Local activists join Rexton protest

Anti-fracking groups across New Brunswick have been converging on Rexton to voice their opposition to shale gas exploration in the area.

Recent protests directed toward gas company SWN Resources by the Elsipogtog First Nation just outside of Rexton, a small town in Kent County, have attracted support from a variety of groups, including members of the Tantramar Alliance Against Hydrofracking (TAAHF), as well as Mount Allison University students and professors.

The Elsipogtog First Nation issued an eviction notice to SWN Resources on October 2. In a statement to the media, captured on camera by CBC, Elsipogtog band chief Aaron Sock explained the reason for the eviction attempt. “Due to mismanagement by the province and exploitation by corporations, our reserve native lands and waters are being ravaged and ruined,” Sock said.

SWN ignored the band’s eviction notice. The provincial government currently controls the land, and has given SWN permission to explore for potential shale gas wells. Protestors set up a highway barricade, blocking access to and from a lot where company trucks have been parked. SWN filed a successful injunction to remove the protestors, which has not yet been enforced by the RCMP.

On Saturday October 5, TAAHF held a yard sale at 1 Rectory Lane in Sackville, named ‘Junk for the Injunction’, to raise funds for a legal injunction against fracking in the province. This yard sale complements the work they have been doing for over two years, appearing at the Sackville Farmers’ Market every Saturday to raise public awareness about fracking, and to raise funds.

The group behind the injunction, NB Water First, explain their goals on their website. “We are seeking what is called a quia timet injunction that indicates there is a future probability of injury to our rights and interests if unconventional shale gas drilling […] is pursued.” The group aims to raise $500,000 in order to launch their legal challenge, aiming for a moratorium on hydrofracking in New Brunswick.

Linda Dornan, who worked at the yard sale, explained that TAAHF is part of a broader movement. “We have twenty-nine groups across the province who have formed a coalition that includes the three communities of Mi’kmaq, Acadien, and English-speakers,” Dornan said.

Penny Mott, another TAAHF member at the yard sale, went to Rexton on October 4, and described the TAAHF’s activities as supportive. She said, “We sat with the native people; we talked; we supported them; we listened a great deal. It’s a very respectful, positive, slow moving conversation.”

Emma Jackson, a Mt. A student, also went to Rexton on October 4 with twelve other students and three professors. Jackson also emphasized the community and discussion-based nature of the gathering, describing the atmosphere as “welcoming” and “positive,” and, despite the tensions, similar to “a community picnic.”

While some TAAHF members were running the yard sale, others were staffing their display at the Sackville Farmers’ Market. Marilyn Lerch commented on the recently approved injunction: “One of the really shocking things is how quickly SWN was able to get an injunction to stop the protestors, when [activist groups have] been working for two years. You know they have deep pockets and will be fighting for a long time.”

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