Unist’ot’en, for six years, one family has led a peaceful occupation of their territorial lands to assert protection of that area. Their family territory is threatened by environmental disruption from a pipeline and a mine. Their non-violent direct action has met continual challenges by the industry and government. From what I understand, the indigenous people there developed their own checkpoints on a logging road, at their territorial boundary. This checkpoint was based on “Free, Prior and Informed Consent” protocol as a condition for entry into their territory. 1

This year, as the resource extraction industries were becoming more impatient about entering Unist’ot’en territory, the RCMP constructed their own checkpoint outside the indigenous territory on the same logging road. They were stopping cars, and asking all people in them to show their ID, thus intimidating them. RCMP were also doing such things as telling visitors from other countries that they could be deported for this

This report is very similar to what we experienced here in Kent County in 2013: on Airport Road in July, and on Highway 11 in November and December. RCMP stopped people going into, and sometimes away from, protest sites. They asked for ID from drivers and passengers. When people passed police checkpoints frequently, it seemed their names were cross- checked. Some felt intimidated, possibly even targeted for harassment.

john with rcmp

Above is one photo of this actually happening. In this occurrence, which was in November 2013, I was riding in the small backseat of a half-ton truck. We had left the protest site on Highway 11, and there was another passenger in the front seat on the right. It was a cold day and we were on our way to the nearby town to pick up coffee for our allies. Just a few kilometers down the road, we noticed there was an RCMP car behind us. As we made our way up the ramp at our exit, the cruiser’s lights and siren went on, and it was clear they wanted us to pull over. When we pulled over, the two officers in the cruiser came to either side of the truck. We first noticed the one by the driver (shown here). The driver rolled down his window, and was asked to present identification for himself and the vehicle. When he asked why, he was told this was just a “document check.” As the driver was gathering the paperwork together, we noticed that the second officer was standing by the front passenger window. That passenger rolled down her window, and the officer asked for her identification. She began looking for her wallet. At that point, I intervened and told her that she did not have to provide this, under these circumstances. She told the officer what I said, and the officer went away. Sadly, these officials carry guns and have the capacity to turn violent, to arrest, and to otherwise make civilian lives miserable, so all too often people allow their rights to be violated — or perhaps do not know they have the right to decline.

check stop Irving Road

The only reason I was aware passengers absolutely did not have to provide ID during a so-called routine “document check” is because, in July 2013, human rights lawyers told us so,  because this form of direct intimidation was happening so frequently. The July 2013 photo above shows a “document check” on Airport Road. This is akin to the discredited practice of “carding.”

As Unist’ot’en spokeswoman Freda Huson explained, the RCMP document checks were really making their supporters fearful. I am not certain of the chronology of events, but they did report this to the BC Civil Liberties Association. Around the same time, the RCMP tried to facilitate the signing of an MOU (Memorandum of Agreement) that would cover conduct on both sides. Huson said that they noticed one of clauses buried in the document said that the indigenous people were agreeing that the RCMP could enter their territory to “keep the peace” while the pipeline company got their work done. They eventually had to get a lawyer to send a letter to the RCMP, and for now things are not as confrontational. 2

Here are two big questions. Why do the original Peoples and other citizens of Canada need to get lawyers to remind the RCMP what they can legally do or not do? Why is it up to us to put them in check when they are operating outside the law?

Although this was not mentioned during the KAIROS forum, according to social media and eyewitness reports, apparently there was recently a massive, hopefully temporary, influx of RCMP tactical units and such personnel in communities around the Unist’ot’en camp area. There was serious concern that this huge build-up of RCMP presence signaled the onset of preparations for an intervention/invasion similar to what happened here in Kent County on Route 134, in mid-October 2013. Public call-outs for support seem to have averted this for the time being. Unfortunately, that chapter of their ordeal may not be behind them.

From the Speaker for Lax Kw’alaams, Christine Martin:

Lax Kw’alaams is a territory in what is now called British Columbia where nine of the fourteen Tsimshian tribes reside. More than seventy days ago, in August 2015, Hereditary Chief Yahaan (Donny Wesley) began a continual occupation of their territory to protect the salmon habitat and other ecological features of that region, for future generations of all life.

A core issue in this campaign is that this is one of two most important habitats in Canada for salmon, who are now a species at risk on both coasts, due to industrial activity and perhaps other causes. Specifically, the place called Flora Bank is of enormous importance to the salmon, and is a sacred place to the indigenous people of this region. The young salmon go to this place where fresh and salt waters mix, to “get tough enough to leave” the estuaries and travel out into the open saltwater sea. Destruction of this water habitat is inevitable if the industry (“Petronas” in this case) proceeds with its plan to construct an LNG terminal in that vicinity.

The reason I am introducing this to you is to make sure you understand that the people who are trying to protect this area are doing so for the very best of reasons. More about this issue is covered in this editorial blog Council backs Lax Kw’alaams Hereditary Chief’s letter to prime minister opposing LNG project, which was written by Brent Patterson, the Political Director of our parent organization, the national Council of Canadians. As you will see in Brent’s column, the people already voted to not accept the corporation’s offered financial package of $1B in return for consenting to construction of the LNG terminal.

Up until a few weeks ago, a modest amount of “test drilling” was already taking place there. Damage has already begun, which was reported at the KAIROS forum in some detail. (See the link to both Ms. Martin’s and Ms. Huson’s presentations at this forum, in endnote #2 below). As I understand it, very recently the B.C. government over-ruled the Indigenous Peoples vote and announced that permits had been issued for test drilling. This resulted in an immediate increase increase in the number of drilling-rigged ships now working in this water – to a total of six! These permits were issued on the grounds that test drilling of the river bed would not impact the salmon and other sea-life habitat. The indigenous protectors see damage happening, but as Ms. Martin pointed out in her presentation, all the environmental protections that used to exist, including the DFO patrols themselves, were eliminated in recent years by the federal government. So the indigenous protectors have no one in the public service to call on for help.

While relating all of this and much more, Christine Martin also mentioned that they had to contend with the RCMP escorting and protecting the corporation’s drill-rigs. That comment immediately brought to mind this picture from our region in 2013.

RCMP guarding Thumper

Is it any wonder that so many environmental protectors believe the RCMP is only in our communities to protect the corporate agenda and their equipment, and that they care nothing about the destroyed natural environment we will be passing down to our grandchildren?

