Monthly Archives: February 2014

Leaders are speaking up

Letter-to-the-Editor  ::  Telegraph Journal  ::  21 February 2014

Premier Alward recently implored leaders to speak up about shale gas. Here are some who already have. Seventy-seven francophone and anglophone municipalities have spoken up by calling for a halt to shale gas. They join 30 community groups from across the province, and four First Nation governing bodies. Many unions, including CUPE and Unifor, Canada’s largest private sector union, have spoken up, as have farmers’ unions and rural associations.

Our medical associations, unions and hospital staffs were among the first to call for a moratorium, and have been joined by the voices of several religious organizations, such as the Maritime Conference of the United Church of Canada.

These New Brunswick voices echo those of our neighbours in Quebec, PEI, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, New York and Vermont who all have instituted a moratorium of one kind or another. It is only the Al-ward government and a few corporate interests who are pushing shale gas in this part of the world!

The global community, the people of Canada, and citizens of New Brunswick want an energy strategy for the transition from fossil fuels to a sustainable clean energy economy. Research shows that the economic and job creation benefits of clean energy far exceed those of the oil and gas industry. We can reduce the impact of global warming and offer a brighter future for our children and grandchildren.

Many leaders are speaking out. The Premier just isn’t listening.

Roy Ries
Jim Emberger


Public Inquiry into October 17 Raid

New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance Calls for Public Inquiry into October 17 Raid
Group echoes fears of further conflict expressed by Amnesty International open letter to premier

December 10, 2013 (Moncton, NB) – On this, International Human Rights Day, the New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance (NBASGA) is asking the provincial government for an independent, public inquiry into events surrounding the October 17 RCMP raid on a peaceful shale gas protest camp near Rexton.

IMAGE - March on Route 134 in Rexton of community supporters against shale gas (CBC, October 1, 2013)The group echoes the fears expressed in an Amnesty International letter to Premier David Alward and his cabinet dated, November 1, that unless steps are taken to rebuild the relationship with Indigenous Peoples with respect to resource development, further incidents could occur.

Amnesty International says that this incident “could have been avoided had the province acted in a manner consistent with its obligations to respect the human rights of Indigenous peoples under Canadian and international law.” When the world’s foremost human rights organization expresses concern about human rights issues in New Brunswick, citizens should be concerned as well.

NBSAGA believes the people of New Brunswick have a right to know the reasons behind the sudden escalation in the use of force on October 17.  Today, they sent a letter to the Premier and cabinet, as well as opposition leaders, requesting the inquiry and saying there are many unanswered questions about what transpired at Rexton.

“We would like an independent public inquiry to examine what role this failure to respect the human rights of Indigenous peoples may have played in the events leading up to October 17,” says Jim Emberger, spokesman for NBASGA.  “An independent, impartial inquiry held at arm’s length from government is necessary because the Provincial Government itself played a role in those events.”

Since opposition began, thousands of people have visited peaceful demonstration sites across the province bringing supplies, and financial and moral support without incident. Rexton was no different until the morning of October 17.

woman_Elsi“From what we can see,” notes Emberger, “there was no threat to public safety until police, advancing with drawn guns and accompanied by dogs and snipers in camouflage, attacked unarmed civilians, including women and children, with pepper spray and non-lethal rounds.”

“Use of force must always be a last resort and the scale and nature of the force deployed must be in proportion to the need to protect public safety,” writes Amnesty International.

Among its many other questions, NBASGA asks why police did not first consult with First Nations’ chiefs who were vocal advocates of non-violence as a means of addressing safety concerns without armed force.  Instead, the RCMP arrested Chief Sock and his counselors, thus preventing them from intervening in the situation.  “Arresting a respected chief who has repeatedly stressed the importance of peaceful protest is baffling,” says Emberger.

NBASGA also questions why police continued allowing citizens to enter the site, considering the police themselves claim it was a dangerous situation threatening public safety.

As well, despite a massive police presence, RCMP vehicles were set ablaze with no police intervention and, to date, no arrests of suspects for arson.

The NBASGA and other anti-shale groups have been engaged in peaceful education, discussion and debate for three years and it is their intent to remain that way. They recognize that peaceful protest may include civil disobedience, but never violence, and feel acts of civil disobedience have occurred only because of government refusal to address citizen concerns in any meaningful way.

