Indigenous leaders warn of protests, halting developments over shale gas exemption

‘It is our job to ensure the protection of lands and waters for our future generations’: Chief Ross Perley


Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Roger Augustine says ‘the blueprint’ for government to consult Indigenous groups is there. (Radio-Canada)

Top Indigenous leaders are warning that the Higgs government has made “a serious mistake” on shale gas that may reignite protests like those seen in the Rexton area in 2013.

They say the province’s duty to consult Indigenous people is clearly defined, and the government should have known how to proceed as it tries to restart the industry in one part of the province.

“It’s not as if this is all new,” said Roger Augustine, the regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. “The blueprint is there.”

“There’s a lot of case law,” said Chief George Ginnish of Natoaganeg First Nation. “There are actual court cases. … If he needs clarity, we’ll certainly provide clarity if that’s what he needs.”

‘Reckless voice’

Augustine said the Progressive Conservative government’s decision to lift the moratorium on fracking in the Sussex area risks alarming members of First Nations communities.

“When a reckless voice speaks out, be it the premier or the prime minister, they should realize what could happen, what it causes in communities,” he said. “Once we’ve got outrage out there, and we’ve got roadblocks, we’ve got cars burned.”

He was referring to anti-shale gas protests near Elsipogtog First Nation in 2013 that saw violent confrontations between protestors and police. MORE

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When Indigenous Assert Rights, Canada Sends Militarized Police

It’s become routine, but ignores latest law on rights and title, say experts.

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RCMP action against the Wet’suwet’en last week was intended to send a message, says professor Jeffrey Monaghan. Photo by Michael Toledano.

The use of heavily armed RCMP to enforce a court injunction and tear down an Indigenous blockade against TransCanada’s Coastal GasLink pipeline in northwestern British Columbia last week was part of a familiar pattern, say criminologists.

“It seems like Canada uses a show of force and police repression whenever it wants to contain First Nations exercising their aboriginal rights and title,” said Shiri Pasternak, a criminologist at Ryerson University and director of the Yellowhead Institute, a research centre focused on First Nations land and governance issues.

“Canada is creating the problem by refusing to recognize what its own courts are saying about aboriginal rights and title,” added Pasternak.

Over the last decade rulings by the Supreme Court of Canada and lower courts have established that Canadian governments have a duty to consult and accommodate Indigenous people before resources are extracted from their land, and that in many cases their land and title rights have not been extinguished. MORE