Since August 10th, the week of the blockade of shale gas survey equipment near Stanley, people of New Brunswick have peacefully gathered together every Thursday in front of the Centennial Building in Fredericton, the workplace of New Brunswick government officials. Their loud and clear message: “No Shale Gas!”
On these workday lunch-hour protests, New Brunswick residents have come from far and wide, including Hampton, Saint John, Kingston Peninsula, Doaktown, Stanley, Taymouth, Durham Bridge, Penniac and Fredericton, with counts ranging from 30 to 80 people at every protest, among them retirees, entrepeneurs, farmers, professionals, artists, academics, tradespeople, students and children. Equipped with large signs, t-shirts and information material, we have been supported by many honking cars, buses, taxis and truck drivers passing by, giving us the thumbs up. With determination and consistency on the many sunny, rainy and already bitter-cold days, the goal of these gatherings is to raise awareness about the facts and concerns about hydro-fracking and to demonstrate to the government that our message stays firm.
Over the past twelve weeks, many politicians joined us at the sidewalk in solidarity to express their stand on the issue. Asking for an immediate moratorium on shale gas were Dominic Cardy (leader of New Democrats), Victor Boudreau (leader of the Liberals), Kris Austin (leader of the People’s Alliance of New Brunswick) and several liberal MLAs, such as Bertrand LeBlanc (Rogersville-Kouchibouguac), Denis Landry (Centre-Péninsule—Saint-Sauveur), and Bill Fraser (Miramichi-Bay du Vin). Asking for a ban was Greta Doucet (interim leader of the Green Party). MLAs of the Progressive Conservative party were invited but did not attend. However, our Premier David Alward passed by at various occasions. While taking considerate time to listen, the Premier’s main response was again and again that people have a right to peacefully gather and to express their opinion, but that he has a responsibility to the people of New Brunswick. Unfortunately, the premier didn’t give us specific answers when asked about this responsibility and other concerns about hydro-fracking, even though they were similar to those raised by himself when in opposition (e.g. “hydro-fracking has been known to result in dangerous chemicals in the water table”; “it does not matter how far the well are drilled. In the United States, people’s wells have become contaminated”; “you can have all the rules and regulations in the world, but if companies are not doing what they are supposed to do, they are not going to help anybody”; excerpts from David Alward’s statements published in ‘On the record’, Telegraph Journal, April 7th 2010).
The recurring protests have achieved much public exposure through in-depth coverage by independent media and bloggers such as The Purple Violet Press, Charles Leblanc’s Other Blog, The New Brunswicker and the student paper, The New Brunswick Beacon; but also by mass media such as the CBC, Global Television, The Daily Gleaner (in which we made the front page on October 28), the Telegraph Journal, L’Acadie Nouvelle, and Upstream, an international oil and gas magazine. Now that we are approaching the opening of the Legislature on November 23, our voices will continue to grow louder as we count down to pass on our message to the Legislature. Our goal is within sight and the countdown is on. United as New Brunswickers we stand strong and in solidarity together. We have a stake in this decision and are asking to stop fracking now. While the Centennial Building protest will continue on Thursdays between 11am and 1 pm at least until that date, it is of outmost importance that we all show up in large numbers to two actions happening in November. On Saturday, November 19th, there will be a march against shale gas starting at 10 am at the Old Burial Grounds in Fredericton, which will go to the Legislature. On Wednesday, November 23rd at noon, there will be a rally at the Legislature. Take action and please join us!