It is worth noting a comment made by another panelist at the Moncton portion of the forum. Kim Cornelissen, past vice-president of the Association québécoise de lutte contre la pollution atmosphérique, was presenting on how a defacto moratorium against fracking was achieved in Quebec. After listening to presentations from these women in B.C. and from me, Kim commented that in Quebec they did not have the same issues with police. I thought about this and concluded it was because the Indigenous Peoples of Quebec region did not have a significant organizational role in their alliance. It makes me embarrassed about our government and our national police force to say this.

On a related note, I just returned from a protest action in Ottawa called Climate Welcome, organized by 350.org. The purpose of this action was to bring climate justice and renewable energy to the attention of our new Prime Minister, prior to the very important global climate issues conference being held in Paris in a few weeks. A sit-in was part of the plan, and 350.org is a very responsible organization. So, there were numerous legal information sessions and briefings for those of us who were willing to risk arrest to bring our message to the Prime Minister. I found it hard to believe what I was being told during these pre-action briefings, about the civility and laissez-faire attitude we might expect from the RCMP. Once out on the road, I was utterly dumbfounded that we did in fact illegally block driveways and roadways for multiple hours on several days and not even one arrest occurred. We did not even get severe warnings from the RCMP. Clearly there are diverse sets of standards for how activists are to be handled, depending on: how much media is at hand; how many indigenous people are involved; and, what seems the most effective way to muzzle our message that business-as-usual is killing our planet.

A Comment on Catch & Release of Protestors and Protectors

In a Kent County backgrounder from the cusp of 2013-14, we sardonically used the fishing expression “catch and release” to describe an RCMP tactic for intimidating anti-shale gas protestors and environmental protectors in our region. (Although some of the links in that blog are now broken, the information is still valid.)

In this article – Revealed: Police using pre-charge bail to muzzle protesters (from the respected periodical The Guardian), the term “pre-charge bail” is used to denote the same practice by UK police. It is clear that this practice is a violation of human rights as police are acting as judge, jury and executioner without even or ever pressing charges in the majority of cases. We hope that you are looking into this practice in your report. Numerous – too many to count – protestors were scooped up in 2013, read the injunction, and to avoid further legal consequences they were told to sign a statement that they had been read the injunction and would adhere to it. This process amounted to what in the UK is called for “pre-charge bail.” There are just so many ways that this is wrong!

Conclusion

These additional sources of information are being brought to your attention because we want to underscore that the abuses and intrusions we experienced in 2013 in Kent County were not unique to that time and place.

While your Commission struggles to assemble your report on events of that time and place, in 2015 the same violations of human, civil, political, and indigenous rights are taking place in British Columbia and perhaps other places in Canada.

We ask that you consider the information presented above, and hold it in your minds and hearts as you move with all diligence and speed to prepare the report on what happened here in Kent County (Sikniktuk District of Mi’kma’ki) in 2013.


1 Here are some references for more information on “Free, Prior and Informed Consent (“FPIC): See Articles 10, 11, 19, 28, and 29 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, to which Canada is signatory, and also FPIC 101: An Introduction to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent.

2 For more on this, please take the time to listen to Ms. Huson’s presentation and follow-up questions on the video recording uploaded from the KAIROS Forum. Ms. Huson’s presentation begins at 1:09:30 at that link. After her presentation, and that of Christine Martin (see next page), there is a brief Q & A period which is also relevant. So, kindly stay tuned to the video recording up to c. 1:55:00.

Some of the Human Rights Issues Related to Fracking

elsipogtog-ossie-michelin-protest-photo

NovemBer 12, 2015: Second Submission

TO:  NB COMMISSION ON HYDRAULIC FRACKING

FROM:  Kent County Chapter Council of Canadians
(author Ann Pohl, Chairperson)

On Saturday October 31st, at the KAIROS forum on fracking and human rights issues, I happened to meet Commissioner Cheryl Robertson, who was in attendance for that portion of the forum. Ms. Robertson confirmed for me that the Commission is not yet informed on the two matters I address in this submission, which relate to the first and fourth points in the Commission’s mandate.

Civil Rights Violations are a Solid Barrier to
Obtaining Social License for Fracking

The material in this section is extracted from a memo submitted by our Chapter to the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP, who are investigating RCMP conduct during the 2013 anti-fracking protests here in Kent County. The serious nature of many underlying issues and complaints about RCMP conduct is underscored by the fact that, midway into this investigation, the Commissioner for this civilian oversight body filed his own complaint with the RCMP. This text below was forwarded to the Civilian Commission on September 25, 2015, from our Kent County NB Chapter of the Council of Canadians. It was written to respond to a specific request for submissions from the Civilian Commission – on a matter not directly relevant to your Commission on Hydraulic Fracking. For your convenience, the text below has been slightly edited. Should you wish to refer to the original version for context, this is the link. Here, then, is an account of some of the civil and political human rights violations experienced during the anti-fracking protests in 2013.

The Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP acknowledges hearing from many witnesses and complainants who expressed that the conduct of the RCMP during protests against fracking had led to a lack of faith and trust in the police force…

It is very clear to us that we became targets of a public relations war. From 2010 on, the Government of New Brunswick was determined to shove deep shale gas industrial development down the throats of rural New Brunswickers. This meant we had to accept the new style of hydraulic refracturing – called “fracking” – which is clearly dangerous. Communities across the province were in an uproar over this. There was and is no evidence that there are any real benefits to the communities that get fracked, but initially the provincial government used simple bluster and positive assertion to try to convince the public about the economic benefits and safety of deep shale gas fracking. As the truth started to come out, especially in peer-acclaimed research on benefits, risk, and hazards found in the New Brunswick Chief Medical Officer of Health’s Recommendations Concerning Shale Gas Development in New Brunswick (September, 2012), it became evident that the government was losing its public relations war.

By 2013, it became patently obvious that corporate and public officials (both federal and provincial) were concerned only with promoting climate-killing “extreme” petrochemical industrial development. The pro-fracking elite was desperate. They needed a new public relations strategy, and decided to demonize those of us who wish to protect the environment and community health from fracking. Their public relations war was tweaked a few times, and ultimately re-aimed to focus on the danger of indigenous people and their environmentalist allies.

