New Brunswick Day, often celebrated with family and friends soaking up the sun on one of our sandy beaches, boating on one of our many scenic rivers or lakes or exploring a piece of our teeming wilderness, was marked a different way this year for 1,500 of us who marched and rallied in the province’s capital in defence of our water, lands and way of life. We decided that New Brunswick Day was a befitting time to send a strong message to our provincial government that shale gas and its destructive fracking method are not welcomed here or anywhere.
Not all that long ago many of us had little idea of the threats posed by shale gas extraction whether it be on our groundwater where about 60 percent of our people get their drinking water or the sheer magnitude of industrialization planned for our countryside. Upon realizing the threats, we began informing our neighbours and took action. Approximately thirty grassroots anti-shale gas groups formed all over the province. Our efforts made the August 1st march against shale gas to the steps of the New Brunswick Legislature a huge success. Young couples pushing babies in strollers, seniors, indigenous peoples of the Wabanaki territory, Acadians and our other ethnic groups that make up our rich cultural tapestry rallied in support of clean water and air, and the rights of all human beings to live in a secure and safe environment.
Despite the seriousness of the threats posed by the shale gas industry, we still took the time to laugh and enjoy each other’s company on this special New Brunswick Day. We appreciated the chance to reunite with old friends and make new friends. We sang along to the satirical choruses of the Raging Grannies and the folk songs of Taymouth’s Jim Emberger. We rocked in rhythm to the Wulustukyeg Singers. We shed a tear at the poignancy of Maliseet elder Alma Brook’s plea for Mother Earth. It was a time to bask in the warmth of solidarity.
Marcher Denise Melanson from Our Environment, Our Choice/Notre Environnement, Notre Choix whose members are from Kent and Northumberland Counties was thrilled by the turnout. “With the short period of planning time, I was concerned that if there was a small turnout it would reinforce the industry and government’s position that only a small but vocal group are opposed to the shale gas industry. The fact that more than 1,500 people chose to protest on one of the few hot sunny days of the summer instead of going to the beach or attending a family or community event, was a testament to the concern the population feels about this practice and their commitment to stopping it. I now feel hopeful that we can mobilize many times this number as we move through the province. I would like to suggest that once we’ve had rallies in the major centres that we call a province-wide Anti-Fracking Day when people in every community in the province march to their town centres at the same time,” said Melanson.
Indeed, those of us opposed to shale gas are not a “small, but vocal group.” We are a large and growing legion of people who are networking, researching and sharing resources. As we have proven time and time again with the defeat of uranium and the proposed sale of NB Power, a people united cannot be defeated. Taking on the multi-billion dollar oil and gas companies means we face a tough fight ahead to protect the air we breathe and the water we drink. We need you to join us.
Debbie Hopper is from Rexton and is a member of Our Environment, Our Choice; Notre Environnment, Notre Choix.