SOLIDARITY from Sikniktuk Mi’kma’ki to Wet’suwet’en Territory

The so-called dangerous RCMP “precedents” in Wet’suwet’en are actually standing operational policy.

by Ann Pohl, Part 2 of 2
The people in the photo above are the stragglers who were still around when we remembered to take a photo.
NOTE: Most photos in this blog are poor quality. Except where otherwise credited,
they are
screenshots from this video OR this video.

 

Responding to the Call:

From the moment of the Wet’suwet’en call-out for international solidarity actions, we Sikniktuk water protectors knew we had to do something.

What the Wet’suwet’en were going through, on the opposite coast of Canada, was all too familiar to us. It is wrong. Both their territory and ours are unceded. In both cases the Indigenous People’s were saying “no” to the proposed industry on their lands. In both cases there are several Supreme Court of Canada decisions that specifically establish the rights of Indigenous people to protect the resources on these unceded territories. We both met unconscionable aggressiveness and disrespect from the RCMP. These are just of few of our similarities.

This solidarity message from Unist’ot’en meant a lot to us, back in 2013.

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We faced the RCMP as corporate enforcers for the fracking company SWN Resources Canada everyday, for seven months, in Kent County NB/Sikiniktuk Mi’kma’ki, (aka “Rexton” or “Elsipogtog”). Things got especially rough in mid-October, which is when this message arrived.

In the first few weeks of our protracted defence of our water, back in June 2013, we met local RCMP on the frontline. Then we started seeing RCMP troops coming in from outside Sikniktuk. Here is a map of our Mi’kmaq district, from  this Radio-Canada link). 161109_lm5tg_territoire-revendication_sn1250

The local RCMP officers were back at the station. Scuttlebutt, aka “mocassion telegraph” or “grapevine news”, was that it was too hard for local RCMP to meet their extended family and neighbours on the frontline. The official line was they were needed for “regular duties.”

The imported RCMP troops chased us around for months. In mid-October, with days of precision planning including the apparent use of provocateur agents and infilitrators, the RCMP servants to the government of New Brunswick and SWN invaded our non-violent camp on Route 134 in Rexton. They said it was to enforce SWN’s corporate civil law injunction based on a SLAPP suit and extraordinary claims for damages.

Actually the RCMP invasion was all about rescuing the SWN “thumper” seismic testing truck that was being held behind a barricade by peaceful water protectors. The purpose of that equipment was to find the best place to start drilling, in order to frack for shale gas. Our primary strategy since June was non-violently resisting, by standing or sitting in front of the trucks, to stop the company from collecting this data.

When they invaded our camp on October 17, 2013, the RCMP imported 200 or so tactical and riot control RCMP. They came from at least four different divisions, if we go by their different outfits.

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There were issues about RCMP conduct from the get-go. Based on these, the Civilian Commission mandated to review and report on RCMP complaints struck a Public Interest Investigation by the end of July. Complaints sky-rocketed after October 17th.

As the Commission’s investigation got underway, they met stalls and run-arounds, blank responses and inconsistencies. These raised more questions, and the Chairperson of the Civilian Commission filed his own complaint to the RCMP. “The December 17, 2014, Chair-initiated complaint will examine the conduct of those members who responded to, or managed the response to, the Kent County shale gas protests in 2013, including a policy and practice perspective,” says their website.

Countless people were “caught and released,” driven away from the protests and let go, sometimes in difficult circumstances. Over a hundred people in all were arrested. Some served jail time. Many were released on “conditions” that required them to stay away from protests, even our events and meetings. More than two dozen were actually named in the two SLAPP suits that formed the legal basis for the injunctions. Many of us SLAPPed had to countenance the threat of losing what we own, to make up for SWN’s so-called “damages” due to our resistance.

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My SLAPP suit paperwork. 22 other people also got this.

None of us can forget how the RCMP acted and manipulated, the dehumanizing and viciousness. As the resistance built, the Indigenous water protectors led the way, and bore the real brunt of the resistance at the hands of the RCMP and the rest of the “justice” system.

For all of us, especially the Acadians and Anglo settlers in our unified movement, this was an eye-opener, about how the Corporatocracy of Canada operates. Those who still had some faith in our “democracy” (where politicians respond to grassroots peoples’ views) were deeply shaken in 2013.

In response to the call for action from Unist’ot’en last week, we immediately decided to gather mid-day on the road by the RCMP station in Richibucto. This station is closest to where the massive RCMP invasion of our water protection movement happened a little over five years ago.

Outside the RCMP station, January 8, 2019

While it was clear why, when and where we would rally in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en People, what we would do was not. We did not expect many people. In this sparsely populated rural area, many people live close to the edge financially and do not have gas money to spare. The plan was for midday on a Tuesday. It was -20C outside. There was no way we could build a fire to stay warm in front of the cop shop!

But, the real reason we did not expect many people goes much deeper. To this day, many of our water protectors are still affected by the “state” coming down so heavy on them. To say our communities were traumatized and embittered by all of this is not an overstatement.

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For starters, I had not notified the RCMP of our intent to gather at their station. So, there we were, in their parking lot with banners, signs and flags. I knew we had to go into the station and explain why we were outside. I expected no trouble with this. Though some newbies cycle through this RCMP detachment, the regulars at this station live and work in this area. These are our local guys. The ones we call for domestic, vehicle, theft, and other issues. It was their water and communities we were protecting, as well as our own. …In their hearts, they know this.

My worldview insists that inside everyone there is a conscience, though sometimes this is turned off by training, or by bitter experience. Above all, we had to try to communicate somehow with the RCMP so they could feel what their actions do to people. They must not be allowed to avoid understanding the consequences of their actions. This is the only way we can hope to rehumanize some of them, to reclaim them for the hard immediate work we have as a species, which is to change our behaviour, to save our single and only beloved shared planet.

I asked the first half dozen arrivals: who wanted to go in with me? All seemed willing. As the cleansing Smudge passed, I became fully aware that each of us had something important to say to the RCMP about why we were there. I proposed we all go in to do that.

We entered the RCMP detachment station in Richibucto, a large group, overfilling the waiting room lobby. (Eventually there were twenty of us.) I walked up to the recpetionist’s window and explained we were the people rallying outside with the signs and all, and we would like to speak with the most senior person in the station.

A few moments later, Cpl. Dan Melanson came into the lobby and introduced himself. I said we were gathered outside in solidarity with the non-violent Wet’suwet’en water protectors and land defenders, and presented him with the pre-invasion statement from their Clan Leaders.

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Wela’lin APTN reporter Angel Moore for being present and tweeting this photo.

He said that “over here in New Brunswick, we do not know too much about this issue.” I said his heavily militarized riot and tactical RCMP colleagues in British Columbia had just forcibly entered Wet’suwet’en unceded territory to enforce an corporate injunction. This news took many of us here in Kent County/Siknitktuk back to 2013, when we experienced the same thing. We had come to share what we feel about this.

