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Fault Lines - Elsipogtog: The Fire Over Water

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    [ NARRATOR Wab Kinew ] Had it not sparked fire,
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    this story would be like that of many other
    low-intensity conflicts over resources,
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    waiting to erupt across this oil, gas and
    fresh water rich country.
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    Back in 2010 the canadian province of new
    brunswick granted a texas based company
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    South Western Energy
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    licences to explore for shale gas.
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    in exchange for investment worth 47 million dollars.
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    If shale gas extraction goes ahead it will be
    a boon to new brunswick's struggling economy.
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    The province anticipates it could generate
    over 1,000 jobs and 1.5 billion dollars,
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    staunching the exodus of workers west
    to alberta's oil sands [tar sands].
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    [ CRAIG LEONARD, Minister of Energy & Mines for New Brunswick ] To have that kind of revenue
    income flow
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    and that kind of potential...
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    it would have a dramatic impact on the province.
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    In fact, one of the studies we looked at
    just a few weeks ago
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    indicates that shale gas development would actually double the economic growth rates in the province.
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    [ NARRATOR ] Three years later, these were
    the images from new brunswick
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    flashing across canadian television screens.
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    RCMP guns trained on First Nations people,
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    police cars sent up in flame.
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    "We seized a number of firearms
    from the encampment at the protest site.
    "
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    "We also found explosive devices, a large amount
    of ammunition, knives and bear spray.
    "
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    "Several shots were fired from within
    the encampment.
    "
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    "Molotov-style explosives
    were thrown at police.
    "
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    "And 6 rcmp police vehicles
    were destroyed by fire.
    "
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    [ NARRATOR ] Faultlines traveled to the province of
    new brunswick on canada's east coast
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    to find out what went wrong
    and ask how it could be set right.
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    When Southwestern subsidiary SWN Resources Canada, or "SWIN" as it's locally known,
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    began exploring on land
    by the Elsipogtog First Nation,
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    the community started hearing about fracking,
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    the process by which gas is extracted
    from shale rock beneath the ground,
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    by injecting water, nitrogen, and chemicals.
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    Many were alarmed.
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    [ SUSAN LEVI-PETERS, Former elected Chief, Elsipogtog First Nation ] Without no consultation
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    and people not knowing what's going on,
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    and just hearing that we know that the shale gas
    is not good for the land and water,
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    the protest started,
    it's been goin' on for three years now.
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    [ DORIS COUPAGE, Elsipogtog First Nation Elder ]
    The water, our river, is very very precious to us.
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    As we were growing up in the summertime
    we'd stay there all summer.
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    [ AMANDA POLCHIES, Elsipogtog First Nation Resident ] When I was a kid?
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    I got to go play in the woods,
    I got to swim in fresh water.
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    I'm breathing fresh air.
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    Now that I have my own kid, I have my son,
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    I want him to experience
    the same thing I experienced,
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    I want my grandkids to experience that too.
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    I don't want to have them have to worry about
    going swimming and
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    "oh, this water's contaminated
    because they're drilling 50 feet away.
    "
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    [ NARRATOR ] In early summer, as SWN
    carried out seismic testing near the reserve,
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    members of the Mi`kmaq community
    set out to stop them.
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    They set up a protest camp
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    and drew the support of the local Acadian community
    and environmental groups.
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    They scouted for signs of testing
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    and for the impact it might be having on the
    land and water they rely on and consider sacred.
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    [ NO NAME GIVEN ] See you don't want to waste
    all this beautiful land right here just for that.
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    You know what fracking doe, eh?
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    They put a lot of drills holes, the don't just put one,
    they put hundreds within the area.
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    [ JOHN LEVI, Elsipogtog War Chief ]
    We started slowing down SWN,
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    we talked to the people,
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    and y'know, the best way to gain support
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    was we had to sacrifice.
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    So there were people that were willing to get arrested for the cause, y'know, for a good cause.
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    Y'know, save our water, stop fracking.
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    [ NARRATOR ] More than 40 people were arrested.
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    Then one day two women chained themselves
    to a seismic testing truck,
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    and exploration work ground to a halt.