As mentioned below, we can even identify the time period when the focus telescoped from saying we were all dangerous, to zeroing in on indigenous protectors as the primary targets. The “wrongs” committed in 2013 by officials during the anti-fracking actions are many – most severely: removals, arrests, charges, conditions, and sentences. These were often done in disregard for the pain inflicted, or the cultural and spiritual world of the protestors and protectors…

1.  It is apparent that the RCMP have not been educated on the common knowledge about the Peace & Friendship Treaties, in which there was no surrender of land or resources by the Mi’kmaq People. It was evident as well that the RCMP have not benefited from cultural competency or anti-oppression training.

2.  The issues at stake were basically a civil matter, where a corporation wanted to do something in and around communities that opposed this activity. People have a right to non-violent protest against such activity, a right that is guaranteed under the Canadian Constitution as well as the various international human rights accords to which the Government of Canada is signatory. The people involved in protest and protection resistance were well aware of their rights. This is why there were so many elders, women and children involved in the actions. No one expected the things that happened.

3.   The “Crown” failed in its obligations under Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution and additional legal precepts established by the Supreme Court of Canada and international law. The “Crown” in this case is the Province of New Brunswick, because management of natural resources falls under provincial jurisdiction.

4.   The underlying purpose of all this activism was first and foremost to protect the water. This is a poor region where there are few actual jobs. Most people of all cultures here make their livelihood at least in part from the land, rivers, ocean, and forests. Water is essential for the survival of people and these natural resource areas. People were concerned that the loss of good fresh water would mean having to leave the area where their family and cultures have lived for many generations, and in the case of the Mi’kmaq People since time immemorial. There appeared to be no understanding by the RCMP that protection of the water was the underlying issue for all community members involved in resisting the corporation’s activities, and a core issue for the extended communities supporting these activists.

5.   The Government of New Brunswick contracts the RCMP as the NB provincial police force. Because the force is first and foremost a federal one, Indigenous people in particular have established expectations and protocols regarding the RCMP. To a certain extent, so do all Canadians. To enforce its pro-fracking policy, the New Brunswick provincial government exerted extreme influence and pressure on the RCMP to “break” the non-violent resistance of Kent County environmental protectors and protestors. This alone was the major factor creating the alienation between community members and the force. We knew that the RCMP were being used politically to advance a corporate/government agenda we opposed. None of the authorities cared to consider the relationship damage they were creating.

With this mandate, the RCMP operated as a military-style force to implement the government policy that shale gas development would go ahead despite community uproar across the province. The criminalization of protestors and protectors was a choice made by RCMP commanders who instructed the forces on the line.

6.   During the initial days of the corporation’s activity in Kent County (June 3 – June 20 2013), the RCMP appeared to be equally concerned with criminalizing both non-Indigenous and Indigenous activists, as they faced non-violent resistance from a united front of Acadians, Anglophones, Mi’kmaq, and other allies. However, by June 21, which is ironically National Aboriginal Day, the focus of the RCMP switched to total concern with Indigenous activists. The Civilian Commission for RCMP complaints heard from various individuals (both non-Indigenous and Indigenous) about this biased conduct, related to June 21st and the following weeks and months.

7.   Ours is a tightly networked rural area where most people know or are related to each other in some way, across all three founding cultural communities. Many of the protestors and protectors also have extended family members employed in the RCMP. Informally through community networks, it is our impression that many officers with local Kent County RCMP detachments were not in agreement with the way that the force was commanded to operate during these months. The voices and reasons of these local peace officers, as to why they disagreed, should have been heard and considered fully. That is the way good community policing is done.

8.   The events of October 17 2013 were the most obvious breach of people’s constitutional rights. Looking at an affidavit by Mark Lenehan, prepared by legal representatives for SWN Resources Canada on October 9 2013 (this has already been submitted to the Commission), we see quotes from an RCMP operational commander at the protest site. Sgt. Robichaud tells Mr. Lenehan that going into the 134 camp with Lenehan to serve papers re: the civil action injunction would amount to “inciting a riot” and “igniting a powder keg.” Ann Pohl is one of the people specifically named in the injunction related to this affidavit. Prior to October 13 2013, when Ann visited the camp, she was assured by RCMP on duty at the police blockades (located at either end of the protest area) that she could enter the area without risking arrest. Specifically, she was told it was not the RCMP’s job to enforce a civil action injunction.

Despite all the apparent tolerance and understanding by RCMP on duty during the weeks leading up to the October 17 commando raid on the protest site, we all saw what happened that day. On October 17, the RCMP’s callous disregard for human rights and safety of people was a stark contrast to their easy-going attitude in the weeks before. This deeply hardened community attitudes against the force.

9.   There are a number of specific issues of great concern relative to the October 17 dawn RCMP commando raid on the protest camp. Just a few are mentioned here:

     ♦    A sacred gift of Tobacco was provided by the RCMP to some of the Mi’kmaq protectors the night before the raid. Everything that happened after was a complete violation of the significance and protocols associated with this gifting.

     ♦    As it was being launched, all Kent County roads leading to the site were closed EXCEPT the roads that go from Elsipogtog First Nation. To many people, this suggests that the RCMP were actually baiting First Nations people to come into the fracas that the RCMP troops were creating at the site, so that it would appear to the media and the outside world that the only people involved in the protest were Indigenous.

     ♦    Two very different stories were used to explain the rationale for the police assault. Early that morning, the RCMP brought in trucks equipped with powerful public address systems. These were used to proclaim the civil law injunction as a pretext for the invasion. Yet, hours later, the RCMP commented they had to invade the protest camp because they had “intelligence” about a build-up of weapons on site, and feared things were going to turn very dangerous. As there was almost no verifiable evidence of a weapons buildup, both excuses contradict what RCMP said a week earlier (see Lenehan affidavit). Dishonesty undermines public faith in the trustworthiness and credibility of our public servants.

     ♦    The burning of the police cars was major news across the country. We are all convinced that it was not done by anyone who was part of our united movement to protect the environment. Among all Kent County protestors and protectors, and our allies, there is a wide-spread belief that agents working for some arm of the RCMP or a sister federal force are responsible for the burning of the police cars.

            Your Commission is well aware of this view, from complaints and comments you have heard: unusual RCMP activity immediately before the fires appeared; querying what accelerant could actually cause the fires to start so quickly; failure by RCMP to protect the crime scene of the burned cars; why the cars appeared to be lacking standard police communications equipment; the possibility that the cars were deliberately decommissioned at a specialty shop the week previous; the cars were left at the road for so long after the burning; knowledge that such provocative acts have been done before by the RCMP (eg, at the G-20 protests, etc.); and many more points.

