By Jorge Barrera
APTN National News
The Canadian military has turned down a request to step into ongoing conflicts between the RCMP and members of the Mi’kmaq Warrior Society sparked by protests against fracking-linked shale gas exploration in northern New Brunswick.
A spokesperson for the Fifth Canadian Division Support Base, formerly known as CFB Gagetown, said military police met with a small delegation of “members from an Aboriginal community” who visited its Oromocto, NB, base Thursday.
“We redirected them to the proper authorities for the issues they wanted to discuss, which was the RCMP,” said Stephanie Duchense, a public affairs officer. “They were put in touch with a member of the RCMP at that time.”
A New Brunswick RCMP spokesperson would not comment on the meeting or confirm whether any officers with the RCMP were contacted by military police on the issue.
Conflicts flared in northern New Brunswick throughout the summer as Mi’kmaq activists from Elisipogtog First Nation, along with supporters from Acadian and rural communities in New Brunswick, attempted to stop SNW Resources from exploring for shale gas in the region. The RCMP arrested about 35 people during the protests.
Warrior Society members say the RCMP continues its surveillance of Mi’kmaq people linked to the protests.
Duchense said the delegation requested a meeting with military police and talks lasted for about one hour.
A member of the Mi’kmaq Warrior Society said the meeting lasted for about three hours and that they were told the Canadian military could not intervene without a request from the province. The meeting was attended by the Warrior Society war chief known as Seven, James Pictou and Suzanne Patles.
Under the National Defence Act, a province has the power to call in the military with Ottawa picking up the full cost of the ensuing operation. The Canadian military became involved in the 1990 Oka Crisis at the request of the Quebec government.
“They are not going to go out until called upon by the province,” said the Warrior Society member, who requested anonymity. “Basically they stated which side of the line they are going to be on.”
The Mi’kmaq Warrior Society believes that the Canadian military has a duty to protect the Mi’kmaq nation from “enemies, both foreign and domestic” under Peace and Friendship Treaties signed between Mi’kmaq and the British Crown.
“It was disheartening they weren’t going to fulfill their treaty obligations when we went to seek assistance,” said the Warrior Society member. “We went to seek their assistance; that is part of their mandate.”
The Warrior Society issued a statement late Thursday saying that a “refusal to fulfill this request for assistance is a violation of the pre-Confederation Peace and Friendship Treaties.”
The society said the RCMP arrested three of its members in Moncton, NB, Wednesday when they attempted to meet with New Brunswick First Nations leaders.
Suzanne Patles and Annie Clair were arrested on suspicion of mischief in relation to a protest against exploration work at the end of July. James Pictou was arrested on suspicion of uttering threats.
An RCMP spokesperson said charges are pending against all three, who were released on conditions.
“I can confirm there were arrests made,” said Const. Julie Rogers-Marsh. “I can’t confirm the names . . . or if they are a part of that society.”
SWN stopped its exploration work at the end of July as a result of a negotiated detente following intensifying protests. The company, however, is widely expected to return to finish its exploration work this month.
The Mi’kmaq Warrior Society plans to again bolster protests against the exploration work and its members say they will use “any means necessary” to stop shale gas exploration on their territory.
“I am willing to die,” said the Warrior Society member. “They are going to have to kill us to be able to destroy what is left in our territory. They’ve depleted most of our game, our forests, they raped our women and took our children, they manipulated our men and now they are coming to destroy the last thing we have left: our water.”