“The current and continuing threat of violence was initiated by the RCMP/government in the Rexton raid,” says Emberger, “and this violence has drawn the public’s attention away from the important issues, and also from the coverage of recent significant scientific, economic and political reports and events concerning shale gas.”

Therefore, it is in the public’s interest to have an independent investigation of the Rexton event, not only to find ways to diffuse future incidents, but also to allow the public discourse and media coverage to return to the discussion of the topic of shale gas.

Link to Amnesty International Letter

Amnesty International Speaks Out

collage3The Nobel Prize winning organization, Amnesty International, has written an open letter to Premier Alward concerning the events at Rexton that took place on October 17, 2014, and the issue of free, prior and informed consent with the people of the First Nations community of Elsipogtog.

They lay the blame for the situation on the government’s failure to follow Canadian and international law on the topic and for the violence resulting from an overwhelming police response.


Open Letter concerning anti-fracking protests at the Elsipogtog Mi’kmaq Nation

David Alward, Premier of New Brunswick
Centennial Building
P.O. Box 6000
Fredericton, NB E3B 5H1

Dear Premier Alward:

Our organizations are deeply concerned by the Province of New Brunswick’s response to anti-fracking protests at the Elsipogtog Mi’kmaq Nation. We are appreciative of the efforts of all involved to allow a cooling off period following the violence of October 17. However, it is our view that this clash could have been avoided had the province acted in a manner consistent with its obligations to respect the human rights of Indigenous peoples under Canadian and international law. Furthermore, we are concerned that unless the province adopts an approach consistent with these obligations, further clashes may occur.

In 2007, an Ontario public inquiry into police and government response to Aboriginal protest – the Ipperwash Inquiry – concluded that blockades and occupations are “symptoms” of the long-standing failure of governments in Canada to resolve land and resource disputes in a fair, timely and effective manner. In the Inquiry report, Justice Sidney Linden wrote that blockades and occupations “occur when members of an Aboriginal community believe that governments are not respecting their treaty or Aboriginal rights, and that effective redress through political or legal means is not available.” Justice Linden called for a redoubling of efforts “to build successful, peaceful relations with Aboriginal peoples…so that we can all live together peacefully and productively.”

“It is our view that this clash could have been avoided had the province acted in a manner consistent with its obligations to respect the human rights of Indigenous peoples under Canadian and international law.”

In this spirit, our organizations highlight four areas where we believe the province of New Brunswick can do more to rebuild just relations with Indigenous Peoples in relation to resource development and the potential for disputes.

First, it is critical to acknowledge that Indigenous Peoples have rights to their lands, territories and resources that predate the creation of the Canadian state. These pre-existing rights are affirmed in the Peace and Friendship Treaties, in the Royal Proclamation of 1763, and in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, as well as in authoritative international human rights instruments including the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Canada’s failure to protect these rights has been repeatedly condemned by international human rights bodies, including the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which found that the comprehensive claims processes fall below international standards of justice. Your government can make a meaningful contribution by communicating clearly that these rights exist and must be respected.

Second, the inherent land rights of Aboriginal peoples cannot be ignored in the day-to-day operations of the government. Doing so is both discriminatory and contrary to the rule of law. Canadian courts have set out a mandatory constitutional duty to consult with Indigenous peoples with the goal of identifying and substantially accommodating their concerns, before any decisions are made that could affect these rights. For such consultation to be meaningful, Indigenous peoples’ knowledge and perspective must be part of the determination of whether or not a particular proposal could have a harmful impact on their rights and use of the land. Furthermore, the duty of consultation and accommodation, and the inter-related obligation for governments to deal honourably with Aboriginal peoples, cannot be met if there is a predetermination that projects will go ahead regardless of legitimate concerns raised by the affected communities. Accordingly, our organizations urge your government to retract statements indicating that the province is already committed to shale gas development, regardless of opposition.

rexton_oct 7

Third, whenever a proposed project has the potential for impacts on the cultures, livelihoods, health and well-being of Indigenous peoples, or where questions remain about the extent of the possible impacts, a very high standard of precaution is required to ensure that no further harm is inflicted on Indigenous peoples. Canadian courts have said that the “full consent” of Aboriginal peoples may be required on “very serious” matters. International human rights instruments, and the jurisprudence of international human rights bodies, clearly establish a duty to obtain the free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) of Indigenous peoples as a precautionary measure or heightened safeguard for their rights. In fact, just days before violence erupted over the shale oil explorations in New Brunswick, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples reminded governments in Canada that FPIC is generally required whenever large scale resource development projects are being considered that could impact the rights of Indigenous peoples. Our organizations call on New Brunswick to acknowledge that shale gas exploration and development on or near the traditional lands of Indigenous peoples is clearly an example where the safeguard of free, prior and informed consent is appropriate and necessary.

