tv Fault Lines Al Jazeera February 13, 2015 7:00am-7:31am EST
or follow me and get in touch. see you next time in washington. i'm ray suarez. >> had it not sparked fire, this story would be like that of many other low-intensity conflicts over resources waiting to erupt across this oil, gas and fresh-water rich country. back in 2010, the canadian province of new brunswick granted a texas-based company, southwestern energy, licenses to explore for shale gas - in exchange for investment worth 47
million dollars. if shale gas extraction goes ahead, it will be a boon to new brunswick's struggling economy. the province anticipates it could generate over a thousand jobs and 1.5 billion dollars staunching the exodus of workers west to alberta's oil sands. >> to have that kind of revenue inflow and that kind of potential, it would have a dramatic impact on the province. in fact, on the studies we looked at just a few weeks ago indicates that shale gas development could actually double the economic growth rates in the province. >> three years later these were the images from new brunswick flashing across canadian television screens. royal canadian mounted police guns trained on first nations people, police cars sent up in flames. >> we seized a number of firearms from the encampments at the protest site. we also found explosive devices, a large amount of ammunition
knives, and bear spray. several shots were fired from within the encampment. molotov style explosives were thrown at police, and six rcmp vehicles were destroyed by fire. >> fault lines has traveled to the province of new brunswick on canada's east coast to find out what went wrong, and ask how it could be set right. >> when southwestern's subsidiary, swn resources canada, or swin, as it's locally known, began exploring on land by the elsipogtog first nation the community started hearing about fracking, the process by which gas is extracted from shale rock beneath the ground by injecting water, nitrogen and chemicals. many were alarmed. >> without no consultation and people not knowing what's going on and just hearing that we know that shale gas is not good for the land and water, the protests started. it's been going on for three
years now. >> the water or river was very very precious to us, as we were growing up. summertime we'd be staying there all summer. >> when i was a kid, i got to go swimming in the fresh water. now that i have my own kid, i want him to experience the same thing i experienced. i want my grandkids to experience that too. i don't want to have them have to worry about oh, well this water is contaminated because they're drilling fifty feet away. >> in early summer, as swn carried out seismic testing near the reserve, members of the mi'kmaq community set out to stop them. they set up a protest camp, and drew the support of the local acadian community and of environmental groups. >> they scouted for signs of testing, and for the impact it might be having on the land and water they rely on, and consider sacred.
>> see you don't want to waste all this beautiful land right here for that...and you know what fracking does, hey don't just drill one hole, they drill hundreds within the area... >> we started slowing down slowing down swn. and then we talked to the people and the best way to gain support was we had to sacrifice so there were people that were willing to get arrested for the cause, for a good cause, save our water stop fracking. >> more than 40 people were arrested. then one day, 2 women chained themselves to a seismic testing truck, and exploration work ground to a halt. >> but the reprieve was only temporary. at summer's end, swn returned. >> they made a compound in rexton, and then they put spotlights on it and then they put a gate on it and then it was as if it was their trophy and they put all these thumper
trucks there, about 7,6,7 thumper trucks. >> elsipogtog community members lit a sacred fire at the exit to the compound where swn was parking the trucks. the rcmp blocked the adjacent road, and a blockade went up. swn's vehicles were trapped. another encampment grew and the mi'kmaq warrior society was asked to secure it. swn was losing 54 thousand dollars each day their vehicles remained on the lot guarded by private security. so they obtained a court injunction against the sites occupants, which the royal canadian mounted police could enforce at any time. as the threat of police action loomed, tension on the site escalated. and on october 17, the day before the injunction was set to expire, the rcmp moved in. >> i don't know why they couldn't wait till the deadline. i don't understand and i can't
speak for the rcmp. >> drop that gun! what gun? i had a cell phone in my hand and a flash light in my hand cause it was still dark out. >> jason augustine is a district chief with the mi'kmaq warrior society. he was on traffic duty that morning. >> and he told me again, drop that gun "it's not a gun" and the next thing you know they had their guns drawn,they were already like that on me, they had their guns on me and everything. and that's when the chaos started. >> suzanne patles was sleeping in the woods nearby. she did the first thing you'd expect the de-facto spokesperson for the warrior society to do, she logged on to facebook. >> get your guns off me this is a phone. hey this is a phone. i have no gun. >> i sent out a message and i said, everybody's always said to let them know when (bleep) gets real, and i said, how much more
