According to a recent Globe and Mail article, the Texas energy company SWN Resources, with the legal approval of the province of New Brunswick and the town of Rexton, (just north of Moncton, New Brunswick) was using a municipally-owned road near Rexton for the purpose of doing seismic testing to search for shale gas in the area.
It seems members of a local Canadian community, Elsipogtog, had been camped along this very same road near the village of Rexton for several weeks and were preventing trucks owned by SWN Resources from using this road for the purpose of doing seismic testing for shale gas. Also the “protesters” were camped at a SWN Resources’ site which stored exploration equipment.
In early October, SWN Resources,after giving due legal notice to the Elsipogtog “protesters,” went to court to obtain a court order or injunction, ordering the Elsipogtog members to desist from blocking the SWN Resources’ trucks on the Rexton road and from blocking the SWN Resources’ storage site.
Presumably, the Elsipogtog community was represented at the court hearing and it had an opportunity to argue against the application for the said court order. After due consideration, the said court issued an injunction, ordering Elsipogtog “protesters” to permit SWN Resources to so use the road and leave the SWN Resources storage site.
Notwithstanding said court order, the Elsipogtog “protesters,” in clear defiance of the law, continued to block the road and prevent SWN Resources from using the road to do its testing and from using its exploration equipment at its storage compound.
Last week the RCMP was called in to enforce the law, that is, remove the “protesters” from the subject road and SWN Resources’ storage site. Also according to Premier Alward, the RCMP had been called in because the area had become “an armed camp and was not a safe and secure place.”
In the process of legally enforcing the court order last Thursday, the RCMP officers were met with violence from some members of the Elsipogtog community.
According to a Canadian Press report on the violence,
“Six police vehicles including an unmarked van were burned and Molotov cocktails were tossed at police before they fired non-lethal beanbag type bullets and pepper spray to defuse the situation.
“RCMP said they found improvised explosive devices that were modified to discharge shrapnel and used a fuse-ignition system. Officers also seized guns and knives after moving in to enforce a court-ordered injunction to remove protesters at the site of a compound in Rexton where SWN Resources stored exploration equipment.
“Forty people were arrested for firearms offences, threats, intimidation, mischief and violating the injunction.”
On Saturday, just two days subsequent to Thursday’s violence, other Elsipogtog“protesters” seized two media vehicles and media equipment and actually intimidated and threatened journalist Laura Brown and forced her from her car. Apparently, Ms. Brown was just trying to do her job by trying to report on another shale gas protest in the Rexton, New Brunswick area.
The above acts were not acts of peaceful, principled protest and civil disobedience.
Six police vehicles were torched and burned. Molotov cocktails were thrown at police officers who were just trying to do their job, that is, enforce a legally enforceable court order.
The so-called Elsipogtog “protesters” were found in possession of improvised explosive devices that were modified to discharge shrapnel which used a fuse-ignition system. And they possessed a cache of knives and guns.
I am sorry, I did not think that this community’s traditional way of life of hunting and fishing included the use of improvised explosive devices that were modified to discharge shrapnel.
CTV and Global media cars and equipment were also seized by these people. And they threatened and intimidated a woman journalist who was just trying to do her job.
Please note that in the United States, Section 802 of the USA Patriot Act,
“…expanded the definition of terrorism to cover ‘domestic,’ as opposed to international, terrorism. A person engages in domestic terrorism if they do an act ‘dangerous to human life’ that is a violation of the criminal laws of a state or the United States, if the act appears to be intended to: (i) intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination or kidnapping. Additionally, the acts have to occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States and if they do not, may be regarded as international terrorism.”
Accordingly, if these acts had been committed in neighbouring Maine, the perpetrators may have been charged as domestic terrorists.
Currently, the relevant provisions in our own Canadian Criminal Code dealing with domestic terrorism do not appear as broad as those of the U.S. Patriot Act.
Perhaps they should be.
No Canadian citizens or residents are above the law. I hope the full force of the law will be brought to bear on those perpetrators of these violent acts and on those who have aided, abetted, and assisted in these violent acts.
I strongly commend New Brunswick Premier David Alward for courageously standing up to this home-grown violence and for the RCMP in properly enforcing our Canadian laws in this regard.