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    But the reprieve was only temporary.
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    At summer's end, SWN returned.
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    [ LEVI-PETERS ] They made a compound in Rexton,
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    and they put spotlights on it,
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    and then they put a gate on it,
    as if it was their trophy,
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    they put all these thumper trucks,
    about 6, 7 thumper trucks.
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    [ NARRATOR ] Elsipogtog community members
    lit a sacred fire
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    at the exit to the compound
    where SWN was parking the trucks.
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    The RCMP blocked the adjacent road,
    and a blockade went up.
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    SWN's vehicles were trapped.
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    Another encampment grew, and the Mi`kmaq
    Warrior Society was asked to secure it.
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    SWN was losing $54,000 each day
    their vehicles remained on the lot,
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    guarded by private security.
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    So they obtained a court injunction
    against the site's occupants,
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    which the RCMP could enforce at any time.
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    As the threat of police action loomed,
    tension on the site escalated,
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    and on October 17th, the day before
    the injunction was set to expire...
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    the RCMP moved in.
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    I don't know why they couldn't wait til the deadline.
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    I don't understand, y'know,
    I can't speak for the RCMP.
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    [ VOICE OVER MEGAPHONE ] ...anyone that
    continues to do so [ I.E. STAY IN THE AREA ]
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    will be arrested and removed from the area
    by police...
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    [ JASON AUGUSTINE, District Chief, Mi`kmaq Warrior Society ] ... "drop that gun", What gun?
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    I had a cellphone in my hand,
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    and a fast light in my hand,
    cause it was still dark out, eh?
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    [ NARRATOR ] Jason Augustine is a district chief
    with the Mi`kmaq Warrior Society.
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    He was on traffic duty that morning.
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    [ AUGUSTINE ] And they told me again
    "drop that gun!",
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    "It's not a gun!" I told them again,
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    and the next thing I know they were
    already like that on me,
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    like they had their guns on me and everything.
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    And that's when the chaos started.
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    [ YELLING/ BANGS ]
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    [ NARRATOR ] Suzanne Patles was sleeping
    in the woods nearby.
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    She did the first thing you'd expect the defacto
    spokesperson for the Warrior Society to do:
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    she logged onto Facebook.
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    [ PATLES YELLING ] Get your guns off me!
    This is a phone!
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    Hey! This is a phone! I have no gun!
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    [ PATLES ] And I sent out a message
    and I said everybody's always said
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    to let them know when shit gets real,
    I said how much more real can this get?
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    When there's guns drawn on you
    first thing in the morning when you wake up.
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    [ AUGUSTINE ] The RCMP's jumped me
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    and they were bashing my head with their boots
    til they knocked me out.
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    Took a lot to knock me out
    while I was hanked up and I was on the ground.
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    [ NARRATOR ] Suzanne was in a car
    trying to upload a second video
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    when the RCMP arrested her too.
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    [ PATLES ] All i seen was one officer
    like go to throw his assault rifle
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    like towards the windshield,
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    and I went to go put my head down like that,
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    and it went through the windshield
    and hit the top of my head,
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    and at that moment I was pulled out of the car
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    and hit several more times
    with the assault rifle in the head.
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    [ NARRATOR ] As word got out that the raid was underway, people began arriving from the rez.
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    [ PROTESTER ] Can you drink money?
    Can you drink money?
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    You must have a lot of money to drink?
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    [ NARRATOR ] The elected chief of Elsipogtog,
    Aaron Sock, and 8 of his coucil members
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    tried to cross the line of RCMP
    to find out what was going on.
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    Roger Francis's sister
    was one of those councilors.
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    [ ROGER FRANCIS, Elsipogtog First Nation ]
    I warned them not to be physically grabbin'
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    our council members, our council;
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    and I told him I'll use any force necessary
    I have to use to stop you guys.
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    And when the RCMP grabbed my sister, yanked her,
    I just lost it.
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    [ NARRATOR ] Francis was arrested
    and charged with assaulting a police officer.
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    A great grandmother Doris Coupage
    also joined the crowd at the police line.
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    [ INDISTINCT TALKING ]
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    "... we are North American Indians...
    whether you ... or not...
