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Elsipogtog First Nation warns of repeat of Rexton violence

11/15/2013 09:42 EST | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST
The Elsipogtog First Nation will be in court today seeking an injunction to halt shale gas exploration in the Rexton, N.B., area, warning of a repeat of the violence that flared during a protest last month.

In the injunction application filed Thursday with the Court of Queen's Bench in Fredericton, the band's lawyer says "there is credible evidence that outside radical elements are converging in significant numbers on New Brunswick and the vicinity of the shale gas exploration work" that SWN Resources Canada is preparing to resume in Kent County.

The application contends there is "a very real danger that, as active seismic exploration is recommenced in the coming hours and days, outside radical elements, the Respondent SWN and the RCMP, other police and even military forces," would interact to create a repeat of the "unacceptable and dangerous events" that happened in Rexton on Oct. 17.

Dozens of protesters were arrested and six RCMP vehicles were destroyed by fire in a clash on the protest line that day. Protesters had prevented SWN from accessing its exploration equipment for almost three weeks and the company had obtained a court injunction ordering an end to the protest.

SWN Resources has been laying lines and placing geophones this week near Kouchibouguac National Park to carry out seismic testing for potential shale gas deposits. The continuation of exploration has been met by protesters.

On Thursday, one 46-year-old woman was arrested, for mischief, assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest.

Cpl. Jullie Rogers-Marsh said the RCMP is investigating several incidents of vandalism as a truck belonging to a private company working in the area and several pieces of equipment were damaged.

"Most people that were there at the Laketon side that were protesting were doing so in a peaceful manner, but there were some obviously that were not," said Rogers-Marsh on Thursday. "There were threats of illegal acts today and some crimes obviously were committed.

"So we're certainly asking people that want to continue to protest to do so in a safe, peaceful and lawful manner."

The RCMP's commanding officer for New Brunswick said the force moved in on the protesters on Oct. 17 because the situation had turned dangerous.

Premier David Alward said "outside forces" within the protest camp had escalated the situation.

"When outside forces came in, it's certainly intimidating on many different sides," said Alward at the time.

In its application for an injunction, Elispogtog argues the New Brunswick government is "engaging in what amounts to impermissible self-help" to SWN Resources by permitting shale gas exploration without sufficient consultation with the aboriginal community, as required under the Supreme Court of Canada's ruling in Haida Nation v. British Columbia in 2004.

"This behaviour, in violation of the supreme law of Canada, takes the form of unrelenting and uncompromising Crown affirmation of the rights it purported to grant to SWN, without regard for the rights of the Applicant," states the band in its application.

Alward and Energy Minister Craig Leonard have repeatedly stated that SWN's ongoing work is exploratory in nature to determine if there is potential for feasible shale gas production in New Brunswick. They have said more consultation would take place if SWN, or any other company, wants to move into production in the province.

Shale gas is extracted from the earth through injecting a mixture of sand, water and chemicals into the earth under high pressure to fragment shale rock and release the natural gas that is otherwise inaccessible. Opponents fear the potential impact of that process on the groundwater supply.

Elsipogtog application for injunction

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