We agreed to talk while standing in a circle in the lobby. I asked him to make notes of what we said, and pass these up the line of command., explaining we want to hear back from the leadership in the RCMP what they have to say about the points each of us would be making. He agreed to do that. Cpl. Melanson has since emailed me to say he has done as requested, and will get back to me when they get back to him. I am not holding my breath, but I do hope we will hear something back. Maybe even create an opportunity to speak with the regional commanders. Meanwhile I have asked Cpl. Melanson to send me the list of points he included in his internal memo. I have not yet heard back from him...

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borrowed from Isaac Murdoch, chi miigwetch

As the early-birds among us entered the RCMP station, APTN reporter Angel Moore tweeted, “Protectors say people are passionate… Emotions are high, most of the protectors were here in 2013 at the anti fracking protests, and those who were not here remember.” Following is what we said to Cpl. Melanson…

Shame on Canada!

One of our group shared that “Criminal law is designed to control the poor, and corporate law is designed to protect the rich.” The RCMP are supposed to deal with criminals and public safety. Canada’s national police force has no business enforcing a private company’s interim injunction on unceded Indigenous territory. The RCMP knew this in early October 2013, but forgot it two weeks later. (For more on this and related points, see this critique I wrote about Bill C-51, especially point #3.)

In the case of the Wet’suwet’en People, there are clear legal reasons why it was wrong for the RCMP to invade their territory to push them out of the corporation’s way. Two Supreme Court of Canada decisions support the rights of the Traditional Clan Leaders to exercise jurisdiction over their original homelands, from “mountaintop to mountaintop” (the Tsilhqot’in Dcision), as recorded in traditional stories and songs passed down over the generations to hereditary leaders (the Delgamuukw Decision).

Talking with Cpl. Melanson, some of us observed that the current Canadian government, led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, consisently says it supports the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. (A CBC news report covered the spectacle Canada made at the UN plenary session in 2016, when it officially adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.) The invasion of Wet’suwet’en territory on January 7th, and the continuing occupation of their territory by the RCMP, violates more than a dozen Articles of that Declaration, including Article 30 as the RCMP acted as a military force in this instance, and when here in Sikniktuk in 2013.

Another opinion offered to Cpl. Melanson is that The Indian Act Chief and Council have no jurisdiction beyond their reserve boundaries, so all the spin about how the RCMP are just enforcing “the screenshot at 2019-01-14 08-32-54rule of law” is bogus. The tired old argument about the “rule of law” surfaces whenever politicians and police act on behalf of corporations to repress peaceful dissent. Clearly, the “rule of law” was on the side of the Wet’suwet’en (SCC decisions, limitations of The Indian Act politicians, UNDRIP).

Dogwood says it clearly:

“Under The Indian Act, elected councillors only have jurisdiction over reserve lands – the tiny parcels set aside for First Nations communities that are administered much like municipalities. That’s not where this pipeline would go.

“What is at stake in the larger battle over Indigenous rights and title are the vast territories claimed by the Crown but never paid for, conquered or acquired by treaty. In Wet’suwet’en territory, those lands, lakes and rivers are stewarded by hereditary chiefs and their relatives under a governance system that predates the founding of Canada… History will not look kindly on politicians who condone the use of force against local people on behalf of a multinational oil and gas consortium.” (my emphasis)

Prime Minister Trudeau was quoted saying the use of RCMP was “less than ideal” but justified by the “rule of law.” Tanya Talaq tore strips off Trudeau, in the Toronto Star on January 10th:

Let’s unpack that. A ‘less than ideal situation’ is missing the sale on three-ply Kleenex and having to settle for two-ply. A ‘less than ideal situation’ is locking your keys in your car. The arrests of 14 people by heavily armed RCMP officers over adherence to Indigenous human rights and land title? ‘Less than ideal’ doesn’t capture it. As this week again showed, the Trudeau government’s relations with Indigenous communities are nowhere near ideal.“

West Coast Environmental Law’s recent blog about the RCMP invasion of Wet’suwet’en Territory takes up the question of “the rule of law”

Respecting the rule of law is indeed important, but it can’t be selective. To truly uphold the rule of law, the constitutional recognition of Aboriginal title and governance must be meaningfully applied in Crown decision-making, before crucial decisions are made about Indigenous territories… The Crown’s resistance to concluding agreements that meaningfully recognize title and rights, while making important decisions unilaterally in the meantime… is clearly incompatible with commitments at the federal and provincial levels to rights recognition and reconciliation.”

According to the Prince George Daily News, the RCMP are now planning to set up a temporary detachment in the area at the centre of this controversy. If feelings are running high, as they did here in 2013, this could lead to whole new crisis.

In fact, the rule of natural law that underlies all of the resistance. That is why the Wet’suwet’en want no pipelines on their territory, why we refuse to allow fracking shale gas here in Sikniktuk, and substantially what motivated each of us to be present in the  Richibucto RCMP detachment last week.

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There are huge social issues around our planet. Most are connected to the looming environmental collapse due to climate issues. Climate scientists’ international organization, the IPCC, recently released a report that says we have 12 years to limit climate catastrophe. 6,000 peer reviewed works are referenced in their report. “At the current level of commitments, the world is on course for a disastrous 3C of warming,” perhaps even more. (With our tarsands, melting icecaps, thawing muskeg, leaky pipelines and transportation systems, massive frack fields and hydro dams, monoculture tree plantations, 3 coasts of rising seas, abuse of salt waters, mega-agriculture, etc., Canada has a huge role in causation and vulnerability to disasters.) Even though change is slow, and many appear deaf to the facts, the IPCC report authors believe that “the increasingly visible damage caused by climate change will shift opinion their way.” Here in Kent County/Sikniktuk, we are already seeing the chaos and damage, and this is intensifying.

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A young man from Saint John addressed this with Cpl. Melanson in a passionate intervention. Over the next dozen years or so, an extraordinary amount of damage will continue to be wrought on our planet. When it finally sinks in that Indigenous Peoples and non-Indigenous environmentalists are correct about the urgency of changing course to address climate change, “You and fellow officers in the RCMP will realize that you made a huge mistake helping to force through all this fossil fuel industrial development and infrastructure. You will come and want to join us then. Of course, we will welcome you. But the question individual officers need to ask themselves now, before it gets to that point, is ‘Which side of the history we are making right now do you want to be recorded as being on?’ “

Shame on the RCMP!

One person of blended settler and Anishinaabe heritage, but living in Kent County, said he goes into schools ls to teach children about culture and worldview. “The first of the seven sacred Grandfather teachings is respect. How can we respect the RCMP when they don’t even respect the people they are sworn to serve? With the children, I have no choice except to speak the truth, that we obviously can see with our own eyes. Who do they serve? Why do they disrespect the First People of Turtle Island, with their actions? These questions must be answered so we can have confidence in those that are here, supposedly, to protect and serve all of us.”