    "
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    On the sides, there were these dogs
    and police with ammunition,
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    and the women here, have their feathers.
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    I went there with my rosaries,
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    and the other ladies were chanting and drumming.
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    [ POLCHIES ] They're yelling "move back!
    Move back!",
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    so we didn't move, we stayed there,
    we linked arms and we stayed there,
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    and we were pushing against them,
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    and then all of a sudden, like,
    pepper spray comes out of nowhere,
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    and I looked back and I seen Doris,
    she had gotten sprayed in the face,
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    and all she had was her rosary.
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    It didn't hit you at first, but it did and then uh,
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    there was young boys standing
    who came over and grabbed me
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    cuz you would have been knocked down, like,
    those cops when they push push push!
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    [ NARRATOR ] The picture of a great grandmother
    pepper sprayed by police
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    had a profound effect on the people
    of Elsipogtog,
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    but it wouldn't be the only lasting image
    from that day.
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    [ POLCHIES ] I just had this feather,
    I didn't know what to do,
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    and the first thought in my mind was:
    pray.
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    So I kneeled down in the road
    and I started praying.
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    I was praying for Doris, and I was praying
    for the other women that had gotten sprayed,
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    and I was praying for my people,
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    hoping that this will end peacefully,
    nobody will get hurt, nobody would die.
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    [ NARRATOR ] A photo of that moment
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    was taken by a reporter from Aboriginal
    People's Television Network.
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    RCMP vehicles were set ablaze.
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    While Amanda Polchies was being arrested,
    the photo went viral.
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    Why do you think people connected with it so much?
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    Because like, it's a struggle,
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    you can see the struggle if you look at the picture,
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    it's like, you have all of these RCMP officers,
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    and they can do so much.
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    And then there's a woman kneeling down
    in the middle of the road with a feather.
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    [ COPS YELLING ] Move back! Move back! ...
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    [ NARRATOR ] After the RCMP raid,
    the conflict continued to smolder.
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    The premier of New Brunswick
    refused to back down on shale gas.
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    [ PREMIER ALWARD ] We're not talking
    moratorium, today;
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    what we're talking about very much is the um, the issues that took place yesterday.
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    [ NARRATOR ] Chief Sock was blunt about
    what he wanted.
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    [ CHIEF AARON SOCK ] Basically, y'know,
    for the RCMP to back off,
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    SWN to back off, and to give us some time
    to try to heal and reflect on what happened.
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    [ NARRATOR ] This is the Elsipogtog RCMP station.
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    People have been telling me that there's been
    attempts to burn this station down
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    the past few nights.
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    Burn marks all along these rafters...
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    right under the singe marks there's this beer bottle
    which has been turned into a Molotov cocktail.
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    Shows that there's a lot of anger in the community
    against the RCMP.
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    That anger was also turned on the media.
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    [ REPORTER ] What began as a peaceful day
    turned tense when...
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    [ NARRATOR ] when a few protesters forced a TV
    crew to abandon their satellite truck
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    and seized a reporter's car and gear.
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    [ REPORTER ] When I asked if I could get
    my camera equipment,
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    they said it was theirs, that they were seizing it too.
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    [ NEWSCASTER ] The group of protesters
    has seized his vehicle and camera...
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    [ NARRATOR ] Isolated from a conversation
    about colonialism,
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    news reports seemed to amplify
    old stereotypes.
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    [ EZRA LEVANT ] "...but it was the eco-rioters
    themselves who used true violence."
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    [ NARRATOR ] And some of the commentary
    was just plain out of touch.
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    This op-ed in one of Canada's national newspapers
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    calls the confrontation here between
    the community and the RCMP
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    a "rude dismissal of canada's generosity"
    [ quote from Rex Murphy ]
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    It's this type of media sentiment
    which is common in canada
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    which makes indigenous people skeptical
    that the rest of the country
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    is willing to take their arguments seriously.
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    For more than a century, the Indian Act
    has denied economic opportunity.
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    The nation to nation relationships
    set out in many treaties has been ignored;
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    and until 1996 the government-funded
    residential school system
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    set out to "kill the Indian in the child".