            The evidence points to this conclusion: the RCMP burned their own cars, or hired someone to do so, in order to affect public opinion. This is a kick in the teeth to the entire community, making those of us involved in non-violent resistance to protect our environment for future generations look like hoodlums.

     ♦    Many people continue to face charges and other legal and financial consequences as a result of this RCMP action. For some, this has been devastating. Some people pleaded guilty as they had no financial means to defend their rights through the justice system.

At the heart of all the issues related to policing during these protests is ethics and fairness, as well as the use of tired old military strategies such as “divide and conquer.”

The RCMP have consistently attempted to insinuate that there are significant differences between those of us involved in the protests and protection actions, and that these differences follow cultural boundaries. There is no truth to this. It is an undeniable fact that greater than 90% of Kent County residents are united in our determination to protect the natural environment that sustains us all. Local environmental groups and communities did a research survey in the summer of 2013 to ascertain this fact. The findings were subsequently reported to the Kent County Regional Service Commission, who on July 18 2013 passed a resolution by a vote of 16-1 to ask the provincial government to stop the corporate exploration, until Kent residents can be provided with “a guarantee for our environment and we can inform citizens about what’s going on.”

We are now, in fact, more united than ever in our collective determination to protect this territory we share in “Peace and Friendship.” Some of the community members being interviewed by the Civilian Commission‘s investigators were led into a field of inquiry about divisions between activists based on cultural heritage. We sincerely hope that these questions do not reflect biased attitudes by Civilian Commission personnel. We hope these questions were asked only to determine the relative validity of information provided by the RCMP to the investigators and staff of the Civilian Commission. But, we have learned not to trust.

That said, we have clearly stated above that we note that Indigenous protestors and protectors were handled in a much rougher and meaner manner by RCMP than non-Indigenous ones. Most of the issues that arose over this period in regards to the Indigenous protectors and protestors are addressed in the final Report of the Ipperwash Inquiry, submitted by The Honourable Sidney B. Linden (Inquiry Commissioner) on May 30, 2007 to the Government of Ontario.

Echoing specific points highlighted in that report, it was clear from the conduct of RCMP officers here in Kent County that the members of the force were never briefed on why people were engaged in these protests, occupations, and actions of non-violent civil resistance. RCMP were also not made aware of the significance of the “colour of right” (another point highlighted in the Ipperwash Inquiry report), in regards to the sincere motivations of all protestors and protectors. People engaged in actions were making a good faith assertion of their right (even obligation) to defend their water, land, air, communities, and family health, because the threat being posed to these things would result in their irretrievable loss. It is the fault of the provincial government that Kent County neighbours and allies felt this desperate, but the RCMP needs to be a peace force for all the people, not for the government.

The most important fact for your NB Commission on Hydraulic Fracking to retain from this entire excerpt above is that we have learned the hard way not to trust anything GNB says on this topic. We know that the RCMP work for the Government of New Brunswick, as do you, as did the discredited Louis LaPierre, and as do many civil servants who have participated in the ongoing attempt to force us to accept something that we have rejected.

Through all the above (and much more not in that brief summary), we the Peoples of Kent County stand united in our non-violent, unbending determination to protect our homes, our communities, the health of our families and neighbours, our water, our air, our soil, and the rest of the natural environment that sustains us all. We do so at great cost and sacrifice for many of us, because we want all our grandchildren to have a future here.

We believe that GNB should abandon its retrograde love affair with the very substances that are killing our planet, which have brought our global climate to the precipice of ecological apocalypse. GNB should stop spending our money on deals for petroleum and other related industries, and commissions such as this one (etc.). GNB should massively invest in upscaling of renewable energy research, development and innovation.

The Provincial Government’s Duty for Free, Prior and Informed Consent from Indigenous Peoples

This is the most basic and fundamental requirement of any evaluation about whether or not deep shale gas extraction can be permitted in this region. The previous sentence is all the more true because there is no mention of surrender of resources or land in Mi’kma’ki under the Peace & Friendship Treaties, which are the legally binding agreement documents governing title and shared use of the land in the province of New Brunswick. In short, the Government of New Brunswick holds no true title to the land it has leased to shale gas extraction companies, and it has never consulted properly with First Nation communities on the issuance or terms of these leases.

SWN Resources Canada made this severely cautionary observation in their memo, dated December 22, 2014, addressed to Michael Pearson in the Premier’s Office: “…(T)he necessity for the Crown to effectively execute its obligations to the province’s First Nations under the government’s Duty to Consult Policy remains a primary concern for us… the ultimate responsibility rests with the Crown and we believe the government needs to do more to advance this file.”

Please do not follow the proponent’s (SWN’s) suggestion that the 2011 GNB Duty to Consult Policy sets out a reasonable path, which simply needs better implementation. That policy is wholly inadequate.

Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution specifies the obligations of the Crown to Aboriginal Peoples, and on matters of natural resources the “Crown” is the provincial government. These obligations mean that valid consultation processes are an essential precursor to any infringement on Aboriginal treaty, original, or unceded, territories. In regards to First Nations in specific, this is well-established law in Canada. Several important Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) cases uphold and augment the law on this section of the Constitution.

To address this fourth point of the five conditions that are to be met to lift the moratorium, any process your Commission conducts, or recommendations you develop, will not be adequate. The Government of New Brunswick must understand and implement a “Free, Prior and Informed Consent” (FPIC) process for consultation with the Indigenous Peoples of this region.

The first place you need to go to understand this, and what is meant by “FPIC,” is the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). The Government of Canada is signatory to this Declaration, but under former Prime Minister Harper’s regime this was a long time coming. It only happened because Canada was shamed into it both domestically and internationally. The Harper government was ideologically opposed to recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ human rights. It actively promoted Canadian public acceptance of this corporate-based goal, leading to the totally militarized relationship that currently exists between the governments of Canada, and indigenous earth protectors and their environmentalist allies. Through policy, act, law, and covert means, the Harper government enlisted the active support of the RCMP and other state security forces to promote their agenda of repression and oppression. This government did so despite judicial reprimands from the Supreme Court of Canada and massive civil society protests. When the Harper government finally signed the Declaration, it raised specific objections to the text.