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To serve corporations and protect their assets.

This man also mentioned community relationships. “Do you know the history of this region? Do you realize that your Acadian ancestors were helped to survive by the Mi’kmaq people in the 1700’s in particular? How could you justify what happened in 2013?” Someone else mentioned the Peace & Friendship Treaty, the only treaty ever signed by the Mi’kmaq. It talks only about how nations of Peoples should get along with one another, no mention of surrendering land, title, or guardianship.

Several people emphasized that we pay the salaries of the RCMP, who are meant to serve and protect everyone, not to serve and protect the corporations above all else.

At least three of those present had read the recently published book, Policing Indigenous Movements. A Mi’kmaq water protector said that it was “very disheartening” to learn the extent to which people like him are considered national security threats and what the state is doing based on that conviction. A non-Indigenous person said it was really embarassing that the RCMP had this attitude. Here is a link to an article, called Why the RCMP may not be a neutral player in the Wet’suwet’en anti-pipeline dispute, in which one of the scholars who wrote this book is interviewed. Cpl. Melanson was one of the people who wrote down the title of this book. Someone commented they hope he finds time to read it.

Mi’kmaq persons who were present at the RCMP invasion in our region in 2013 told Cpl. Melanson that many other people from Elsipogtog wanted to be there with us talking to him and rallying in support of the west coast water and land protectors. However, they were afraid to attend. Several commented that it was very good to have non-Indigenous allies present there with them.

Workers can refuse to work if the conditions are unsafe, so the question was raised, “Can the members of the RCMP refuse to work if they are being asked to do something they think is not ethical?” Cpl. Melanson seemed to find this profound, and perhapssad. The community membnr who raised this suggested that, given the serious deep environmental and climate issues humanity is facing, supporting pipeline infrastructure construction by oppressing non-violent defenders and protectors is unethical.

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One of the grandmothers recounted a dream she just had. Her mother was dragged from her bed by an RCMP. She asked Cpl. Melanson, “When will the violence against us stop? Our ancestors are crying, our children are hurting, and I am not sure if you can do anything about it, but I really hope you can be a voice in someone’s ear.”

A non-Indigenous grandmother said that the world is in such a perilous situation environmentally that it is simply incomprehensible how the RCMP can justify to themselves that it is ok to promote further fossil fuel development. “It used to be that as a grandmother I would be thinking, should I start an savings plan to help with my grandchild’s education? Will they want to go to university? What will they do when they grow up? Now I think, will my grandchild have a planet on which to have a future?

Another grandmother said, “We are all concerned about future generations. The land doesn’t belong to the corporations, yet the RCMP protects them, while we pay your salaries with our taxes.”

A man commented that “we are tired of being bullied by you.” Another man followed this thread, saying we know what happened here in Rexton. The special RCMP who came here did what they are trained to do. It seems many come from families where you were brought up to hate, and went in all psyched up, to beat the crap out of Indigenous protectors. What you should have been doing is protecting the people who want to protect the water. It is your water too.”

screenshot at 2019-01-14 08-29-13The observation was made that the RCMP are always in the middle of whatever brutal measures Canada is trying to force on Indigenous Peoples, and also have enough rotten apples in their own ranks that they are also mired in their own controversies about Indigenous Peoples. Cpl. Melanson assured us that the people he works with have good intentions and attitudes, but he said racism can crop up in any group. A community member said the RCMP must not allow themselves to be used in this way, and “to make your own definition of what is ethical behaviour.”

The topic of the Civilian Commission’s report came up. Here we are five and almost one-half years after the Public Interest Investigation was launched and we still have no report. Numerous news stories and reports coming from Wet’suwet’en describe that they are going through the same traumatic brutality and callousness we experienced, see: First Nations arrested at B.C. checkpoint accuse ‘over-equipped’ RCMP of excessive force, also: People arrested at Gidimt’en anti-pipeline camp allege inappropriate use of force. no-fracking-health-yellow-8.5-150x150

On January 14th, the New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance issued an Open Letter to New Brunswick MP’s. They appear to have new information about the Civilian Commission report:

“The actions in question [in Wet’suwet’en] resonated strongly* with those of us in New Brunswick who experienced the similar action of the RCMP raid on Elsipogtog over five years ago… with government employing the RCMP as an enforcement arm of fossil fuel interests; elevating commercial interests via an injunction over the larger and fundamental issues of civil rights, indigenous rights and international obligations at play.

“We have two requests to make of you. The first is to make the federal government aware of our position and our support for the We’suwet’en Clan Leaders…

“The second request is for you and the federal government to put pressure on the RCMP Commissioner to release the CRCC investigation report on the events at Elsipogtog… It has been over 5 years in preparation, and via our communications with the CRCC we know that it has been completed and is only awaiting a decision to be released.” (my emphasis)

Hopes were expressed in front of Cpl. Melanson that we might see this report during our lifetimes. While it was felt that rank and file RCMP might be very interested to read and learn from this report,it was observed that sreluctance to allow this report to see the light of the day could well emanate from state security personnel (elected, uniformed, civilian) who believe their own hype that Indigenous rights activists, defenders and protectors are terrorists.

The report would almost certainly challenge the dominant narratives about who is wrongright as well as critique official justifications for use of extraordinary measures. The underlying question of whether the RCMP should enforce private corporate civil court injunctions will have to be addressed as well. n this report.

Another topic that was mentioned by several people was the RCMP protocol of excluding media. Here in Kent County/Sikniktuk it appeared almost accidental that the media could not get to the protest sites, where water protectors were preventing SWN Resources Canada from using their seismic testing equipment. A combination of RCMP tactics – ranging from kettling the protestors and protectors, to creating barricades so no cars could pass through, to using the draconian terms of the second injunction to prevent reporters from stopping anywhere near the SWN equipment – all served to create a media exclusion zone. As person who often did media liaison work, I frequently heard reporters complaining they could not get to our sites to cover the stories.

On the morning of the actual invasion, October 17, 2013, the only mainstream media that could enter the zone sealed off by the 200 or so militarized RCMP was the one reporter who came in with them, an “embedded” reporter from Sun News, who told only the RCMP side of the events. All alternative coverage came from social media, although early on the Halifax Media Co-op correspondent was able to send out some reports, until he was detained by police. A reporter from APTN found his way in at some point. Our area is not like the Wet’suwet’en Territory, in that there are multiple methods of access if one has the right vehicle, friends, and knowledge of the trails.

The outrage about this strategy being used in Wet’suwet’en is encouraging. When it happened here in Sikniktuk, it was hardly mentioned in amongst all the other concerns. Now we see the issue rising above the din.