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    In the past, Indigenous people in canada
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    have not shared equally int he benefits
    of resource development in their homelands.
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    The unemployment rate on the Elsipogtog
    First Nation is estimated at 80%.
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    Now, they fear the next phase of development
    will damage the lifeblood of their culture:
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    water.
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    [ SUSAN LEVI-PETERS ] So right now what's happening is... Idle No More,
    First Nations people are sayin we've had enough.
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    Our young generation are gettign educated,
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    so now we're starting to say hey, this is wrong,
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    how you're treating us is wrong.
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    So now when they want to take the water
    and the land, we're saying no way,
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    y'know, this is enough.
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    [ NARRATOR ] As round dances and drum circles
    swept canada last winter, a movement was born,
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    taking its name from a Twitter hashtag:
    Idle No More.
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    And it was catalyzed by opposition to a law that has removed Federal protection
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    for amny of the country's waterways.
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    It reawakened a lot of people,
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    and a lot of people were uprising,
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    and the most important thing that
    brought everyone together was the water.
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    That was the one thing that, um,
    reverberated all across the country,
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    that we needed to ensure the water's protection.
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    [ NARRATOR ] It was a spirit of Idle No More,
    and the social networks it created,
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    that emboldened Elsipogtog's resistance
    to SWN's exploration work,
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    and caused people to come out
    to face down the RCMP.
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    It was scary that day.
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    You have all those grandchildren, why wouldn't you just stay back, how come you decided to go to the front?
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    You don't even think about that.
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    The women are the protectors of the water,
    aren't they?
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    Stuff like this happens with SWN resources,
    a company based in the united states,
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    comin' down to make money in canada,
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    not consult First Nations in the first place,
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    y'know, it's just gone too far.
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    It scared me, but I didn't wanna run away.
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    Cause I don't want them here.
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    I don't want SWN here,
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    and I felt like making a stand was
    the only thing that was left.
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    Cause nobody was listening.
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    [ NARRATOR ] Why do you think it always
    comes down to a confrontation like that
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    between police and y'know Indigenous people?
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    Like I said it's like you're a second class citizen,
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    and things are not gonna change,
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    unless the government of canada recognizes
    our First Nation rights and who we are,
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    like, we can't be just bullied over any more.
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    [ NARRATOR ] Being bullied, not being listened to,
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    there's a legal standard grounded in the canadian constitution that's supposed to avoid these issues.
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    When mining and energy companies want to
    carry out activity
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    that stands to compromise an aboriginal or treaty right, like for example access to water or land,
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    the Crown has a duty
    to consult the First Nations affected
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    in proportion and to the extent that they will be
    impacted by the development.
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    This is the New Brunswick legislature,
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    where the premier and the members of
    the legislative assembly sit.
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    In this part of canada, for practical purposes,
    this is the Crown.
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    There was no consultation before the government awarded SWN licences to explore 3 years ago,
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    but since the deal was done, they say they've
    done more than required.
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    [ CRAIG LEONARD ] We've had ongoing dialogue
    with chief council,
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    and again it's... a lot of the consultation that has been taking place
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    is talking about that framework of...
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    if there is something there, where do we go,
    uh, in terms of discussion
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    on how to move forward... with it.
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    Uh, very little actually gets discussed about
    the actual seismic work,
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    because everybody recognizes that, uh, there's...
    no impact uh... to environment land use,
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    or treaty rights from that.
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    [ NARRATOR ] Do you feel that the province has fulfilled its duty to consult?
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    [ CHIEF SOCK ] No.
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    I don't.
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    [ NARRATOR ] But the duty to consult
    is not explicitly defined in law.
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    Instead, it has been shaped and tested
    by court challenges,
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    and it does not give First Nations
    the right to veto projects.
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    So one of the contentious parts
    of the duty to consult
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    is what happens when some members
    of a community like Elsipogtog say "no",
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    "at any price"?
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    [ CRAIG LEONARD ] It's a challenge to
    get to that next stage,
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    where you really want to talk about what
    the potential for economic benefits are,
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    if you don't know what the resource actually is,
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    what the total pie looks like, and who's
    going to get the different pieces of that pie.