On October 18 2015, Canadian voters, including record numbers of Indigenous Peoples, rejected the Harperist vision of a Canada that valued, above all, “Old Stock” Canadians and regressive fossil-fuel corporate agendas. We are now in a new era of Canadian politics. It seems there is interest in restoring Canada’s reputation as a land where fairness, kindness, decency, and respect for diversity are highly valued as social objectives. The newly elected government of Canada under Prime Minister-elect Justin Trudeau has pledged to fully implement the UNDRIP:

“When I say that we must complete the unfinished work of Confederation, I mean that Canada needs a renewed, nation-to-nation relationship with Aboriginal communities. A relationship based on recognition, rights, respect, co-operation and partnership. One that is rooted in the principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. One that is guided by the spirit and intent of the original Treaty relationship, and one that respects the decisions of our courts… Reconciliation starts with recognizing and respecting Aboriginal title and rights, including Treaty rights. A Liberal government will do just that. Not only in accordance with Constitutional obligations, but also with those enshrined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples…”

To proceed, as New Brunswick seems to be doing, to ignore the huge “elephant in the room” – the issue of Indigenous Rights – is mind-boggling idiocy. This approach is so far out of line with the reality of 2015, one can only wonder: in what century is GNB stuck? New Brunswick has had its head in the sand for far too long, in far too many ways. There is no point continuing in this vein.

To reiterate, reading UNDRIP in tandem with the Treaties, the Canadian Constitution, and relevant SCC decisions, makes it clear that your Commission cannot undertake FPIC. FPIC is the responsibility of the Crown under domestic and international law, and cannot be undertaken by a commission of inquiry such as yours, which has no mandated power to dialogue or negotiate directly on behalf of the Crown.

What your Commission can do is take the time to:

  1. understand where, why, and how these things have been done in the wrong way in New Brunswick up until now;

  2. learn about how they can and must be done in a proper way; and,

  3. report back to GNB as soon as possible that it will be impossible for your Commission to report on that portion of your mandate, while taking care to include in this “report-back” what you have learned during your inquiries into points 1 and 2 immediately above.

In regards to the matter of consultation with Indigenous Peoples, this would be the only option for accountable, transparent, and responsible action on your part.

NB CMOH Dr. Cleary’s staff will be researching effects of RoundUp, Vision, and other glyphosate herbicides

stop-the-spray-not-safe-not-effective-not-necessaryOn August 14 2015, Dr. Eilish Cleary — Chief Medical Officer of Health for NB –responded to some of the points raised in our August 4th Kent County NB Council of Canadians communication to her. In this document, we addressed multiple concerns about the use of glyphosate herbicide sprays on agricultural crops and in our crown forest reserves.

Dr. Cleary concurs that the sprays are probable carcinogens. She has committed that her staff will be doing further research on the level of risk and what steps might need to be taken to protect the public. She expressed that her staff will pay particular attention to the point we raised regarding the high incidence of non-Hodgkins Lymphoma among men in NB, and the finding from the World Health Organization’s IARC panel that this might well be related to the widespread use of these herbicides in our province.  FYI, here is our follow-up letter to Dr. Cleary…

September 24, 2015
coc.kent.county.nb@gmail.com

Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health
HSBC Place, P. O. Box 5100
Fredericton, NB E3B 5G8
transmitted by email to: Eilish.Cleary@gnb.ca

Re: Follow-up on your August 14 2015 communication regarding
Glyphosate-based Herbicides and Health/Environmental Concerns

Dear Dr. Eilish Cleary:
At our September 9 2015 meeting of the Kent County NB Chapter of the Council of
Canadians, we discussed the correspondence we received back from you in response to our 5-page letter (dated August 4) about glyphosate herbicides. I was asked by our
members to share the following with you.

We deeply appreciate that you are going to look into the points we have raised regarding the human and environmental health risks of glyphosate herbicides. We fully understand that it will take some time to conduct this research and then to reach conclusions on what steps the NB Department of Public Health may feel are necessary to protect the public.

In the interim period, however, our members and other residents of Kent County
communities, as well as other New Brunswick residents, are potentially put at risk. This is especially true for those who live and/or work near areas that get sprayed. Examples that have been mentioned to us include: men cutting wood and seeing the lot
next to them get sprayed, with no warning; a farmer’s field where the crop was sprayed to dry it up, and seeing flock after flock of migrating geese land in this field to eat the grain; forest areas with many berries is sprayed, but people still go to the woods to pick berries and such right after the spray, – this occurs before the die-off begins, so they do not know see the warning evidence that the area has already been sprayed.

Compliance is another concern. Someone mentioned that a field near her home was
sprayed and she was concerned so she checked the regulations. The spraying was too
close to residences and also to a watercourse. This raises the issue of how one assesses dangers or risks: by what is supposed to be done, or what is actually done?
In addition there is a general feeling that the “warning” signs that are posted are too small and often not located in a publicly visible area. The purpose of these signs is to alert the public that this spray is on the ground and people should use deep precautions.

As well, some new information has become available about these chemicals during the
past six weeks.

Our members feel strongly that, based on what is already known, in the interim you could recommend better, larger, more visible posting of warning signs both for forestry and for agricultural uses. As well, advance notice of spraying on hydro lines and in forests should be hung in public locations such as pharmacies, convenience stores, post offices, and other places where there are local bulletin boards. These maps could also be posted online and promoted through social media.

We look forward to seeing your report when it is done. Thanks for taking our concerns
seriously.

Respectfully yours,
<signed>
Ann Pohl
Chairperson, Kent County NB Chapter, Council of Canadians

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Responding to request for submissions on improving community relations with the RCMP in Kent County NB

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Date:   September 25, 2015
From:  Kent County NB Chapter of the Council of Canadians
To:      Civilian Complaints and Review Commission for the RCMP

Introduction

On August 27 2015, the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP issued a call for written submissions and recommendations on “how the RCMP and Kent County residents can re-build a positive relationship.”The Commission’s request for submissions arises from it’s ongoing investigation into the conduct of RCMP members during the 2013 environmental protection “anti-fracking”
actions in Kent County.

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This is a response to that call. In the online request for submissions on hpw to “rebuild” the “relationship,” the Commission acknowledges hearing from many witnesses and complainants who expressed that the conduct of the RCMP during protests against fracking had led to a lack of faith and trust in the police force.

The Kent County NB Chapter of the Council of Canadians also made a call-out: for ideas to be included in this response. Many people expressed profound doubt that anything could help with healing these wounds, the specific details of which are too numerous to mention here.

