On November 29, 2013, Land Defenders in Elsipogtog and surrounding communities in New Brunswick sent a message through social media to “Shut down Canada” in an Emergency Day of Action scheduled for Monday, December 2, 2013.
The intent of these actions was to raise awareness of the potentially harmful effects of shale gas exploration, to show solidarity in the fight against shale gas extraction and to express frustration about the violent treatment of Land Protectors by the RCMP. People answered from across Turtle Island with demonstrations, marches, rallies, blockades and educational meetings.
A Peace and Friendship Treaty reading was held at the residence of the Lieutenant Governor General in Halifax Nova Scotia. This is a creative way to educate members of the general public who are unaware that Canada has agreements in the form of treaties that still exist today. A key fact that is often ignored in mainstream media in the coverage of these protests is that Mi’kmaq people in New Brunswick have a treaty and are exercising their right to defend their unceded land. In the last two injunctions filed against the Land Defenders by Southwestern Energy, the New Brunswick Provincial courts refused to acknowledge the treaty or even the possibility that the provincial courts had no jurisdiction in ordering an injunction against the Mi’kmaq people.
New Brunswick was once divided by conflict over harvesting and fishing rights between the Anglo, Acadian and First Nations communities, but now they have come together in support of Mi’kmaq sovereignty over the resources and lands in an attempt to protect their waters, wildlife, and forestry threatened by toxic chemicals used in the extraction of shale gas. Land defenders expected a strong resistance from SWN Gas exploration company when they filed a second injunction against them. In a shocking turn of events a lawyer representing the province asked to be a co-applicant allied with SWN and against the people of New Brunswick whom they are supposed to represent. Many involved in the case could not figure out how the province could file an order against their own people or fail to understand the conflict of interest that the province funds the provincial courts and pays the wages of the judges deciding the case.
When the second injunction was ordered on November 29, 2013 the Land Defenders decided that they needed to take more drastic action and hoped to involve the rest of the country in their fight. The Land Protectors used social media such as Facebook and Twitter to send a clear request to “Shut Down Canada”.
The response was extremely supportive and several provinces hosted some kind of event in solidarity with the Land Defenders of New Brunswick. Ontario cities such as Hamilton, Toronto, Kitchener and Ottawa got involved in this emergency day of action. In Hamilton a Mohawk man, Strength Dale hosted a “Rush Hour Round Dance” in the middle of Main street forcing the closure of the road by Hamilton Police. Toronto hosts Torru Cress and Swampy Cree held a rally outside City Television studios during their Breakfast Television show. Prime Minister Harper was there that morning plugging his new hockey book and the rally managed to distract the show hosts. In Kitchener, supportive non-native people entered Fairview Mall and gave speeches at the Hudsons Bay Retail Outlet stopping the flow of shopping. Ottawa organizers Ben Powless and Gabriel V.F. hosted a round dance led by the O-Town Boys on Parliament Hill. Ottawa pipe carriers, Elders and Community Members gave speeches, danced and sang songs in support of Elsipogtog.
In the Eastern Province of Prince Edward Island, Adam Rush and the Group “Don’t Frack PEI hosted a march, waved flags and distributed information flyers to locals in Charlottetown. In Montreal, the blockade of a busy intersection intended to support Elsipogtog ended in a hit and run accident where a protestor was run over (see What’s Trending in this issue for more details).
In Vancouver, students from the University of BC Social Centre brought drums, and sang and danced at an event hosted by Shannon Hecker. Coast Salish Territory Activists in Vancouver blocked the Port of Vancouver for just under an hour during a very busy time backing up traffic and shutting down the Port. Also in British Columbia, Zoe Blunt hosted a march to “stop the persecution of warriors” in Victoria.
Kathi Levi a member of Elsipogtog band, mother of four and a grandmother prefers to call herself a “Protector of Mother Earth”. She has never been arrested or even so much as had a parking ticket. Kathy has been arrested twice now and even spent her 42nd birthday on Highway 11 instead of celebrating with her family. When asked how she felt about the Day of Action across Turtle Island her reaction was as follows, “WOW! I’m still bursting with pride as I look at all the pictures. I am so tired of this fight but it is things like this that keep me going! Seeing all the support from around the world brings my energy and my spirit back up again”.
Even if the supporters of Elsipogtog didn’t shut down Canada for any significant period of time they can be satisfied in knowing the impact their show of solidarity had on those on the front lines defending our mother earth from Southwestern Energy and the Government of Canada.