The Penticton Indian Band stood in solidarity with those in eastern New Brunswick protesting against shale gas exploration.
“They are protesting fracking within their territory and there was, in their view, no proper consultation to do that and they want that to take place before companies come and move in,” said Joan Phillip, a PIB councillor. “There are huge environmental issues in this country right now. For those of us who live off the land it is like genocide.”
About 25 PIB members were joined by a few passers by in downtown Penticton outside MP Dan Albas’ office on Friday afternoon as Penticton RCMP officers sat in a vehicle watching for a short time before driving away. The gathering was greeted by many who drove by giving thumbs up and honking in support as they marched to the RCMP detachment.
A much different scene than the previous day in Rexton, NB, where after weeks of peaceful protests, tensions boiled over. RCMP began enforcing a court injunction to dismantle a two-week-old blockade built by a group of protestors, including activists and members of the Elsipogtog First Nation, that prevented equipment belonging to the shale gas exploration firm from leaving. It ended with at least four RCMP vehicle destroyed by fire and 40 people arrested on various charges including firearms offences, uttering threats, intimidation, mischief and for refusing to abide by a court injunction. Lenora Starr, a local organizer for the Idle No More/Elsipogtog Solidarity event in Penticton, told the Penticton rally group shale gas will only benefit the U.S. while Canadians are left with “sick water and sick people.”
“This is not just about fracking and the poisonous consequences for all things which rely on clean water for life,” said Starr, reading from a letter posted to their Facebook event page. “The truth of this is that the Elsipogtog are being treated like all other Indigenous communities. Their inherent rights to be on the lands of their ancestors as they see fit are being trampled on.”
Phillip said she knows someone from the Burnt Church First Nation in New Brunswick, about one hour away from Elsipogtog, and has had communication with them.
“She said the tensions are quite high there, particularly after what had happened because it came as a total surprise that the RCMP would come in so heavy handed. She is pretty upset because they were just protecting their treaty rights,” said Phillip.
Phillip added she too is shocked over the events of the past few days in Rexton for more than one reason.
“Particularly after the visit by the special rapporteur from the United Nations who talked about how horribly we have been treated by Canada and then to have them pull something right after they leave the country. It is so shocking,” said Phillip.
Although the root of the protest is happening on the other side of the country, Phillip said it is important for the PIB and people across the country to stand up for them.
“It is important because whatever happens to them happens to us and we won’t sit idly by and allow our brothers and sisters to be treated so poorly by our RCMP,” she said.
PIB Chief Jonathan Kruger joined the peaceful protest on Friday afternoon.
“I don’t support violence especially from the RCMP and when it is against women, children, human beings.”
Elsipogtog First Nation Chief Arren Sock was arrested at the Rexton protest that got out of control last week and subsequently released. He has since promised that the community will continue to peacefully oppose the shale gas exploration in the province.