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    [ NARRATOR ] In his first year as Chief,
    Sock participated in the consultation process,
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    as part of an umbrella group
    of New Brunswick Chiefs
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    that organized information sessions
    about SWN's work,
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    and sought to negotiate a revenue-sharing
    agreement with the government.
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    But after a summer of protests,
    he and his council withdrew.
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    [ CHIEF SOCK ] Being a new Chief, I don't
    quite understand yet how this came to be,
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    but what I do understand is my community doesn't
    want it, and I stand with my community.
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    I listened to them and if that's what
    they want me to fight, that's what I'll fight.
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    [ NARRATOR ] As they pursue their struggle,
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    many in Elsipogtog say the government doesn't
    have the authority to allow SWN to work here
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    without their consent.
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    And they're drawing on the treaties that
    the Mi`kmaq signed with the British 3 centuries ago.
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    Treaties that outlined a peaceful relationship
    but did not cede land or water to the Crown.
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    We're protecting it not just for us.
    We're protecting it for everybody.
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    The Anglophone, the Francophone,
    the Irish, anybody,
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    because it says in our treaties, the peace and friendship treaties,
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    everybody is welcomed in Canada, provided you
    dont ruin the land and water.
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    [ NARRATOR ] Two days after the raid
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    community members and warriors marched from the former blockade site and took to the highway.
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    "Turn it around! Turn it around!"
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    "Go that way, that's not our problem.
    Turn it around, go...
    "
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    [ NARRATOR ] We're here on Highway 11,
    this is the main thoroughfare through this area.
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    Protesters have just moved from the blockade
    over here, and have shut down passage here.
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    They're allowing the remaining cars that were sort of
    trapped int he middle of the protest to go through,
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    but they're stopping people in transit
    through this area.
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    Across the country,
    First Nations communities were on alert,
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    watching what would happen next.
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    There were rumours that the army was on standby,
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    and that warriors from other nations
    were coming to stand with the Mi`kmaq.
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    "*We're gonna have a meetin' with all of the people,
    _and you guys are gonna say_ what you want done,
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    what you guys want blocked, who you want protected.
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    "The Warrior Society is going out there ___,
    no more division, OK?
    "
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    [ NARRATOR ] Less than an hour after
    the blockade started here, it's been taken down.
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    The only reason there's no traffic here is because
    the RCMP is holding vehicles back.
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    So the group is heading back to the main camp now,
    blockade on, blockade off.
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    Most of all, there were rumours
    that the RCMP was on the move.
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    Now this is probably the 10th time we've heard
    that the police are here,
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    or are getting ready to move in.
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    People are really on edge,
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    and y'know, jump at the mention
    of a police action.
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    [ VOICES IN BACKGROUND ] How many cops care do you think?
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    Five.
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    Five? Just five?
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    That's nothing then...
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    They've been there all day, five is how much
    they usually have at either end of the road...
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    "No theres more than that..."
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    "Listen, she's there, she's there,
    so stop freaking out.
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    "You've caused a lot of panic today already,
    no really.
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    "There's a cop, on the right, in the field,
    I see it...
    "
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    "I'll go down there myself and I'll go by myself...
    alright...
    "
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    "We need everyone staying in the middle though,
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    "because they'll think we're rushing the line
    if we go...
    "
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    "Everybody stay here, we don't need
    everybody to go down and check this out.
    "
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    [ NARRATOR ] Why do you think people
    are jumpy like that?
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    [ SUZANNE PATLES ] They're jumpy
    because of everything that happened the other day,
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    and how they just came in and rushed us,
    has everybody like on their toes,
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    where they're scared, they're scared the police
    are going to move in
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    and come at us with excessive force
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    because they've been hearin' that the next time
    they come in they're gonna come in harder.
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    [ DEREK NEPINAK, GRAND CHIEF OF MANITOBA ]
    I think we came within hours
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    of seeing very very significant
    national incidences occurring.
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    There's enough people
    on the ground across the country
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    to create a great disruption in the peaceful existence of many who take for granted the lands they live on.
