Elsipogtog – A crowd of more than 300 people – Aboriginal, Francophone and Anglophone – packed a community meeting on the Elsipogtog First Nation to reaffirm their commitment to continue resisting shale gas peacefully.
The meeting, also attended by Manitoba Grand Chief Derek Nepinak and St. Mary’s First Nation Chief Candice Paul, came just three days after a protest camp on Highway 134 near Rexton was overrun by the RCMP.
Sunday’s gathering on Elsipogtog began with prayers and an informal recounting of personal experiences during the Rexton raid and its aftermath. While many questions remain about the circumstances leading to the outbreak of violence, the deep anguish people feel over the violence at Rexton is clearly matched by their determination both to dissociate themselves from violence and continue the protest.
Three journalists whose vehicles had been seized near the camp Saturday were called to the front of the assembly and received a heartfelt apology, and a long standing ovation from the crowd. Chief Arren Sock’s arrival, accompanied by Manitoba Grand Chief Derek Nepinak, was greeted with huge enthusiasm.
Sock has been a consistent and outspoken advocate of non-violent resistance to shale gas companies but, before Sock or Nepinak spoke, the meeting was closed to the media. A woman who had been pepper sprayed in the face while praying the rosary was present, but did not speak during the public portion of the meeting.
At a Monday morning news conference, Sock said the healing and forgiveness process was now underway. He was also critical of some RCMP actions and has called for a halt to shale gas exploration.
While the reverberations of the Rexton raid will continue to be felt for some time, it’s clear the struggle to stop fracking for shale gas in New Brunswick is far from over.
Dallas McQuarrie is a journalist residing in St. Ignace on Mi’kmaq territory.