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Canada Anti-Fracking Protests: First Nations Confront Harper Government – Research on Globalization

October 21, 2013

This week’s anti-fracking protest has put Canada’s First Nations at the forefront of Canada’s political life, injecting spirit back into our moribund political scene. Canadians watching the evening news were shocked by scenes of burning police cars, an riot squad of 100 police wielding tear gas and tasers on horseback.

Demonstrations to protest shale gas exploration on native lands near Rexton, New Brunswick, had been mounting for months, and when the RCMP moved in to take down the Mikmaq Elsipogtog tribe’s barriers, it was hardly surprising that the standoff became violent, starting with demonstrators throwing rocks, bottles and paint, and, when Chief Arren Sock was arrested, setting fire to six police cars. At least 40 people were arrested Thursday for violating a court-order injunction and disturbing the peace.

Fracking is a method of gas extraction where water is mixed with sand and chemicals and injected at high pressure into a wellbore to create small fractures, yielding natural gas and petroleum. In the process, it pollutes ground water, which now bears toxic chemicals and dangerously high levels of radiation, as well as emitting foul odors. The local Mikmaq claim that the Canadian subsidiary of the American frackers, Southwest Energy (SWN), is operating illegally on tribal land, and activists began blocking the highway between Rexton and Sainte-Anne-de-Kent on 28 September. SWN used its muscle and money to get a court injunction evicting the protestors.

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