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    [ NARRATOR ] Grand Chief Derek Nepinak
    and his team had arrived from Manitoba
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    to assess the situation on the ground.
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    [ NEPINAK ] I think that there is almost
    a conflict of interest
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    when the province has a duty to consult
    flowing from a constitutional standard,
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    but yet they also have financial interests in the end
    in terms of the corporations
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    ability to convert resources into wealth.
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    [ NARRATOR ] At the first gathering after the raid,
    he found a community determined to heal,
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    but fearful for the future.
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    [ NEPINAK ] ...and I am concerned about the degree
    of collusion and collaboration
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    between corporate interests, the state apparatus,
    RCMP, and government.
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    I am concerned about that.
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    [ NARRATOR ] Just a few days after the raid,
    SWN appeared ready to resume exploration again.
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    Seismic testing equipment lay along the highway,
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    sensors and batteries that would
    allow geophones to work.
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    These geophones can reveal what's beneath
    the surface of the earth,
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    but in order to do that, they need to operate
    in conjunction with so-called thumper trucks.
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    Those trucks were captured behind the blockade
    near Elsipogtog.
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    However, during the RCMP raid,
    SWN was able to drive them out.
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    SWN Resources Canada declined to speak with us.
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    Hey hows it going?
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    My name's Wab, I'm with AlJazeera America.
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    [ GUARD ] This is private property,
    so media isnt allowed up here,
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    so the RCMP's been contacted.
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    [ NARRATOR ] Oh yeah? You called the cops?
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    [ GUARD ] I didn't.
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    [ NARRATOR ] Oh okay.
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    But in a written statement,
    they assured AlJazeera,
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    "SWN has been and will continue to work closely
    with local authorities and community leaders
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    to conduct our operations safely and responsibly,
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    and in full compliance with the laws
    of the country and province.
    "
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    In mid november the seismic testing trucks
    returned to work.
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    New protest sites sprang up.
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    And backed by supporters from across
    the province and the country,
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    Elsipogtog slowed them down.
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    SWN obtained another injunction
    against the protesters.
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    No one knows if they will stop fracking
    before it starts,
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    but the people of Elsipogtog have shown that whether or not a government and a corporation
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    fulfil their legal duty to consult,
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    the resolve of grassroots people
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    still has a power to throw a wrench
    into resource development projects,
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    and for development to move ahead,
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    it's their consent that's needed.
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    [ SUZANNE PATLES ] I don't think anything
    is gonna stop the grassroots people,
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    it's in their hands, I think the power needs
    to be handed back to the people
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    because as an Indigenous person
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    the route to self-determination
    is always from the ground up approach
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    because that's who we are as a people.
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    [ NARRATOR ] The reality they've created
    on the ground
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    is enshrined in the United Nations Declaration
    On The Rights of Indigenous People,
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    as the principle of free, prior, and informed consent.
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    And it has helped breathe life into
    a provincial anti-fracking movement
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    led by First Nations people.
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    And while the government of New Brunswick
    vows to push ahead with shale gas development,
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    provinces across canada are taking note.
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    In november, the province of Newfoundland
    declared a moratorium on fracking.
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    Meanwhile, as rain turns to snow,
    and water turns to ice,
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    in Elsipogtog they're digging in for the winter,
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    and preparing for the next round.
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    [ Captions by Radical Access Mapping Project,
    Un-ceded Coast Salish Territories, 2013
    ]
Title:
Fault Lines - Elsipogtog: The Fire Over Water
Description:

We go to Mi'kmaq territory in New Brunswick, Canada, to find out what happens when a First Nation says no to fracking.

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Video Language:
English
Duration:
24:57
Radical Access Mapping Project edited English subtitles for Fault Lines - Elsipogtog: The Fire Over Water
Radical Access Mapping Project edited English subtitles for Fault Lines - Elsipogtog: The Fire Over Water
Radical Access Mapping Project edited English subtitles for Fault Lines - Elsipogtog: The Fire Over Water
Radical Access Mapping Project edited English subtitles for Fault Lines - Elsipogtog: The Fire Over Water

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