Finally, our organizations highlight the need to ensure appropriate police response in the unresolved conflicts over Indigenous lands rights. In all instances, police have a clear responsibility to respect and protect human rights. While police have an obligation to protect public safety and respond to criminal offences, police must also act to respect the right of peaceful protest and assembly and act to protect the lives and safety of those involved in protests. Use of force must always be a last resort and the scale and nature of the force deployed must be in proportion to the need to protect public safety. In the Ipperwash Inquiry report, Justice Linden called on Ontario to adopt a province-wide peacekeeping policy based on these principles to ensure that police response to Aboriginal protest would not be politicized and that risks of violence could be minimized. Our organizations strongly urge all governments in Canada to also publicly endorse and adopt such crucial policies.

Yours sincerely,

Alex Neve, Amnesty International Canada

Lesley Robertson, Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers)

Ed Bianchi, KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives

Alberta Stories

albertavoicesWe hear a lot about Alberta…

As UNB economics professor, Dr. Rod Hill, pointed out in a lengthy examination earlier this year in the Telegraph Journal,  “only 0.1 per cent of Alberta’s natural gas is from shale.”

Likewise, despite calling them ‘world class’, Alberta has few and very weak regulations on shale gas.  For instance, unless regulations have been recently changed, Alberta does not even require testing of nearby water wells before drilling or fracking.

Despite this, we are constantly told that they have no problems.

A recent Alberta website – Alberta Voices – has begun documenting the stories and experiences of Alberta residents affected by a largely unregulated gas and oil industry.  These stories are well-researched and available in print or video format.

No Contamination? Ever?

Are you confused by industry claims about the long history of fracking with no contamination?

The article below contains two short videos by experts that explain the confusion – both are under 3 minutes long and were made for the recent moratorium battles in Colorado. These videos feature local and national experts who touch on economics, air pollution, groundwater contamination and renewable energy solutions. The first video features EPA whistleblower Wes Wilson and the second features Cornell scientist Tony Ingraffea.

Check out the entire Colorado article here.

Or, for a more detailed history and explanation of the gas industry’s confusing wordplay:

License vs Lease

Are exploration licenses and production leases of shale gas really separate things?

stanley_aug18Our government says not to worry about seismic testing, because it is only exploration.

NB’s Oil and Gas Act – 26(3), explains how to change from exploration to production:

 A license to search may be converted to a lease in its entirety at the end of the license term, if in the opinion of the Minister, all exploration commitments under the license have been met.  

What this means:  As long as a company spends the required amount during the phase of exploration, it is guaranteed a production lease.  There is no process in between. A license to explore becomes a lease to begin extraction.


Resource Link

Find out whether you live within a lease area with this interactive map:


Join the Crowd: Vote for a Moratorium

Hopewell Rocks

Here in New Brunswick, much of the expected shale gas extraction is around our biggest tourist attractions….including our own UNESCO Fundy Biosphere Reserve and the Hopewell Rocks.

But we are not alone in our desire to protect our treasured natural resources from an invasive industry.

Newfoundland has put a moratorium on shale gas exploration into effect, primarily over fears about effects on tourism around Gros Morne Park.
A resolution from the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities supports a province-wide moratorium on hydraulic fracturing and calls for a dialogue about the practice of hydrofracking between First Nations, federal, provincial and municipal governments on potential impacts.
In the Prince Edward Island Legislature, on November 26th 2013, the Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry recommended a Moratorium on High Volume Hydraulic Fracking on PEI.
With existing moratoria in Quebec and New York, New Brunswick is now the only jurisdiction in our region pushing ahead with shale gas development.
Voters in the Colorado cities of Boulder, Fort Collins and Lafayette approved anti-fracking initiatives by wide margins in early November, despite an industrycampaign against the measures that cost at least $875,000.
Unifor, Canada’s largest private sector union (300,000 with 40,000 in the energy sector), called for a Canada-wide moratorium on all new oil and gas fracking. They have raised concerns about safety and environmental risks as well as the lack of
informed consent by First Nations about fracking activities on traditional lands.
Click here for our list of the New Brunswick municipalities and Provincial groups of all kinds that have called for a moratorium.