NEWS

Manitoba chief in New Brunswick to back fracking protests

10/20/2013 08:13 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST
As a Manitoba chief arrives to offer support, members of New Brunswick's Elsipogtog First Nation are meeting Sunday to plan their next steps after a tense week of anti-fracking protests.

The CBC's Jessica Doria-Brown says the meeting will be open to the media, unlike previous, private sessions. 

The protests drew support from across Canada and around the world via social media. The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs said it stands in solidarity with Elsipogtog First Nation and sent Grand Chief Derek Nepinak to ElsipogtogMi'kmaq territory over the weekend.

'Watching and praying'

"As a demonstration of support for the ongoing peaceful presence of the people, Grand Chief Nepinak will make a presentation of medicines and a beaver pelt to the leadership," Sheila North Wilson of the assembly said in a media release.

Nepinak met with other First Nations on his way to New Brunswick. 

"Grand Chief Nepinak left the fire keepers and supporters with words of encouragement, noting that there are thousands of indigenous and non-indigenous supporters across Turtle Island and beyond watching and praying for the safety of everyone involved in the difficulties," North Wilson said. 

Turtle Island is the First Nations name for North America. 

Nepinak said the protests were peaceful, contrary to "mainstream media reports." The gifts he is bringing have deeper meaning, he added. 

"The offering of tobacco and sage represents the medicines needed to practice faith and bring clarity of mind and spirit in the face of misinformation and uncertainty. The presentation of the beaver pelt represents the wisdom needed to guide the people through difficult hours, days, weeks and months ahead,” said Nepinak.

The CBC's Stephen Puddicombe reported optimism in the protest movement. 

“People were very happy with how things unfolded in the latter part of the day yesterday. They shut down Highway 11 between Moncton and Miramichi, a main highway in the province, for an hour," he said Sunday.

"The police barred all entryways and exits off the highway so there would be no confrontations.”

Media vehicles returned

Demonstrations against fracking were held on Saturday in the New Brunswick communities of Sackville, Moncton, Rexton and Bouctouche. Hundreds of people held signs, waved flags and blocked roads to protest shale gas exploration in the province. 

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Two media crews had their vehicles and equipment seized by five protesters in Rexton and went to police to file a complaint. The situation was resolved and the journalists got their gear back. 

Protesters told CBC it was time to regroup and refocus after a turbulent week that saw police face off with protesters, vehicles torched, weapons seized and dozens of people arrested. 

The New Brunswick demonstrations drew solidarity protests in other parts of Canada. 

New Brunswick Premier David Alward plans to meet with Elsipogtog Chief Aaron Sock this week to discuss the disturbances and the province's plans for shale gas exploration. 

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