The international Committee to Protect Journalists saying, “Authorities in Canada should immediately end the arbitrary restrictions on journalists covering the police breakup of the pipeline protest. Journalists should be able to freely cover events of national importance, without fear of arrest.” Apparently an RCMP spokesperson said the “temporary exclusion zone” was established to ensure public safety. It is worth noting that this is what RCMP commanders told me when I complained about the exclusion of media here in 2013. I argued that the presence of media would help ensure public safety, as we the public were the ones in danger from the company’s private security as well as those RCMP members with less self-control.

APTN reported that neither their news crew not the Vancouver CBC TV crew could enter, and NDP MP Nathan Cullen was also prohibited from accessing the site. As soon as the tactical/paramilitary RCMP force arrived on site, all social media feeds and posts are the Camp went silent. APTN also reports that an RCMP spokesperson said the police had nothing to do with the sudden, timely disruption of communications. However, Tom Henheffer, vice president of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), told APTN that this tactic “is very commonly employed and is very difficult to fight against… it takes too long for a journalist to get a lawyer, go to court to get an order to allow them to get on to the site.”

Ricochet media editorialized “We are gravely concerned by the RCMP’s decision to bar journalists from the site of yesterday’s raid, and their continued refusal to allow media access to the area today…. The right to freedom of the press is guaranteed in our constitution and the right of the public to know is fundamental to our democracy. …We note with concern that the department of public safety and the minister responsible for the RCMP, Ralph Goodale, have referred requests for comment to the RCMP, describing the exclusion of media as an “operational matter.” …this precedent must not be allowed to stand. It seems clear that the RCMP’s intent was to limit reporting from the site, rather than to safeguard the well-being of journalists. This is consistent with” an APTN report on “internal RCMP and government documents,” which “show ‘police are not assessing Indigenous protests in Canada based on factors of criminality but are more concerned about the protestors’ ability to gain public support.’ “

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While we could argue that the “precedents” were set here in Sikniktuk, or least the mechanics tested here, on January 8th many of us raised the same points as the three organizations above.

An elder and community leader from Elsipogtog told Cpl. Melanson “Canada has abandoned you. Trudeau’s comments made that clear. He is saying the federal government has nothing to do this, like Pontius Pilate always washing his hands, always washing his hands. Trudeau might want to wash his hands but I will not allow him. This is going to fall hard on the RCMP. I very strongly condemn the invasion of a sovereign nation by the RCMP on behalf of Canada.”

Look at us. We are not terrorists.”

In some ways, the time we spent in the Richibucto RCMP detachment lobby was like being in the opening round of a Restorative Justice Circle. Cpl. Melanson stood in for the entire RCMP force, as we shared our feelings from 2013 and strongly criticized the repeat operation that had taken place on Wet’suwet’en territory since the court appoved Coastal GasLink/TransCanada’s interim injunction.

One person who was present with us said, “What made it good for people was that RCMP Daniel seemed to truly listen and also that no one was rushed. Although we were in RCMP facilities, the lack of a desk between us made for a feeling of equality, as in a true, be it impromptu, round table discussion. …And afterwards, the warmth and sharing of the round dance, the Honour Song…..will stay in my heart, also, just so you know.”

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Credit to Ernesto Carranza, Miramichi Leader

Another person said, “They are trained to look like they are listening and to stay patient. I have a hard time trusting that anything improved will come from this, because all my life and in my work I have seen how they “act” with Aboriginal people.”

As much as we have trust issues with the RCMP, they have them with us. Another of our people commented, “Notice how he was standing with his back to the interview room and the door was cracked open? We did not have to ask him to take notes. In the interview room there is a camera and recorder of voice, and probably there is something like that in the lobby too.”

The reporter from the Miramichi Leader newspaper was perhaps more objective. He wrote, “Melanson stood in a corner and listened to protesters…” He quoted the Cpl. Saying, “I will relay these concerns up and for me that’s all I can do right now… We can take in the concerns of the community, actively listen, and see if those concerns make it to the right people.” The news story continued: Cpl. Melanson acknowledged he had worked and lived in Richibucto for the last six years, was also in Rexton during the protests, and said he doesn’t want that situation to occur ever again.” (my emphasis)

In my view, committed as I stubbornly am to non-violence, the only way we can change things in human relationships is through changing understanding, through person-to-person conversation. What we did was important in general, but specifically for a community like ours which has been through exactly the same thing as happened in Wet’suwet’en territory last week.

For more than an hour, every time I looked at Cpl. Melanson, he looked very emotionally affected. Take a look at these images. You can also see more of him in the videos linked at the top of this blog, from which these still were taken.

What I saw each time I looked at him was he was often reflective and looking somewhat sad, or as if aching inside to be hearing all this. Down. At times his body seemed limp. Never angry. Sincere mostly. No doubt he must also have been frustrated by some recounts and comments that were harsh but he made no effort to argue. Only once did he try to correct (and that was me!). Perhaps he was even a bit grateful to finally have the chance to listen to us. As we were leaving, he shook my hand and said he was happy to have finally met me in person. I think there were others in the room he must have felt the same way about, as there were at least five others present who were centrally involved in organizing and speaking publicly in 2013. Odd that it took this long to start the conversation. That shows our lack of imagination as well as their limitations.

We are talking about doing something like this again. Personally, I am daydreaming about traveling across Canada, mobilizing local Indigenous-Settler alliances to go into cop-shops everywhere and try to get someone to sit down and talk with us. We have planet to save, and that starts with each of us.

A Final Word on “Reconciliation”

At the outset, I explained to Cpl Melanson we are here in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en People because we know that they are going through. The APTN reporter who was present with us tweeted me saying, “What happened yesterday was illegal.” And also tweeted Melanson responding. “I will let my superiors know.”

A strong and committed water protector pointed out to Cpl. Melanson that after all that was done by the company and the government, much of which the RCMP had to get their hands dirty carrying out, “It did not work. There are ongoing community tensions, and really you ended up creating more resistance” because of the force’s appalling behaviour.screenshot at 2019-01-14 08-34-13

For me, I have been involved in citizen activism for peace and disarmament, anti-racism, civil rights, and international solidarity my entire adult life. In 1990, I was drawn into Indigenous human rights and solidarity work by the obvious injustices occurring at Oka/Kanehsatake. “Oka” was followed by the Old Man River, Ipperwash, Gustafsen Lake, Burnt Church, Elsipogtog, and now Wet’suwet’en. Personally I was only directly involved in solidarity work on a couple of these issues but I do know that the responses from the authorities to each of these have come from the same play book, albeit more sophisticated each iteration. It is no wonder to me that frustration is growing. Yes, of course, as my friend said, what the RCMP is doing is not working and it is only building more resistance and public support because it is so wrong.

Ellen Gabriel, always a respected speaker for the Kanehsatake Mohawks, commented on social media last week:

“We’ve been asked hundreds of times about lessons learned from the “1990 Oka Crisis.” Obviously Canada decided its lesson was to increase military training to its police forces.