real can this get when there's guns drawn on you first thing in the morning when you wake up. >> eight rcmps jumped me and they were bashing me with their boots until they knocked me out. it took a lot of shots to knock me out but i was hanked up and on the ground. >> suzanne was in a car trying to upload a second video when the rcmp arrested her too. >> all i see was one officer like go to (gesturing) throw his assault rifle like towards the windshield and i went to put my head down like that and it went through the windshield and it hit the top of my head and at that moment i was pulled out of the car and hit several more times with the assault rifle in the head. >> as word got out that the raid was underway, people began arriving from the rez. >> can you drink money? can you drink money? you must have an awful lot of money to drink. >> the elected chief of elsipogtog aaron sock and eight of his council members tried to
cross the line of rcmp to find out what was going on. roger francis's sister was one of those councilors. >> i warned them specifically not to be grabbing our council members. and i told them i'll use any force necessary i have to use to stop you guys. and when the rcmp grabbed my sister and yanked her, i just lost it. >> francis was arrested, and charged with assaulting a police officer. >> a great grandmother, doris coupage also joined the crowd at the police line. >> we own north america. we are north american indians whether you guys like it or not. >> on the sides, they were police dogs and police with ammunition. and the women here have their feathers. i went there with my rosaries and the other ladies were chanting and drumming.
>> they were yelling move back! move back! so we didn't move. we linked arms and we stayed there. and we were pushing against them. and then all of a sudden pepper spray comes out of nowhere. and i looked back and i seen doris. she had gotten sprayed in the face. and all she had was a rosary... >> it didn't hit your at first but it did and then there was young bull standing and came over and grabbed me. because i would have been knocked down like those cops when they push, push, push. >> the picture of a great grandmother pepper-sprayed by police had a profound effect on the people of elsipogtog. >> but it wouldn't be the only lasting image. >> and i just had this feather and i didn't know what to do. and the first thought in my mind was, pray. so i kneeled down in the road and i started praying. and i was praying for doris and for the other woman. and i was praying for my people, hoping this will end peacefully,
hoping no one will get hurt. that nobody would die. >> a photo of that moment was taken by a reporter from aboriginal peoples television network. >> rcmp vehicles were set ablaze. while amanda polchies was being arrested, the photo went viral. >> why do you think people connected so much? >> because it's a struggle. you can see the struggle. like if you look at the picture you have all of these rcmp officers and they can do so much and then there's a woman kneeling down in the road with a feather. >> move back! move back! move back! >> watch more "faultlines" on demand or visit aljazeera.com/faultlines.
>> after the rcmp raid, the conflict continued to smolder. the premier of new brunswick refused to back down on shale gas. >> we're not talking about a moratorium, today. what we're talking about very much are the issues that took place yesterday. >> chief sock was blunt about what he wanted. >> basically for the rcmp to back off, swn to back off and give us some time to try to heal and reflect on what happened. >> this is the elsipogtog rcmp station. people have been telling me there've been attempts to burn this station down the past few nights. burn marks all along these rafters. right under the singe marks there's a beer bottle. it's been turned into a molotov cocktail. it shows there's a lot of anger
in the community against the rcmp. that anger was also turned on the media. >> rebeccah what began as a peaceful day turned tense... >> ...when a few protesters forced a tv crew to abandon their satellite truck, and seized a reporter's car and gear. when i asked if i could get my camera or gear they said it was theirs, that they were seizing it too. the group of protesters have seized his vehicle and camera. >> isolated from a conversation about colonialism, news reports seemed to amplify old stereotypes. >> but it was the eco-rioters themselves who used true violence... >> and some of the commentary was just plain out of touch. >> this op-ed in one of canada's national newspapers calls the confrontation between the community here and the rcmp "a rude dismissal of canada's generosity." it's this kind of media sentiment which is very common in canada that makes indigenous people skeptical that the rest of the country is willing to take their arguments seriously. >> for more than a century, the indian act has denied economic
opportunity, the nation to nation relationship set out in many treaties has been ignored and until 1996, the government-funded residential school system set out to "kill the indian in the child." in the past, indigenous people in canada have not shared equally in the benefits of resource development in their homelands. the unemployment rate on the elsipogtog first nation is estimated at 80 percent. now they fear the next phase of development will damage the lifeblood of their culture water. >> so right now, what's happening is idle no more. the first nations people are saying, we've had enough. our young generation is getting educated. so now we're starting to say hey, this is wrong. you're treating us wrong. when now they want to take the water and the land, we're saying no way. this is enough. >> as round dances and drum circles swept across canada last winter, a movement was born,
