Elsipogtog seeks shale injunction against SWN

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The elected band council of Elsipogtog First Nation filed for a court injunction in the Court of Queen's Bench in Fredericton on November 14, 2013. The application names the Attorney General of New Brunswick, the Minister of Energy and Mines, SWN Resources Canada Inc, and the Assembly of First Nations' Chiefs in New Brunswick Inc. as respondents.

Interestingly, letters patent issued for the Assembly of First Nations Chiefs in New Brunswick Inc. named the Elsipogtog First Nation as one of the founders of the corporation. The Elsipogtog band council application asked to have an order suspending all SWN operations under oil and gas licences "an extremely urgent basis".

Media reported that the band had concerns about "a real risk of a repeat to clashes between police and protesters" that took place on October 17, 2013 near Rexton, New Brunswick.

Anti-shale gas protests erupted along Highway 11 near Laketon a few days before the injunction was filed; a police blockade closed part of the roadway for some of that day. That same day, RCMP officers also arrested Lorraine Clair, a 46-year-old woman from Elsipogtog and laid a total of 7 charges against her, including assaulting police officer(s) and resisting arrest.

RCMP stated that they closed Highway 11 in Laketon, New Brunswick "for public safety" due to the anti-shale gas protests which had been ongoing since late spring.

New Brunswick Energy Minister Craig Leonard was quoted as supporting the resumption of seismic testing despite widespread public outcry and demonstrations. Minister leonard appeared to be more concerned would be "able to get their work done in the allotted time that they're looking at." Although no anti-shale protest in New Brunswick had been violent, Leonard seemed compelled to state to the media that "As we've said all along we hope that protests remains peaceful and lawful.

The Elsipogtog injunction application says the exploration by SWN is illegal and unconstitutional because it violates aboriginal and treaty rights. The notice also expressed concern about "outside radical elements" converging "in significant numbers on New Brunswick [in] the vicinity of the shale gas exploration work that the respondents SWN proposes to recommence". Social media reported racist messages from groups such as Say Yes to Oil and Gas Exploration in New Brunswick posing a threat to opponents to shale gas exploration and development, who had set up a new camp on Highway 11 near the community of Laketon.

Protesters at the new camp spoke passionately about protecting the lands and waters in the region, "Some of us are willing to go to jail, some more than others, and I've even heard around the fires, 'I'm even willing to die for my land.'" Other protesters maintained that the demonstration would be peaceful.

Southwestern Energy Company (SWN) employees had laid seismic testing equipment lines, but later removed equipment that was near the new camp.

Some of the protesters told RCMP officers they were upset about what was going on because several weeks of shale gas protests and highway barricades near Rexton ended on Oct. 17 with a violent clash between protesters and RCMP, where dozens of protesters were assaulted and arrested and six police vehicles were destroyed by fire. APTN journalist Ossie Michelin reported hearing a camouflaged police officers involved in the raid shout to protestors, "“Crown land belongs to the government, not to fucking natives.” [1]

It was reported that the judge denied the band lawyer's request for an ex-parte injunction on the day that the documents were filed with the court; a public hearing on the matter took place on the next day, and the matter is to be decided on Monday, November 18, 2013

REFERENCES Elsipogtog seeks shale injunction, warns of 'radical elements' | CBC News Nov 14, 2013

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