It is very clear to us that we became targets of a public relations war. From 2010 on, the
Government of New Brunswick was determined to shove deep shale gas industrial  development down the throats of rural New Brunswickers. This meant we had to accept
the new style of hydraulic refracturing – called “fracking” – which is clearly dangerous.
Communities across the province were in an uproar over this. There was and is no
evidence that there are any real benefits to the communities that get fracked, but initially
the provincial government used simple bluster and positive assertion to try to convince the public about the economic benefits and safety of deep shale gas fracking. As the truth started to come out, especially in peer-acclaimed research on benefits, risk, and hazards found in the New Brunswick Chief Medical Officer of Health’s Recommendations Concerning Shale Gas Development in New Brunswick (September, 2012), it became evident that the government was losing its public relations war.

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By 2013, it became patently obvious that corporate and public officials (both federal and
provincial) were concerned only with promoting climate-killing “extreme” petrochemical
industrial development. The pro-fracking elite was desperate. They needed a new public relations strategy, and decided to demonize those of us who wish to protect the
environment and community health from fracking.

Their public relations war was tweaked a few times, and ultimately re-aimed to focus on the danger of indigenous people and their environmentalist allies. As mentioned below, we can even identify the time period when the focus telescoped from saying we were all dangerous, to zeroing in on indigenous protectors as the primary targets. The “wrongs” committed in 2013 by officials during the anti-fracking actions are many – most severely: removals, arrests, charges, conditions, and sentences. These were often done in disregard for the pain inflicted, or the cultural and spiritual world of the protesters and protectors.

From our side of the fence, we had made a pledge to one another to stick to non-violent
strategies. This pledge came from all sectors within our united movement. We were never the aggressors. Although the clear abandonment of care-taking responsibilities by
Canadian governments, and the actions of the RCMP in the field, including physical and
spiritual attacks and illegal tactics such as “kettle-ing” did provoke some allies to lose their tempers, we were always standing firmly but non-violently in protection of our environment that sustains us.

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Our members acknowledge the inevitability of having a system for law and order in our
communities. We need a “peace officer” police force in whom we can have some trust and respect, and this is not presently the case. The first priority of the RCMP has to be the care and protection of the people in our communities. The RCMP must disassociate themselves from direct or indirect corporate control, whether this attempt to control comes through direct orders, or by persuasion from the corporations, or from governments who are promoting the corporate programs that threaten our communities.

Now, two years later, our group is guided on the matter of this request for submissions by some of our closest allies, who speak from and for the community of Elsipogtog. In the traditional manner of true warriors, residents of Elsipogtog “bore the brunt” of the
campaign to protect the water and region for all of us. We have heard that if something
meaningful is not done to improve local relationships between the RCMP and the
community, anger will continue to rise. The consequences of that could be alarming.

After considerable discussion on whether we could regard this request for submission as being made in “good faith,” we decided to prepare this response in an attempt to dialogue about the need to initiate some healing. Commitment on all sides to initiate healing requires courage and trust in faith that some good may come from it. Only after the healing is underway, can we begin to talk about how to “build a positive relationship.”

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The Facts from Our Point of View

1.   It is apparent that the RCMP have not been educated on the common knowledge about the Peace & Friendship Treaties, in which there was no surrender of land or resources by the Mi’kmaq People. It was evident as well that the RCMP have not benefited from cultural competency or anti-oppression training.

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2.   The issues at stake were basically a civil matter, where a corporation wanted to do something in and around communities that opposed this activity. People have a right to non-violent protest against such activity, a right that is guaranteed under the Canadian Constitution as well as the various international human rights accords to which the Government of Canada is signatory. The people involved in protest and protection resistance were well aware of their rights. This is why there were so many elders, women and children involved in the actions. No one expected the things that happened.

3.   The “Crown” failed in its obligations under Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution and additional legal precepts established by the Supreme Court of Canada and international law. The “Crown” in this case is the Province of New Brunswick, because management of natural resources falls under provincial jurisdiction.

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4.   The underlying purpose of all this activism was first and foremost to protect the water. This is a poor region where there are few actual jobs. Most people of all cultures here make their livelihood at least in part from the land, rivers, ocean, and forests. Water is essential for the survival of people and these natural resource areas. People were concerned that the loss of good fresh water would mean having to leave the area where their family and cultures have lived for many generations, and in the case of the Mi’kmaq People since time immemorial. There appeared to be no understanding by the RCMP that protection of the water was the underlying issue for all community members involved in resisting the corporation’s activities, and a core issue for the extended communities supporting these activists.

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5.   The Government of New Brunswick contracts the RCMP as the NB provincial police force. Because the force is first and foremost a federal one, Indigenous people in particular have established expectations and protocols regarding the RCMP. To a certain extent, so do all Canadians. To enforce its pro-fracking policy, the New Brunswick provincial government exerted extreme influence and pressure on the RCMP to “break” the non-violent resistance of Kent County environmental protectors and protesters. This alone was the major factor creating the alienation between community members and the force. We knew that the RCMP were being used politically to advance a corporate/government agenda we opposed. None of the authorities cared to consider the relationship damage they were creating.  With this mandate, the RCMP operated as a military-style force to implement the government policy that shale gas development would go ahead despite community uproar across the province. The criminalisation of protesters and protectors was a choice made by RCMP commanders who instructed the forces on the line.

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6.   During the initial days of the corporation’s activity in Kent County (June 3 – June 20 2013), the RCMP appeared to be equally concerned with criminalizing both non-Indigenous and Indigenous activists, as they faced non-violent resistance from an united front of Acadians, Anglophones, Mi’kmaq, and other allies. However, by June 21, which is ironically National Aboriginal Day, the focus of the RCMP switched to total concern with Indigenous activists. The Commission has heard complaints from various individuals (both non-Indigenous and Indigenous) about this biased conduct, related to June 21 st and the following weeks and months.

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7.   This is a tightly networked rural area where most people know or are related to each other in some way, across all three founding cultural communities. Many of the protesters and protectors also have extended family members employed in the RCMP. Informally through community networks, it is our impression that many officers with local Kent County RCMP detachments were not in agreement with the way that the force was commanded to operate during these months. The voices and reasons of these local peace officers, as to why they disagreed, should have been heard and considered fully. That is the way good community policing is done.