taking its name from a twitter hash tag: idle no more. and it was catalyzed by opposition to a law that has removed federal protection for many of the country's waterways. >> it reawakened a lot of people and a lot of people were uprising and the most important thing that brought everyone together was the water. that was the one thing reverberated all across the country: that we needed to ensure the water's protection. >> it was the spirit of idle no more, and the social networks it created, that emboldened elsipogtog's resistance to swn's exploration work, and caused people to come out to face down the rcmp. >> it was scary that day. >> so you have all these grandchildren, why wouldn't you just stay back, why would you decide to go? you don't even think about that. the women are the protectors of the water, aren't they? >> that's what happens when stuff like this happens with companies like swn resources a
company based in the us coming down to make money in canada not consulting with first nations in the first place, you know? it's gone too far. >> it scared me but i didn't want to run away because i don't want them here. >> why not? i don't want swn here and i felt that making a stand was the only thing that was left. because nobody was listening. >> why do you think it always comes down to a confrontation like that between police and indigenous people? being native in canada, like i said, its like you're a second class citizen. and things are not going to change unless the government of canada recognizes our first nations rights and who we are. we can't just be bullied over anymore... >> being bullied, not being listened to, here's a legal standard grounded in the canadian constitution that's supposed to avoid these issues. when mining and energy companies
want to carry out activity that stands to compromise an aboriginal or treaty right, like, for example, access to water or land, he crown has a "duty to consult" the first nations affected in proportion and to the extent that they will be impacted by the development. >> this is the new brunswick legislature, where the premier and the members of the legislature sit. in this part of canada, for practical purposes, this is the crown. >> there was no consultation before the government awarded swn licenses to explore 3 years ago. but since the deal was done, they say they've done more than required. >> we've had ongoing dialogue with chief and council - a lot of the consultation that has been taking place has been talking about that framework of if there is something there, where do we go in terms of those discussions on how to move forward with it. very little actually gets discussed about the actual seismic work because everybody
recognizes that there is no impact to environment, land use, or treaty rights from that. >> do you feel that the province has fulfilled its duty to consult? >> nope. i don't. >> but the "duty to consult" is not explicitly defined in law, instead it has been shaped and tested by court challenges. and it does not give first nations the right to veto projects. so one of the contentious parts of the duty to consult is what happens when some members of a community like elsipogtog say no, at any price. >> it's a challenge to get to that next stage where you really want to talk about what the potentials for economic benefits are, if you don't know what the resource actually is and what the total pie looks like and who's going to get the different pieces of that pie... >> in his first year as chief, sock participated in the consultation process as part of an umbrella group of new
brunswick chiefs that organized information sessions about swn's work, and sought to negotiate a revenue sharing agreement with the government. but after a summer of protest, he and his council withdrew. >> being a new a chief i don't quite understand yet how this came to be, but what i do understand is my community doesn't want it. and if that's what they want me to fight for, that's what i'm going to fight. >> watch more "faultlines" on demand or visit aljazeera.com/faultlines.
>> as they pursue their struggle, many in elsipogtog say the government doesn't have the authority to allow swn to work here without their consent, and they're drawing on the treaties the mi'kmaq signed with the british three centuries ago, treaties that outlined a peaceful relationship but did not cede water or land to the crown. >> and we're protecting it, not just for us, we're protecting it for everybody, you know. the anglophone, the francophone, the irish, anybody because it says in our treaties, they're peace and friendship treaties, everybody is welcomed canada provided that you don't ruin the land and water. >> two days after the raid
community members and warriors marched from the former blockade site and took to the highway. >> turn it around...go that way. >> that's not our problem, turn it around. >> we're here on hwy 11, this is a main thoroughfare for this area, the protesters have just moved from the blockade here and have shut down passage here. they're allowing the remaining cars that were sort of trapped in the middle of the protest to go through but they're stopping transit thru this area. >> across the country, first nations communities were on alert, watching what would happen next. there were rumors that the army was on standby, and that warriors from other nations were coming to stand with the mi'kmaq. >> they're having a meeting with all the people and you guys are going to say what you guys want done. what you guys want blocked, who you want protected. the warrior society is going out there, no more division, ok?