“The “Kanehsatake Seige of 1990” included the status quo of Canada discriminating against the Haudenosaunee – People of the Longhouse – in fact making Indigenous traditional governments illegal. Canada deals only with the band councils it created and which it claims are the only ‘legitimate ‘ entity. So almost 29 years later people are now asking what is the difference between traditional governments and band councils.”

Gabriel’s answer is simple:

“One survived colonization. The other embraces it. The Two Row Wampum is the way to understand this. One path upholds Onkwehón:we culture, customs, law, and governance. The other path upholds the colonizers’ values and laws. There is no prejudice against those who chose the colonizer path, but allow those who choose traditional governance a voice and right to protect our ancestral heritage and human rights. Skén:nen.”

Few people realize Canada has signed many international human rights treaties and is required by some of these to report regularly to the UN Human Rights Committee on compliance issues inside Canada.

Even fewer people realize that Canada’s treatment of Indigenous persons inside Canada has long been an ongoing concern for the esteemed human rights experts at the UN. Canada is trying to get an seat on the Security Council of the UN, which it lost during the Harper government period, in large part because of that regime’s handling of Indigenous rights issues domestically. So there is some potential leverage there, because the UN human rights experts welcome “shadow reports” from informed citizens and groups, who may speak of things that the nation-state (in this case Canada…) does not wish to make public. 9200000010157436

As well, there is an “Optional Protocol” procedure which allows specific urgent specific human rights violations to be brought directly into the UNHRC apparatus, provided the claimant can convincingly assert that their own rights have been affected. Because Canada is eager to impress the UN, these are tactics worth considering.

The UN also has Special Rapporteurs who handle key human rights files. The Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples submitted a report in September 2018, called Attacks against and criminalization of indigenous peoples defending their rights. In the section called “Root causes and drivers behind attacks and criminalization,” she notes:

“The intensified competition over natural resources led by private companies, at times with government complicity, has placed indigenous communities seeking to protect their traditional lands at the forefront as targets of persecution…

“Disregard of indigenous rights of traditional lands ownership breeds tensions, subsequent violence and criminalization, as indigenous peoples become trespassers or illegal occupants of their own lands, subject to criminal charges… and removal from the lands they rely upon for their livelihoods, social and cultural cohesion and spiritual traditions. In the worst instances, escalating militarization, compounded by historical marginalization, results in indigenous peoples being targeted under national security acts and antiterrorism legislation, putting them in the line of fire, at times literally, by the army and the police (A/HRC/24/41/Add.3).

“The priority of indigenous peoples is the protection of their traditional lands, territories and natural resources. Indigenous peoples question a purely commercial development model which disregards their rights and causes irreparable harm to the environment and the natural resources they depend on for their survival.”

In the concluding observations of her report, the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples says,

“States carry the primary responsibility for ensuring that indigenous peoples are able to safely exercise their rights… Large-scale development projects are major drivers fuelling the escalation of attacks and the criminalization of indigenous peoples. The frequent undertaking of such projects without genuine consultation or measures to seek the free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous peoples concerned must cease…

The Special Rapporteur recommends that civil society continue to provide support and legal advice and facilitate the sharing of experiences in relation to protection measures for indigenous people.” (my emphasis)

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Credit to tweets by Angel Moore at APTN for this image.

We are civil society – all of us. This document is an attempt to do some of that sharing. I do think it would be useful for solidarious settlers to go in and talk, like we did, heart-to-heart, with local RCMP personnel in your area. We must make these conversations happen. Forget the politicians, they are all front men for the corporations. Talk to your local cops. I am not sure who said this, probably many wise revolutionaries, but we cannot change society until we bring the military and police on board.

I give the last words to Niigaan Sinclair, columnist at the Winnipeg Free Press, because just as here in 2013…

“The non-violent actions of Indigenous peoples at Unist’ot’en and Gidimt’en camps is an invitation to conversation. It is Canada who orders police and guns and ends any dialogue. It is Canada perpetrating violence and arresting people on their land. It is Canada forcing people to accept what they don’t want.

“That’s not a “nation-to-nation” relationship… The biggest challenge facing reconciliation is how Canada and Indigenous peoples share and listen to the other’s perspectives… Canada wants to tell Indigenous peoples who should sit at the negotiating table. When Indigenous peoples send representatives Canada doesn’t want to speak to, the RCMP is dispatched…

Who, this week, was ready to talk — and who brought the guns to the meeting?”

(my emphasis)

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Send reply comments to me at coc.kent.county.nb@gmail.com.
Wela’lin, merci, thanks. M’sit nokmaq. We are all related.

*Note: that link takes the reader to Part 1 of my report on our rally at the Richibucto RCMP detachment. This is Part 2, dealing with what took place in the dialogue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Submission to the Federal Government re: Consultation on the Anti-Terrorism Act (Bill C-51)

feathergirl

December 13, 2016

To:         National Security Consultation, Public Safety Canada

From:   Ann Pohl, on behalf of the Kent County Chapter, Council of Canadians;

To the Attention of: 

I am writing to you today on behalf of the Kent County NB Chapter of the Council of Canadians.

We are pleased to learn that your government is seriously considering how to undo the considerable damage to human rights enacted through the Anti-Terrorism Act (formerly known as Bill C-51).

Unfortunately, we only became aware of your government’s consultation process on this matter about a week ago. In this letter, we ask you to consider the grave social importance of having a public meeting in our area. What follows is the “back story” so that you know why we make this request.

Introducing Ourselves

Our chapter supporters are some of the Anglo, Acadian, Mi’kmaq, and Newcomer community members who determinedly protected our watersheds, soil, air, communities, properties, and the health of our family and neighbours, from the threat of deep shale unconventional hydraulic fracking in 2013.

Actually, we were educating ourselves and others on this issue since 2011, when people in this area first learned about this proposed resource development by SWN Resources Canada. The industry was still in its youth when we heard it was coming here. Still, we were not operating on a lucky hunch when we began to kick up a fuss about the proposal for this to happen in our neighbourhood of New Brunswick. We were warned of the serious issues by other communities in the United States, who had been in the first wave of those to be fracked. For that, we are extremely grateful..

Aside from documented cases of pollution of water, soil and air, this resource extraction 02335e37ded043bf5b18318a013bd7b9process is incredibly capital and water-usage intensive, It contributes terribly to global climate issues due to fugitive methane releases, flaring, and the carbon footprint of the industrial practices of drilling, transporting, etc. On top of that, this form of deep fracking has proven to have very low productivity after just the first year. When the wells become too unproductive to merit more fracks, they are no longer used. Most governments have not demanded a guarantee for close-down in the contracts with proponents. Sometimes wells get capped off properly, but these may remain hazardous unless monitored continuously. There are many time-bombs in aging frack plays, because the cost of proper decommissioning and monitoring is greater than the profit margin supports.