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8.   The events of October 17 2013 were the most obvious breach of people’s  constitutional rights. Looking at an affidavit by Mark Lenehan, prepared by legal representatives for SWN Resources Canada on October 9 2013 (this has already been submitted to the Commission), we see quotes from an RCMP operational commander at the protest site. Sgt. Robichaud tells Mr. Lenehan that going into the 134 camp with Lenehan to serve papers re: the civil action injunction would amount to “inciting a riot” and “igniting a powder keg.” Ann Pohl (one of the contact people for this document) is one of the people specifically named in the injunction related to this affidavit. Prior to October 13 2013, when Ann visited the camp, she was assured by RCMP on duty at the police blockades (located at either end of the protest area) that she could enter the area without risking arrest. Specifically, she was told it was not the RCMP’s job to enforce a civil action injunction. Despite all the apparent tolerance and understanding by RCMP on duty during the weeks leading up to the October 17 commando raid on the protest site, we all saw what happened that day. On October 17, the RCMP’s callous disregard for human rights and safety of people was a stark contrast to their easy-going attitude in the weeks before. This deeply hardened community attitudes against the force.

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9.   There are a number of specific issues of great concern relative to the October 17 dawn RCMP commando raid on the protest camp. We will mention here just a few that must be acknowledged and addressed within any healing process:

♦  A sacred gift of Tobacco was provided by the RCMP to some of the Mi’kmaq
protectors the night before the raid. Everything that happened after was a
complete violation of the significance and protocols associated with this gifting.

♦  As it was being launched, all Kent County roads leading to the site were       closed EXCEPT the roads that go from Elsipogtog First Nation. To many         any people, this suggests that the RCMP were actually baiting First Nations people to come into the fracas that the RCMP troops were creating at the site, so that it would appear to the media and the outside world that the only people involved in the protest were Indigenous.

♦  Two very different stories were used to explain the rationale for the police assault. Early that morning, the RCMP brought in trucks equipped with powerful public address systems that were used to proclaim the civil law injunction as a pretext for the invasion. Yet, hours later, the RCMP commented they had to invade the protest camp because they had “intelligence” about a build-up of weapons on site and things were about to turn very dangerous. As there was almost no verifiable evidence of a weapons buildup, both excuses contradict what RCMP said a week earlier (see Lenehan affidavit). Dishonesty undermines public faith in the trustworthiness and credibility of our public servants.

♦  The burning of the police cars was major news across the country. We are all convinced that it was not done by anyone who was part of our united movement to protect the environment. Among all Kent County protestors and protectors, and our allies, there is a wide-spread belief that agents working for some arm of the RCMP or a sister federal force are responsible for the burning of the police cars.

Your Commission is well aware of this view, from complaints and comments you have heard: unusual RCMP activity immediately before the fires appeared; querying what accelerant could actually cause the fires to start so quickly; failure by RCMP to protect the crime scene of the burned cars; why the cars appeared to be lacking standard police communications equipment; the possibility that the cars were deliberately decommissioned at a specialty shop the week previous; the cars were left at the road for so long after the burning; knowledge that such provocative acts have been done before by the RCMP; and many more points.

The evidence points to this conclusion: the RCMP burned their own cars, or hired someone to do so, in order to affect public opinion. This is a kick in the teeth to the entire community, making those of us involved in non-violent resistance to protect our environment for future generations look like hoodlums.

♦  Many people continue to face charges and other legal and financial consequences as a result of this RCMP action. For some, this has been devastating. Some people pleaded guilty as they had no financial means to defend their rights through the justice system.

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Reinventing the Wheel: No Need for It!

At the heart of all the issues related to policing during these protests is ethics and fairness, as well as the use of tired old military strategies such as “divide and conquer.”
The RCMP have consistently attempted to insinuate that there are significant differences between those of us involved in the protests and protection actions, and that these differences follow cultural boundaries.

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There is no truth to this. It is an undeniable fact that greater than 90% of Kent County residents are united in our determination to protect the natural environment that sustains us all. Local environmental groups and communities did a research survey in the summer of 2013 to ascertain this fact. The findings were subsequently reported to the Kent County Regional Service Commission, who on July 18 2013 passed a resolution by a vote of 16-1 to ask the provincial government to stop the corporate exploration, until Kent residents can be provided with “a guarantee for our environment and we can inform citizens about what’s going on.”

We are now, in fact, more united than ever in our collective determination to protect this
territory we share in “Peace and Friendship.” Some of the community members being
interviewed by the Civilian Commission’s investigators were led into a field of inquiry about divisions between activists based on cultural heritage. We sincerely hope that these questions do not reflect biased attitudes by Civilian Commission personnel, and were asked only to determine the relative validity of information provided by the RCMP to the investigators and staff of the Civilian Commission.

That said, we have clearly stated above that we note that Indigenous protestors and
protectors were handled in a much rougher and meaner manner by RCMP than non-
Indigenous ones. Most of the issues that arose over this period in regards to the
Indigenous protectors and protesters are addressed in the final Report of the Ipperwash Inquiry, submitted by The Honourable Sidney B. Linden (Inquiry Commissioner) on May 30, 2007 to the Government of Ontario.

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Echoing specific points highlighted in that report, it was clear from the conduct of RCMP
officers here in Kent County that the members of the force were never briefed on why
people were engaged in these protests, occupations, and actions of non-violent civil
resistance. RCMP were also not made aware of the significance of the “colour of right”
(another point highlighted in the Ipperwash Inquiry report), in regards to the sincere
motivations of all protesters and protectors. People engaged in actions were making a
good faith assertion of their right (even obligation) to defend their water, land, air,
communities, and family health, because the threat being posed to these things would
result in their irretrievable loss. It is the fault of the provincial government that Kent County neighbours and allies felt this desperate, but the RCMP needs to be a peace force for all the people, not for the government.

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Proposals

We are suggesting the following as first steps towards opening a productive dialogue
between the RCMP and the traumatized and embittered communities in Kent County:

1.   Establish a small planning group mandated to initiate a healing process. It is
requested that there be a maximum of three RCMP members in this initial planning
group, of whom two would be Sergeant Jarrett Francis and Retired Corporal Chris
Ward. As well, the committee would include a minimum of three additional
community representatives from the Mi’kmaq community, and a total of three from
the Acadian and Anglophone communities. Participation in this planning group
would be entirely voluntary (no fees for services) although incidental expenses for
food, etc., would be covered by the Commission.

