New Brunswick arrests in fracking standoff

Dallas, Susan McQuarrie non-violent resistance in NB
Dallas, Susan McQuarrie, non-violent resistance in New Brunswick

Those of you who read the Comments posted to this blog will be familiar with the name of Dallas McQuarrie, who frequently responds to what I have written or what others have to say in their Comments. Dallas and his wife Susan are at this moment involved in an intense and profound non-violent action in New Brunswick, where they live. Dallas writes about it below.
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Rogersville, New Brunswick is 90 kilometers north of Moncton on Highway 126 and is home to about 1200 people. Nearby are two Trappist monasteries, noted for their silent retreats, and major tourist attractions like Kouchibouguac National Park and the world-famous Miramichi salmon fishery. This year, in what has become a summer of anger and frustration in rural New Brunswick, it’s not tourist traffic on Highway 126 people are seeing on the supper news, but swarms of RCMP officers hauling people protesting shale gas development off to jail.

People are protesting against the hydraulic fracturing (fracking) that is occurring in their region. Fracking in the quest to extract shale gas has had catastrophic environmental consequences elsewhere, and many of us want no part of it here. Television images of contaminated tap water bursting into flame and other environmental horrors haven’t helped shale gas promoters.

Protesters arrested

In six weeks, more than 30 people have been arrested near Rogersville, amid RCMP warnings that Kent County is “getting dangerous.” In late June, a gas company drill truck used in seismic testing burned during the night. Earlier that day, a shale gas protestor was injured by a gas company employee’s vehicle fleeing a crowd of angry residents.
Tensions between rural residents and the first-term Conservative provincial government of David Alward began ratcheting up in June when the province decided to get tough with protestors and have the RCMP arrest them.

Protestors know that the province contracts for RCMP policing from the federal government, and there is anger that the Alward government decided to throw people in jail rather than talk with them.

Beleagured regime

The beleaguered regime, saddled with a dismal economic record and facing an election next year, is touting shale gas with an evangelical fervor as the holy grail of economic development. But the plan to sell shale gas as a source of endless jobs and money hasn’t worked.

A poll taken in May, before the arrests began, showed residents split on the question of whether shale gas was even important to New Brunswick, while an overwhelming majority felt the industry posed very serious environmental and public health threats.

Protest uniting people

The ‘Say NO to shale gas’ protest has united English, French and First Nations peoples around a single issue, something rarely seen here. Many businesses have anti-shale gas signs in their windows. The Catholic church where I attend in St. Ignace (about 50 kilometers from Rogersville) has ‘stop shale gas’ signs on its doors. The New Brunswick College of Family Physicians is calling for a moratorium on shale gas development. The province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health has expressed serious concern. People clearly believe their doctors, not Premier Alward.

The opposition to shale gas is home grown. The protestors are the folks one sees at farmers’ markets every summer. Demonstrations seem like family reunions with parents, grandparents and children much in evidence, along with teachers from near-by schools, local business people, doctors, clergy, and even elected officials. Petitions, public rallies, and similar exhibitions of deep community opposition to shale gas are summarily dismissed by the provincial government whose dull mantra of ‘shale gas or recession’ has become a tragic confession of their own lack of vision.

Journalist arrested

In June, the province deployed the RCMP to accomplish by force what it couldn’t achieve by political means. In early July, in a clumsy attempt to stifle daily-growing news coverage of the protest, Halifax Media Co-op journalist Miles Howe was arrested. Howe set up shop at the protestors’ camp and was able to witness and report on every arrest. Conversely, the mainstream media has often been excluded from such scenes by RCMP officers closing roads and refusing to let them see the confrontations. The group Canadian Journalists for Free Expression has issued a news release calling for charges against Howe to be dropped.

Surreal moment

My wife Susan and I were among 12 protesters arrested June 15 by 63 RCMP officers just after dawn. Like the Maliseet First Nation Elder who became my cell-mate, we were praying on the highway when arrested. We’re both senior citizens who have never been arrested before. A surreal moment occurred when an RCMP officer, who had taken my cane while I was on my knees praying, had to help me up before he could arrest me and put me in the paddy wagon.

The Alward government and its gas company cronies are now using the RCMP as bully boys to intimidate ordinary people trying to protect their families and communities. It’s become quite clear that people here in one of the poorest areas of Canada are regarded by the Conservative government as throwaways who can be pushed around with impunity.

Training in non-violence

Between July 16 and July 20, additional sessions will occur on the Elsipogtog (Mi’kmaq) First Nation in Kent County (where the arrests have taken place) to train people in methods of non-violent resistance

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Dennis

Dennis Gruending is an Ottawa-based writer, blogger and a former member of Parliament

8 thoughts on “New Brunswick arrests in fracking standoff”

  1. We are retired seniors who had the good fortune to take a bus tour holiday through your beautiful province a couple of summers ago. Being Canadians all our lives this was a great way to see for the first time how beautiful our Canada was! We spent time in the Maritimes with other seniors and thoroughly enjoyed the various cultures and what they offered. Scenes,foods and places were studied in school in our younger years but to experience the Maritimes in person was a joy to each of us. It saddens me today to hear what is happening to that beautiful region of our wonderful Canada! We support everyone in protecting our Canada ! We can’t be there in person because of health and age but support the brave people who are taking a David and Goliath stand , and we know how that ended. Keep up the training in non- violence resistance and keep enforcing this and your group will gain the support and respect from fellow Canadians.

  2. Thank you. Dallas and Susan for bringing this information forward. This is like a war zone where RCMP is taking extreme measures to protect the O&G company at OUR expenses.

  3. thank you folks for this eloquent and comprehensive piece of writing, i will make use of some of your phrasing such as “holy grail of development ” and ‘ dull mantra” . brilliant. keep the resolve, we will succeed.

  4. Our children will thank you for standing up for the right to a proper environnement. We are with you.

  5. Thank you to all of you who are struggling to save your land, air, and water from the hazards presented by “fracking.” This technology is terribly dangerous, and involves injecting huge quantities of our precious water, mixed with chemicals so dangerous that the corporations involve will not even identify them to the government agencies. The results are frighteningly risky for the populace, all for the benefit of the corporations. Studies have shown that the proclaimed employment gains would be small in numbers and very brief for the local population, and in the long run would only amount to about 20-some permanent jobs for out-of-province specialists.

  6. It seems to me we’re approaching the pivotal moment where the weakness of Goliath (economic growth) is exposed by the lucid mind of David (basic happiness). Keep the faith you wonderful people in New Brunswick, consider that you are one with the many on the planet.

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