Debriefing Elsipogtog by Miles Howe

Debriefing Elsipogtog by Miles Howe

Author:Miles Howe
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Fernwood Publishing
Published: 2015-01-13T05:00:00+00:00

On June 21, 2013, Canada’s National Aboriginal Day, in the on-going anti–shale gas protests, another dozen people were arrested. Pictured is Segewa’t Naguset, one of the fire keepers at the anti–shale gas encampment.

The first guests were a contingent of the MWS. The group of about ten camouflage-clad, mostly male Warriors was greeted with a standing ovation at the meeting. Here, after the brutal month of June, were the Warriors, the treaty-based security force of the Mi’kmaq Nation. Tellingly, they were almost exclusively from Nova Scotia.

From the outset, the relationship between Elsipogtog band council and the MWS was strained. The MWS operated under a treaty-based philosophy and claimed to represent the Mi’kmaq Nation, Mi’kma’ki, the traditional boundaries of which spread throughout the Maritimes. It was free from the operational constraints of the Indian Act system; the AFNCNB; the AFN; and the various applications of pressure points, financial and otherwise, that these organizations might place upon Elsipogtog band council, and the reserve if the Warriors were to fight against SWN too fiercely. Chief Sock’s opinion on shale gas development in New Brunswick (and he did repeatedly and publicly come out against it) was tempered by the fact that in practice, there wasn’t much he could do about it. Elsipogtog was signed into the AFNCNB, which was engaged in “consultative activities” over which there was little to no oversight save their own imaginations. Indeed, there had already been much sipping from the SWN cup of plenty. Although the treaty-based approach did not necessarily put the MWS at odds with Elsipogtog band council, it most definitely threatened to run them up against the deals that had already been made (and were potentially continuing to be made) between band council representatives, settler governments and SWN. If anything, under the handling and watchful gaze of all the levels of government involved in ensuring that SWN did seismic testing, it must have been extremely difficult for Sock to try and steer Elsipogtog anywhere other than down the shale gas road. By November 2013, the chief removed Elsipogtog from the AFNCNB, going so far as to drag the consultative corporation into court in an attempt to get an injunction against SWN. But that was to be months, and dozens more arrests, down the road. And it was still only June.

Chief Sock was also a new chief. Elected for the first time in 2012, he had inherited the contentious shale gas file and the spot at the consultative table with the AFNCNB from his predecessor, ex-chief Jesse Simon (2008–12). Whatever “wheel-greasing” might have gone on at the courtship stage between SWN and the AFNCNB, Simon would have been Elsipogtog’s voice at the bargaining table. As of January 2015, Simon remained listed as one of the co-directors of the AFNCNB in its company profile. As of March 2015, Simon was also employed by Ishkonigan Consulting and Mediation Inc., former Assembly of First Nations national chief Phil Fontaine’s consultation group. Ishkonigan had been subcontracted by TransCanada to promote its controversial


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