(Elsipogtog Warriors and supporters along Hwy 11 where SWN Resources Canada laid down geophone lines Tuesday. Photo courtesy of Charmaine Sock)
APTN National News
LAKETON, NB–Warriors from Elsipogtog First Nation were preparing Tuesday evening to confront the machinery owned by a Houston-based energy firm conducting shale gas exploration work just north of the Mi’kmaq community.
SWN Resources Canada is expected to roll out its thumper trucks Wednesday in an area along Hwy 11 and about 46 kilometres north of Elsipogtog First Nations. The company laid out a string of geophones Tuesday which will be used to capture the vibrations emitted by the thumper trucks to create imagery of shale gas deposits in the area.
The majority of residents in Elsipogtog want to stop SWN’s exploration work fearing its completion would lead to the extraction of shale gas deposits through hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
Several warriors and supporters gathered around a fire Tuesday evening along Hwy 11 preparing for Wednesday’s appearance of the thumper trucks. Several planned to stay at the site overnight, with some sleeping in tents and others beneath tarps strapped to branches.
“When the sun rises I will be there waiting,” said Sequoyah Bernard, 19, one of the Warriors. “Whatever we decided to do that at that time, we will do.”
Bernard said the tactic could simply be standing the way of the trucks.
“We are not planning anything violent, it will be peaceful, we are going to stand together,” said Bernard.
The RCMP warned people at the encampment earlier in the day that they would be charged with mischief if they impeded SWN’s machinery from doing its work, according to video of the encounter which was posted on Facebook.
Bernard said the threat of charges did little to dampen their resolve.
“With all due respect, we are not listening to what they say. If they want to run us over, they can try,” said Bernard.
Bernard said the RCMP was in the area and a cruiser with its lights flashing was parked nearby along the highway.
“It is just something I feel I have to do,” said Bernard. “I am here for my people, protecting my people. That is what my job title is here.
RCMP Const. Jullie Rogers-Marsh said the RCMP is monitoring the situation.
“Based on things that have happened previously, it would be irresponsible for us not to be in the area,” said Rogers-Marsh.
Rogers-Marsh said the RCMP is not there to protect SWN.
“We are not private security,” she said.
The Canadian military also tried to dispel rumours it’s involved in ongoing police operations in the area.
“Currently, there is no official request for military support to RCMP,” said Capt. Clayton Myhill, with the Canadian Joint Operations Command.
SWN referred calls to communications firm Cape Consulting. Calls to senior consultant Tracey Stephenson went to voice mail.
SWN is planning to conduct 14 days of exploration before leaving the region, according to one of the lawyers hired by the firm.
Michael Connors, who is a partner with East Coast law firm McInnes Cooper, met with several dozen people from Elsipogtog and the surrounding communities late Sunday afternoon. He said the company would resume operating their thumper trucks Wednesday.
Connnors said they would face violence if they confronted the company with a blockade.
“Unfortunately, blockades lead to violence,” said Connors, according to a video of the meeting posted on Facebook.
Elsipogtog War Chief John Levi told Connors that the community would not be backing down.
“We are going to be there. Whatever happens, the ball is in your court. Whatever happens, you’re the ones who are going to make the calls,” said Levi, according to the nine-minute video. “Us as Natives and the protectors of this land, we are going to protect it, it is our land, we never ceded this land and we are going to protect it before these waters are contaminated.”
A woman in the crowd, who identified as non-Native, also pledged opposition to the exploration.
“As non-Natives we are going to protect the future of our children,” said the woman, in the video. “So non-Natives and Natives are together.”
SWN has faced intense and prolonged opposition to its shale gas exploration work around Elsipogtog First Nation which exploded after heavily armed RCMP tactical units raided an anti-fracking camp along Route 134 on Oct. 17.The camp was blocking several of SWN’s vehicles which were in a compound owned by JD Irving Ltd.
While the raid freed SWN’s trucks, it sparked day-long clashes between Elsipogtog residents and the RCMP. Several RCMP vehicles were torched and about 40 people were arrested.
A camp still remains on Route 134, which sits about 15 km southeast of Elsipogtog.
People in Elsipogtog and surrounding communities fear the discovery of shale gas would lead to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The controversial extraction method is viewed by many as posing a dire threat to water sources.