>> less than an hour after the blockade started here, it's been taken down. right now the only reason there's no traffic here is because the rcmp is holding vehicles back. so the group is heading back to the main camp now. blockade on...blockade off. >> most of all there were rumors that the rcmp was on the move. >> now this is probably the 10th time we've heard that the police are here or getting ready to move in. people are really on edge and jump at the mention of a police action. >> how many cop cars do you think? five just five? >> that's nothing then. they've been there all day. five is how much they usually have at either end of the road. >> no there's more than that. >> no, listen, she's there. she's there. stop freaking out. you've caused a lot of panic today already, ok? >> there's a cop on the hill. >> right, on the hill. i'll go down there myself and i'll look.
i'll go check it out myself. we need everyone staying in the middle though cause they'll think we're rushing the line if we don't. >> everybody stay here! >> why do you think people are jumpy like that? >> because of everything that happened the other day. and how they just came in and they rushed us. it has everybody on their toes where they're scared. they're scared the police are going to come in and come at us with excessive force because they've been hearing next time they come in they're going to come in harder. >> i think we came within hours of seeing very, very significant national incidences occurring. there's enough people on the ground across the country to create a great disruption and a peaceful existence of many who take for granted the lands they live on. >> grand chief derek nepinak and his team had arrived from manitoba to assess the situation on the ground. >> it think that there is almost a conflict of interest when the
province has a duty to consult flowing from a constitutional standard, but yet they also have financial interests in the end in the terms of the corporation's ability to convert resources into wealth. >> at the first gathering after the raid he found a community determined to heal but fearful for the future. >> and i am concerned about the degree of collusion or collaboration between corporate interests, the state apparatus (rcmp) and government. i am concerned about that. >> just a few days after the raid, swn appeared ready to resume exploration again. seismic testing equipment lay along the highway, sensors and batteries that would enable geophones to work. >> these geophones can reveal what's beneath the surface of the earth. but to do that they need to operate in conjunction with the so-called thumper trucks. those trucks were captured behind the blockade near
elsipogtog however during the rcmp raid, swn was able to drive them out. >> swn resources canada declined to speak with us. >> hey how's it going. i'm wab, i'm with al jazeera america. >> this is private property so the media isn't allowed up here, so the rcmp's been contacted. >> you called the cops? >> no i didn't. >> ok... >> but in a written statement, they assured al jazeera: "southwestern energy has been and will continue to work closely with local authorities and community leaders to conduct our operations safely and responsibly, and in full compliance with the laws of the country and province." in mid-november, the seismic testing trucks returned to work. new protest sites sprang up. and backed by supporters from across the province and the country, elsipogtog slowed them down. swn obtained another injunction against the protesters. no one knows if they will stop
fracking before it starts. but the people of elsipogtog have shown that whether or not a government and a corporation fulfill their legal "duty to consult", the resolve of grassroots people still has the power to throw a wrench into resource development projects. and for a project to move ahead, it's their consent that's needed. >> i don't think anything is going to stop the grassroots people. it's in their hands, i think the power needs to be handed back to the people because as an indigenous person, the route to self-determination is always from the ground-up approach, because that's who we are as a people. >> the reality they've created on the ground is enshrined in the united nations declaration on the rights of indigenous people as the principle "free, prior and informed consent". and it has helped breathe life into a provincial anti-fracking movement led by first nations people. and while the government of new brunswick vows to push ahead
with shale gas development provinces across canada are taking note, in november, the province of newfoundland declared a moratorium on fracking. meanwhile, as rain turns to snow and water turns to ice, in elsipogtog, they're digging in for the winter and preparing for the next round. >> watch more "faultlines" on demand or visit aljazeera.com/faultlines. >> america's first climate refugees >> this is probably a hurricane away from it being gone. >> who's to blame? >> 36% of land lost was caused by oil and gas industry... >> ...and a fight to save america's coastline. >> we have kinda made a deal with the devil
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