By Jorge Barrera
APTN National News
The main New Brunswick chiefs organization received a contract from a Houston-based energy company facing ferocious opposition from Elsipogtog First Nation residents over its shale gas exploration.
SWN Resources Canada also “did everything right” under the consultation process agreed to between the provincial government and the Assembly of First Nations Chiefs in New Brunswick, according to the lawyer for the chiefs organization.
The AFNCNB has been receiving funding from SWN for the past two years to provide environmental monitoring for the company while it explores for shale gas in the province, said Mike Scully, who is the consultation liaison for the AFNCNB.
Scully said six people have been hired to follow SWN’s workers as they work exploration lines in their search for shale gas deposits.
Scully also said that Industrial Security Ltd (ISL), which is on contract with SWN, issued a subcontract to the North Shore Mi’kmaq District Council for nine people to do “security related work” associated with SWN. Elsipogtog First Nation is not part of the district council which includes seven Mi’kmaq communities in the region.
The council includes the communities of Bouctouche First Nation, Eel Ground First Nation, Eel River First Nation, Fort Folly First Nation, Indian Island First Nation, Pabineau First Nation and Metepenagiag First Nation.
The Irving shadow
ISL is owned by JD Irving Ltd. and it is part of a corporate empire headed by the Irving family which dominates New Brunswick. The Irvings have cast a large shadow over the ongoing Mi’kmaq-led anti-fracking protests.
Along with owning ISL, JD Irving also owns the compound at the centre of the RCMP’s heavily-armed Oct. 17 raid. The raid freed SWN’s trucks which were in the compound that had been blocked by an anti-fracking camp along Route 134 in Rexton, NB.
ISL is also expected to play a key role in the upcoming trial of six members of the Mi’kmaq Warrior Society. Some of the warriors face charges for allegedly confining up to seven employees of “Irving security” in a compound holding SWN’s vehicles on Oct. 16, according to RCMP charge sheets.
Irving Oil , which is operated independently from JD Irving, has an interest in seeing the development of shale gas deposits as a source of cheap energy to expand its refining capacity to handle Alberta mined bitumen which is expected to flow to the province if TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline project gets approved. TransCanada and Irving Oil announced a joint venture in August to build a new $300 million marine terminal in Saint John.
AFNCNB says forced to consult on NB’s terms
Scully couldn’t say how much money the contracts with ISL and SWN are worth.
Scully was asked to speak to APTN National News on behalf of the AFNCNB by Eel Ground First Nation Chief George Ginnish. Ginnish is co-chair of the AFNCNB.
Dozens of Elsipogtog residents and their allies turned back SWN’s exploration trucks Thursday after an hours long standoff involving the RCMP on Hwy 11, about 46 km north of the community. One woman was arrested for allegedly “causing a disturbance,” the RCMP said.
Elsipogtog Coun. Craig Sock said the band had also filed for an injunction Thursday against SWN with the New Brunswick Court of Queen’s Bench in Fredericton. Sock said the band is seeking to have a judge stop SWN’s work until the company conducts more consultation.
“They never did any consultation with our community,” said Sock.
Scully also said Elsipogtog gave the AFNCNB the mandate to conduct consultation on the community’s behalf about two years ago.
“The assembly has delegated authority from the member bands to conduct the procedural aspects of consultation on their behalf,” said Scully.
Sock said that delegated authority was signed over by a previous band council.
“This is a whole new chief and council and the community wasn’t consulted properly,” said Sock.
But Scully said SWN did everything it had to do under the phased in consultation process agreed to by the AFNCNB and the province which focused exclusively on exploration. Scully said SWN only received licenses from the province to explore which narrowed the scope of the consultation.
“In my view SWN did everything right,” he said.
Scully said the chiefs weren’t happy with that approach and wanted consultation on all aspects of the planned project, from exploration to extraction, but the province wouldn’t budge.
“(The province) asserted the decision was to issue permits for seismic exploration and that is the decision that technically and legally we were limited to consult on,” said Scully. “There is a reciprocal duty to consult…we didn’t like it but we worked within the parameters that were proposed.”
The AFNCNB have belated called on the province to suspend SWN’s licenses following the Oct. 17 raid.
Ginnish said in a statement that the “phased approach to consultation is incompatible with the Aboriginal perspective.”
The statement did not mention the AFNCNB receiving a contract from SWN as part of the consultation process or that SWN paid for AFNCNB staff to visit the company’s operations in Arkansas.
Scully said people from Elsipogtog also went to Arkansas on the company’s dime, but he would not reveal who they were.