Subsequent to our success at stopping the proponent from commencing with drilling, we have been proven correct in our concerns. There is now conclusive scientific research on the risks and hazards of this form of fracking. Our concerns were acknowledged by the Government of New Brunswick earlier this year, when an indefinite moratorium on hydraulic fracking was announced.

In short, we have been exonerated: we were right to defend our families and our rural environment from this environmental threat. Yet, in 2016, there are road-level resistors/protectors who are still living with court “conditions.” The conditions imposed on many of our Indigenous allies are far more severe than what a non-Indigenous person would expect. All-out attempts were made to make an example of us and thus discourage other similar Water Protection actions across Canada.

The facts about fracking above illustrate that we did the right thing when it needed to be done. We did this despite having to face down our own provincial government, one of the largest oil and gas mining companies in North America, and the most powerful resource extraction corporation in this province who also controls the vast majority of the mainstream media. In a sense, we were on the side of the angels, but obviously some of the national security forces in Canada did not agree.

The Repression We Experienced

I do not need to drag you through everything we went through. It is all a matter of public record in the media, and in various government files. I want to bring your focus to the particular matters which underscore why the Peoples of Kent County NB deserve our own public consultation meeting on domestic national security and the Anti-Terrorism Act. I will focus on four points:

  1. Critical Infrastructure Intelligence Assessment: Criminal Threats to the Canadian Petroleum Industry

    Around the same time as Bill C-51 was introduced to the federal parliament, a “top secret” RCMP 2014 document was somehow obtained by Greenpeace and released to the media. This document is an internal “security force” backgrounder. It clearly makes the argument for a stronger legislative framework to criminalize grassroots environmental protection action.

    It is significant to note that this document repeatedly suggests that peaceful protesters who assemble over climate concerns or other environmental issues are somehow a risk to national security. It is a disgrace that such a document would be produced in a country committed to respect for the civil and political rights of its citizenry.

    Throughout the document you will note that our allies and ourselves are specifically tumblr_mh3bkewfyd1s0tx32o1_500portrayed in a very negative manner. Completely missing from this biased document is what we actually did for four years to protect the water and environment here in Kent County NB and why we did it. Also, the document suggests we were all dangerous and inclined towards violent protest.

    Exaggerations, lies, misinformation, and disinformation are propagated in this official document. This is only one example of how we Protectors and Defenders have been villainized, disrupted, and otherwise attacked in the so-called interest of national security. We do not expect an apology for these slanderous comments. We would like the opportunity to tell leaders of Canada about the damage your police and security forces have done to lives here with these and other attacks.

  2. SWN Resources sued gas protesters for losses

    Two civil court actions were filed by SWN Resources Canada in Fall 2013 against some of us and our allies. (A link to an article on the first suit is provided in this section’s heading.) It is evident that these claims were launched for the purpose of discouraging public involvement in resisting the destruction of our local environment. Typically, civil actions like these are known as “SLAPP suits” (Strategic Legal Action to Prevent Public Participation in social activism). They include a claim for damages, on the basis of which an injunction is sought against protestors.

    14368804_10154323458455932_5073778277126996304_nThese suits are simply corporate violation of human rights. To those directly named, they cause alarm, depression, trauma, anger, and much more. In the broader community, they create panic and confusion for those who are affiliated with the named individuals through organizations or actions. In almost all cases, the suits amount to empty bullying. Few are taken to conclusion, primarily because corporations know they would lose with their inflated and untrue assertions. In a subsequent news report, it can be seen that the 10 named individuals in this first SWN Resources Canada initiated SLAPP suit are accused by the corporations of a range of illegal and obnoxious acts. Although our Chapter does not personally know all the individuals named, we do know that several of those accused had not done the things that were published in the newspaper as their “crimes.”

    In many jurisdictions there is no legislation preventing corporations from launching these exasperating actions. As in our area, the names of all accused would be dragged through the mud in public while all these people are doing is exercising their civil and political rights. An increasing number of jurisdictions are bringing in legislation that prevents frivolous and noxious legal action like this. To protect the rights of all Canadians, federal initiative is needed to ensure that SLAPP suits cannot happen anywhere in this nation.

  3. Chair-Initiated Complaint and Public Interest Investigation into the RCMP response to the shale gas (fracking) protests in Kent County, New Brunswick, in 2013

    In 2013, we spent seven months on the roads of this county to stop SWN Resource Canada’s search for the best fracking drill sites. Many of us – especially our Mi’kmaq allies – were subjected to severe repression by the RCMP. Numerous abuses of power took place.

    The RCMP also completely and inexplicably flip-flopped on the question of whether it was their responsibility to enforce a private corporation’s civil suit seeking damages for their losses from community leaders. Initially the RCMP said it was not their job: there is a court affidavit dated October 9th that substantiates this. For some unknown reason, a week later they changed their opinion, and immediately initiated one of the largest police attacks on a public protest ever seen in Canada. Even this assault, and a myriad of trumped-up charges and release conditions, did not stop us. Resistance continued on the road for another almost two months.

    Many of us who were involved feel strongly that much of the non-peaceful conduct on 2013 was the work of outsiders, possibly provocateurs, conceivably working for a security force that wanted to make us look bad. Not coincidentally, no protector/protester was convicted of the most controversial activity that took place: the burning of police cars. Our feelings about this are based in reality. It has been previously determined that RCMP have burnt buildings and cars, and conducted other illegal activities to discredit dissenters and activists.

    Many of us were traumatized by the experiences we had at the hands of the RCMP.

    tumblr_mh3bkewfyd1s0tx32o1_500Arising from all of this, hundreds of complaints about police abuse of powers were documented. These are being investigated by the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP. In December 2014, we were relieved to learn that the Civilian Commission has taken this matter so seriously that their own Commissioner also filed a complaint regarding RCMP activity. It is now more than three years since these abuses took place, and more than two years since the investigation began. It is very demoralizing that there has been no news about when we can expect a report from the Commission.

    Sadly, being disappointed by the Commission is not a huge surprise. In 2009, the Harper government removed outspoken Paul Kennedy, head of the Commission for Public Complaints against the RCMP, from his position. The government at that time also cut the budget of the this agency, and narrowed its purview. Subsequently, in December 2014, the Harper government finished off any hope for a valid independent process for review of RCMP actions through passage of the Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability Act. This closed the Commission for Public Complaints and replaced it with the current Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (CRCC), which is mandated under the RCMP Act and has no powers to order anything. The CRCC can only make suggestions and use moral suasion.

