Why is New Brunswick fracking-free?

Truth and ReconciliaACTION film series hosts talk from activist who fought against fracking in NB

New Brunswick is free from the threat of fracking, an invasive and environmentally destructive form of natural gas extraction, thanks to a group of local activists. On Friday, March 2, students and members of the Sackville community gathered in the library theatre to watch the documentary Water Warriors, which discussed the fight against fracking.

The screening of Water Warriors was part of the library’s Truth and ReconciliACTION Film Series, which aims to increase public knowledge about Indigenous issues and the truth and reconciliation process.

The documentary began with video footage of the forests and waters of New Brunswick, followed by interviews with people who were protesting against the destruction of this land in 2013. The documentary explained that Southwestern Energy, a company from Texas, was coming to perform hydraulic fracturing in the area. In order to do this, the company needed to create fissures in the earth to get to the gas below.

In 2013 community members from Elsipogtog First Nation protested Southwestern Energy’s plan to perform hydraulic fracturing which would have posed risks to both humans and the environment.
Sylvan Hamburger/Argosy

Community members in Elsipogtog First Nation realized the negative effects that fracking could have on human health and the environment, and set out to protect their homes. This took the form of blocking highways and creating camps outside of areas where thumper trucks, vehicles used to test seismic sources, were parked. Within weeks, there was an eviction raid and protestors were treated violently by police.

However, the advocates from the communities fighting against fracking eventually got what they were advocating for after a provincial election. After the election, an indefinite moratorium against fracking in New Brunswick was announced.

After the film, there was a discussion between the audiencet and guest Annie Claire, a leader in the movement in protecting the environment from industry. Claire entered the anti-fracking movement as a kitchen cook who wanted to be on the front lines of the fight to protect the land. When she was asked about her fears during the fight, Claire said, “There was no fear in my body whatsoever. There were cops. I didn’t care if they would have killed me. What I’m doing stops them and it lets them know that I’m not going to stop.”

There was also discussion about how national media altered the story of the protest and how this often worked against the efforts to protect the land. Dominique Poitras, a first-year political science major, spoke about the importance of films like Water Warriors. “I’m glad the movie was Indigenous-made,” she said. “I think it’s really easy for the media to villainize people of colour because there aren’t that many voices out there to argue back. So, seeing things like this is a good way to prevent that.”

Claire explained that part of what made the movement so powerful and effective was the alliance of many communities who opposed fracking. She said, “We have to work together, we are all brothers and sisters no matter what.… We all live on this land, we share it.”

Community member Catherine Premier, who attended the event, shared this sentiment: “What stuck out to me was how much of an impact people can have when they look past their differences and unite with a common goal in mind,” she said. “The Elsipogtog community, the Acadian community and the anglophone community all worked together to fight for clean water, and they won.”

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