St. Ignace – “I don’t have any expectations that the RCMP will do anything about it!” That’s the verdict of a man whose complaints to the RCMP about more than 20 shots being fired at his property were ignored for five days.
Dennis Beers, his wife Rahima, and their two young children, ages one and five years, live in the Harcourt area near the junction of Highways 116 and 465. The family is staunchly opposed to shale gas development, and for months has had a large sign acknowledging Aboriginal ownership of land in New Brunswick.
On the night of Saturday, April 12, someone fired more than 20 bullets through the sign, and Beers notes there’s no way of knowing how many missed. “The gunman was firing in the direction of both us and the neighbor’s house,” he said.
On Monday, April 14, Beers and his father telephoned for the RCMP and the person answering the call took a message. “We didn’t hear anything Tuesday, so we called back Wednesday, and got told they hadn’t had time to send anyone out,” Beers said. “And all the while the evidence – the empty shell casings – was on the ground by the side of the road, exposed to the weather.”
Beers had his second call to the RCMP returned by an officer in Moncton a few hours later who said ‘they would send someone around to see.” The next day, Thursday, April 17 – five days after the shooting – an RCMP officer from Richibucto came to the Beers farm to investigate.
“He was quite apologetic and seemed puzzled about why it had taken so long for someone to respond,” Beers said. “He collected the empty shell casings, but said they really needed a bullet fragment.” No such fragment was found.
After not hearing anything for a couple of weeks, Beers’ father called the RCMP, and was told the case had gone “cold.”
Beers is annoyed that the RCMP didn’t follow up on a lead, and by a seeming double-standard in the RCMP’s treatment of people in Kent County. “We’re opposed to shale gas,” he says. “Last summer during the protests near Harcourt we had some signs and flags supporting the protest, and those signs were attacked by violent gas supporters.”
After his property was attacked last year, Beers wrote down the license plate of the vehicle used by the intruders and turned it over to the RCMP. “To me it seems obvious that they would have wanted to talk to the vandals who attacked our sign last year, but it’s my understanding they didn’t do that either,” he says.
“The provincial government mustered more than 200 RCMP officers out here last year to arrest peaceful protesters trying to protect their land, air and water from shale gas companies,” Beers says, ” But when a gunman stands by the side of a road and fires more than 20 shots in the direction of people’s homes, it takes five days for someone to respond.”
It is the seeming inconsistency in the RCMP handling of complaints that dismays many local residents.
Last year a task force of a couple of hundred RCMP officers, special weapons units and armored vehicles was assembled in order to forcibly suppress the peaceful protests of local residents opposing the development of shale gas. This year, however, when a protestor’s farm is attacked with a volley of gunfire, no response is made for five days.
“The RCMP just pretends to care,” Beers says, “We’re not safe with them.”