  4. 35 Indigenous anti-shale gas protesters in N.B. on RCMP ‘threat’ list 

    Recent media reports indicate that the RCMP’s National Intelligence Co-ordination Centre has a list of 313 Indigenous activists who concern them. 89 of these are on a priority “watch list.” 35 of these “potential threats to public safety” got on the list because of anti-fracking resistance here in Kent County NB. Jeffrey Monaghan, an assistant professor at Carleton University’s Institute for Criminology and Criminal Justice, filed the Access to Information request that uncovered the list of Indigenous persons of national security interest. Monaghan is quoted saying, “These are Charter-protected activities… public, political events that people are engaging with.”

    14963180_10154449656475932_3513501820441595556_nIn a follow-up new story on CBC, ‘We’ve always been seen as a threat,’ says former N.W.T. premier of RCMP surveillance revelations, former NWT Premier Stephen Kawfki makes the point that “some of our people stand up to protect our land, wildlife, our way of life, our community against development and against business interests, industrial interests… When our people stand up and take a stand it evokes fear and outrage sometimes from other groups and individuals and we need protection. That’s what police are for.” Deneze Nakehk’o, who works with Dene Nahjo in the NWT, comments, “All this surveillance really makes it difficult for Indigenous people to trust the state.” Kawfki is concerned that “Canada reverts to police state surveillance, when we should all be working towards working together.”

    That is exactly our point. When any of us are handled like enemies of the state, when civil and political human rights are violated by the state, all of us are injured. Then we are all affected and become extremely distrustful. That is the situation today in Kent County NB.

    There are no comparable information releases for non-Indigenous people involved in environmental protection or social justice action across Canada, or specifically here in NB. However, we can be sure there is a long general and a shorter “watch-list” for non-Indigenous persons as well. At the community level, we grassroots people are all in this together. As well some non-Indigenous people have been long involved in peace and justice civil disobedience, and many work together with Indigenous communities.

What A Public Consultation Meeting re: the Anti-Terrorism Act would Mean for People in Kent County

another-worldIn this submission, we have not touched on all the problems in Canada’s current national security legislation, policies and programs. As mentioned, only last week we accidentally learned of this consultation process deadline. There are certainly dozens of issues we would like to highlight, but shortness of time makes that impossible. For now, suffice it to say we endorse anything sent in by any chapter of the Council of Canadians, the national office of the Council of Canadians, or from KAIROS, Voices-Voix, or the Canadian Section of Amnesty International.

Our immediate request is that your Committee come to Kent County NB to hear from people directly how we feel about being made to look like enemies of the state. Speaking for our Chapter members, and advocating also for all our diverse Water Protection allies, you need to see our faces and hear our voices to understand what needs to change and why.

After the treatment many of us endured, we need to know you care enough to take the time to do this. It may be a first step to rebuilding trust. As former NWT Premier Kawfki says, we are all in this together. There is no Planet B. We need to figure out how to get along and pull this planet back from the brink of ecoapocalypse.

mlk

copied to:
Scott Bardsley, Media Coordinator/Minister of Public Safety; scott.bardsley@canada.ca

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

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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.

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

drummers n cops

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.

swn security

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.

1509225_10152144083755775_1560719470_n

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.

bleeding mouth

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.”

choking

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.

RCMP guarding Thumper

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.

Mikmaq-protest-Nov-14-e1384456554762

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.

who is this man pic 1

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.

child

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.

john with rcmp

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.

filed web size

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.

firekeeper arrrest

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.

signs pic for IMW

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.

elsipogtog-ossie-michelin-protest-photo

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

bleeding protestor - was carrying water -- now arrestednew-brunswick-frack-off-rally

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NBASGA letter to Minister Danny Soucy – re: AIS EIA application 1390, to dump fracking waste water in Dieppe

New Brunswick Anti Shale Gas Alliance, Inc.
jimemberger@yahoo.com

September 1, 2014
Hon. Danny Soucy, Minister of Environment and Local Government
Marysville Place, P O Box 6000
Fredericton, NB E3B 5H1
danny.soucy@gnb.ca

Re: EIA Application 1390

Dear Minister Soucy:

I am writing on behalf of the New Brunswick Anti Shale Gas Alliance (NBASGA ) to comment on the application for Environmental Impact Assessment review by Atlantic Industrial Services (AIS). The proponent proposes to dispose of “flowback” waste water from unconventional hydraulic “fracking” operations into the sewer system that serves Dieppe, Moncton and Riverview. From there it will travel into the Petitcodiac River, and subsequently disperse into the Bay of Fundy, travelling up and down with the tides until eventually it flows out of the Bay.

I will mention a few overarching points and then raise a number of issues that are of major concern to the many New Brunswickers who are part of NBASGA. For more information about NBASGA and what we stand for, I invite you to view our website at http://www.noshalegasnb.ca/.

1.  Under the Clean Environment Act – Regulation 87-83, specifically Schedule A; Undertakings 87-108.m, there appears to be an absolute requirement – i.e. an automatic trigger by legislation – for a full, public Comprehensive EIA Review in regards to any industrial project that includes a waste disposal system.

2.  I realize your department is at a preliminary stage with Application 1390, but so far your department has not been forthcoming about engaging the multiple parties that would be brought into this comprehensive public review. It is my understanding that the City of Dieppe only received a copy of the proponent’s proposal from a concerned private citizen, about two months after the application was filed with your department. Further it is my understanding that the communities of Moncton and Riverview, who share a water/sewage system with Dieppe, only learned about Application 1390 from the media coverage of the August Dieppe City Council meeting where this was discussed. These procedural shortcomings suggest a reluctance to fully disclose to key partners, which is not at all in the spirit of the legislation.

3. Please take this as official notice that NBASGA wants to be involved and informed at every stage of this application. We look forward to having some of our following questions and concerns addressed through the mandated Comprehensive EIA Review process.

4.  Something does not add up properly: the proposed facility has only been granted a six month license to operate in this location, while the proposal calls for approximately three years of work. It has been said that this facility was out of operation for a period of time before Application 1390 was developed. To address public concerns, more information is required on the equipment at the site, the operational condition of the facility at the site, and the reason the licence is only valid until November 6, 2014.

Now I will turn to other details that are of great concern to NBASGA members.

5.  What are the Government of New Brunswick’s standards, processes and technology for assessing and monitoring the accumulation of low-level radioactivity and/or toxicity in bodies of water to which industrial effluent has been added? Please point us in the direction of these standards or if they are not yet in place, please advise when they will be.

6.  Apparently, there has never been any independent testing of the supposedly “treated” wastewater that is being held in Nova Scotia, as AIS awaits a decision on this application. AIS always took the samples and submitted the samples themselves.  The history of dealing with the troublesome wastewater produced by fracking is replete with examples of companies evading or breaking regulatory requirements. NBASGA is not accusing AIS of any such actions, but we note that the history of this wastewater shows that the company did not initially disclose the nature of radioactive and toxic contents of wastewater to the municipal sewage treatment systems with whom it was working in Nova Scotia. Will New Brunswick authorities require an independent, arms-length third party retest of this water prior to the application being approved to begin transporting it to Dieppe?