2.    This planning group will develop a plan to begin the healing process. Only after this
monumental task is accomplished can we begin to speak about building a positive
relationship.

3.   The sooner this planning group begins this work towards healing, the shorter the
path to a productive dialogue on relationship building.

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Here are two additional broader scope recommendations:

4.   Additionally, the Commission must recommend to the RCMP that a special team be
created to review the final Report of the Ipperwash Inquiry, and that the Inquiry’s
Recommendations be adapted for relevance across Canada, and used within the
RCMP at all levels for professional development and training for environmental and
land rights protests (exclusive of recommendations 16, 19 and 20, which pertain
specifically to Ipperwash matters).

5.   Treaty and indigenous rights education is essential for all personnel in the RCMP,
and must be led by Indigenous educators from the regions where the RCMP serve.

Please Contact Us for Further Discussion

If the Commission is interested in pursuing further consideration of this submission, you
are invited to contact these three individuals via the email address for the Kent County NB Chapter of the Council of Canadians at coc.kent.county.nb@gmail.com

♦    Ann Pohl, Bass River resident
♦    Kenneth Francis, Elsipogtog First Nation resident
♦    Roger Richard, St-Louis-de-Kent resident

KENT NOT FOR SHALEjason okay

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Fundy Borehole Test Drills — a Violation of Peace & Friendship Treaties

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August 31, 2015
respond to: coc.kent.county.nb@gmail.com

TransCanada is set to begin borehole drill testing in the world-renowned, fragile Bay of Fundy ecosystem, off-shore at Red Head NB. No approvals have been granted for this work, which is related to the proposed Energy East Pipeline, for which no project plan has even been finalized. This is a violation of Peace & Friendship Treaty obligations.

Statement to:
  • Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Government of Canada; pm@pm.gc.ca
  • Premier Brian Gallant, Government of New Brunswick; premier@gnb.ca
  • Bernard Valcourt, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, Government of Canada;Bernard.Valcourt@parl.gc.ca
  • Ed Doherty, Minister responsible for Aboriginal Affairs, Government of New Brunswick; Ed.Doherty@gnb.ca
  • Leona Aglukkaq, Environment Canada, also Minister responsible for Species at Risk Act (SARA), North American Waterfowl Management Plan, and Migratory Birds Convention Act; minister@ec.gc.ca
  • Gail Shea, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Government of Canada; Min@dfo-mpo.gc.ca
  • Denis Landry, Minister of Natural Resources, Government of New Brunswick, also Minister responsible for Species at Risk Act (SARA); denis.landry2@gnb.ca
  • Rick Doucet, Minister of Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries, Government of New Brunswick; rick.doucet@gnb.ca
  • Russ Girling, CEO, TransCanada Corporation; energyeast@transcanada.com
  • Peter Watson, Chair and CEO, National Energy Board; c/o Louise.Niro@neb-one.gc.ca
Message:

We, the undersigned New Brunswick provincial chapters of the Council of Canadians, are aware of the imminent intention of TransCanada to undertake borehole testing in the Bay of Fundy, near Red Head. As loyal citizen groups committed to human rights and democracy, we are placing on record our united opposition to this plan. There are many reasons a person might oppose TransCanada’s development plans, but here we wish to deal with a matter we think takes precedence over all others, in relation to the laws of this land.

In regards to the proposed borehole drilling, based on the Peace & Friendship Treaties, indigenous law precedents, Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution, and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (to which Canada is signatory), as well as other legal precepts, the governments of Canada and New Brunswick have neglected to “uphold the honour of the Crown” and also neglected to carry out their fiduciary duties to the Indigenous Peoples of this region.

No valid consultation has taken place regarding this planned incursion into the shared territory of the Wabanaki Peoples, in specific the three original indigenous cultures of what is now known as the Province of New Brunswick, to wit: the Mi’kmaq, the Wolastoqiyik, and the Passamaquoddy Peoples. A valid consultation involves:

  • notice to the Wabanaki Peoples and other Indigeneous intervenors and interested parties about what is proposed in their region, before any related work commences;
  • provision of full information about exactly what is planned including all relevant documents;
  • reasonable time to deal with concerns and matters before any such work is considered for approval;
  • indigenous access to adequate resources to engage in a valid process;
  • full respect for traditional indigenous knowledge and knowledge holders;
  • the opportunity to be listened to, not just heard.

As non-Indigenous people, it is our view that the treaties, which were signed in our name and for our benefit, must be honoured and upheld for all time and in all ways. When all our ancestors entering into these sacred agreements, an enduring mutual structure and responsibility was established that was intended to govern how we all relate to one another, for all time, on this land. This protocol clearly has not been respected in regards to this initiative, which could have devastating outcomes.

The ink is barely dry on the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Already we can see that Canada and New Brunswick are still operating with the old colonial mindset, which says that it is fine for Canadian and international corporations to do as they wish within the unceded territory of the Wabanaki Peoples.

We are all Treaty People. We call on the governments of Canada and New Brunswick to put a stop to the planned bore head drilling. Sit down and speak in a constructive manner with the Indigenous peoples of this region, with the goal of meeting Canada’s fiduciary and human rights obligations in a direct and sincere manner.

Respectfully yours,

Ann Pohl,
Chairperson, Kent County Chapter, Council of Canadians

Jean Louis Deveau,
Chairperson, Fredericton Chapter, Council of Canadians

Leticia Adair,
Chairperson, Saint John Chapter, Council of Canadians

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Copied to:
  • Hugh Akagi, Chief of the Passamaquoddy at Oonaskamkuk
  • Kenneth Francis, Speaker, IMW/Kopit Lodge at Elsipogtog First Nation
  • Ron Tremblay, Speaker, Wolastoq Grand Council, also Spokesperson for the Peace & Friendship Alliance
  • Alex Neve, General Secretary, Amnesty International Canadian Section
  • Angela Giles, Atlantic Organizer, Council of Canadians
  • Benjamin Craig, Campaigner for the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Amnesty International, Canada Section
  • Brent Patterson; Political Director, Council of Canadians
  • Charles Murray, Ombudsman for New Brunswick
  • Ed Bianchi, Program Manager, KAIROS
  • Rev. David Hewitt, United Church of Canada Maritime Conference
  • The Right Rev. Jordan Cantwell, Moderator, United Church of Canada
  • Nora Sanders, General Secretary, United Church of Canada