7.  How can we be certain that the chemicals being tested by AIS or anyone else constitutes the complete list of chemicals used in those particular fracking operation mixtures that created this wastewater?

♦  First, trade secrets often overrule public interest, so that the precise cocktail of chemicals used is often unknown to anyone but the fracking company.

♦  Second, when chemicals combine they can often combine to become something else, perhaps more sinister than the original compounds.

  Third, from the document, OUT OF CONTROL: Nova Scotia’s Experience with Fracking for Shale, we see that of the chemicals that were identified by AIS many have toxic or carcinogenic properties.

•  Of the 22 identified chemicals used in Hants County: two are known to adversely affect reproduction; eight are potential mutagens; eight are potential carcinogens; and eleven have the potential to cause adverse effects to ecological integrity.

•  Of the 31 identified products (chemical mixtures) used in Hants County: five are associated with adverse effects on reproduction; five contain potential mutagens; eight contain potential carcinogens; and eight can cause adverse ecological impacts.

•  In the five years that this water has been sitting open to the elements in Nova Scotia holding ponds, the chemicals have been diluted by water, potentially mixed with other wastewater or had time to break down. Is the complete list of fracking chemicals originally in the wastewater known? Are they toxic? Have any combined to form new hazardous compounds?

 How will the province of New Brunswick assure the public that the complete composition of all chemicals in each load of wastewater is known prior to its transport, and that the proponent actually has the industrial capacity to treat and remove all these dangerous substances from that load of wastewater?

8.  On standards and radioactivity: One reason why Nova Scotia originally refused the wastewater was due to the level of radioactivity. Dieppe has no standards for radioactivity in its by-laws. Canadian federal standards have not been updated for decades although more stringent guidelines are coming into effect for municipal treatment plant shortly – raising the additional question of will the water still meet the stipulations of those guidelines? If not, what happens then? While regulations have not kept pace, during recent decades much scientific research has been done on the negative cumulative effects of low-level radiation. Peer reviewed studies done in Pennsylvania have found that treated fracking wastewater often still exceeded US radioactivity standards.  What will New Brunswick do in terms of research and testing to address these concerns?

9.  What went wrong in Nova Scotia and why is there such urgency for disposal? In the EIA application, the rationale for the project hinges on the holding ponds at Debert being full, and AIS being uncertain of the success of an experimental project which saw two million litres diverted for “incineration” at a NS cement plant in NS. As they have completed the test of two million litres, should we assume the urgency to dispose of water in Dieppe means this was unsuccessful? We can guess that the two million litres delivered by AIS to the Lafarge Cement Kiln at Brookfield for experimental disposal apparently did not work as planned, as Lafarge didn’t take any more.  Does this mean that it could not be scrubbed of hazardous chemicals even using this process? Why did this experiment not work? Is the reason the same as the reason that Nova Scotia municipalities continue to refuse to accept the wastewater? This is important information that must be disclosed so that the public can feel a reasoned decision is being made based on good science. Also, has the urgency of this request and the amounts of wastewater actually been verified?

  If the wastewater contains any contaminants or radioactivity, the tidal bore would take some of the waste upriver as far as Salisbury and leave any radioactive particles or residue chemicals in the muddy banks along the way. The same situation applies to downriver.  Halls Creek and all tidal streams will be affected. As the process continues, any chemicals and radioactive particles will gradually accumulate over time, becoming more toxic and threatening aquatic life. All these communities and the people who live in them are entitled to the full disclosure and engagement process offered by a Comprehensive EIA Review.

  Who will pay? Some of these tests take several weeks, and that is just one factor that makes the essential independent, arms length testing expensive. So, of course as taxpayers, we would like to know who will pay for it? Keeping things safe costs a lot of money, so there is a lot of incentive for companies to do as little as possible and to weaken regulations as much as possible. That is why we must remain cautious and vigilant.

  Protecting the unique Bay of Fundy environment, on which many, many Maritimers rely for their livelihood: We believe that The Nova Scotia Department of Environment stated that they would not approve release of wastewater to an aquatic environment until tests had been done in the particular environment in question, which in this case is the Bay of Fundy. Clearly N.S. had its reasons for saying this, so I ask if your government has undertaken or commissioned such testing?

 In view of all the serious issues we have raised, we ask that you immediately make the determination to require Proposal 1390 to undergo a full, public Comprehensive EIA Reviewed due to the human health and environmental considerations arising from the intended activity.

We also ask that you invite the Chief Medical Officer of Health or her departmental designate to join this Comprehensive EIA Review as a lead partner. We make this request because of the very deep concerns she expressed about human health impacts of these industrial effluents, and the province’s capacity shortfall to deal with this matter, in her report Chief Medical Officer of Health’s Recommendations Concerning Shale Gas Development in New Brunswick (October 2012).

Thank you for your consideration of these points. NBASGA looks forward to your prompt response.

Sincerely yours,

Jim Emberger, Spokesman,  New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance

copied to:

  • Scott Sangster, Director of Health, Safety & Environment, Envirosystems (AIS) SSangster@envirosystems.ca
  • Gary Drescher, Project Manager, Dillon Consulting GDrescher@dillon.ca
  • Shawn Hamilton, Project Manager, Environmental Assessment Section, Department of Environment and Local Government Shawn.Hamilton@gnb.ca
  • Dr. Eilish Cleary, NB Chief Medical Officer of Health Eilish.Cleary@gnb.ca
  • Karen White, Director, Healthy Environments, Health Karen.White@gnb.ca
  • Hon. David Alward, Premier of New Brunswick David.Alward@gnb.ca
  • Hon. Craig Leonard, Minister of Energy and Mines Craig.Leonard@gnb.ca
  • Stephanie Merrill, Conservation Council of New Brunswick, water@conservationcouncil.ca
  • Anita Cannon Conservation Council NB Southeast, ccnbsoutheast@gmail.com
  • Margo Sheppard, Council of Canadians, Fredericton, NTNB1@bellaliant.net
  • Angela Giles, Council of Canadians Atlantic Region, agiles@canadians.org

also copied to Moncton Municipal Government:

also copied to Dieppe Municipal Government:

also copied to Riverview Municipal Government:

also copied to Members of NBASGA (shaleinfo.nb@gmail.com):

  • Clean Energy Sussex
  • Concerned Citizens of Penobsquis
  • Cornhill and Area Residents Assn
  • Council of Canadians, Saint John
  • Darlings Island
  • Kent South No Shale Gas
  • Hampton Water First
  • Memramcook Action
  • Notre Environnement, Notre Choix
  • Petitcodiac Watershed Alliance
  • Sustainable Energy Group
  • Tantramar Alliance Against Hydro-Fracking
  • Taymouth Environmental Action
  • Upper Miramichi Stewardship Alliance
  • Upriver Environment Watch
  • Water and Environmental Protection for Albert County