Support for Public Inquiry into RCMP raid on a peaceful protest camp Oct17th 2013 – Willi’s letter to NB Premier

12 February 2014

Via fax and email: (506) 453-7407 <premier@gnb.ca> <david.alward@gnb.ca>

 

New Brunswick Premier & Minister David Alward

Chancery Place

P. O. Box 6000

Fredericton, NB

 

Dear Premier Alward:

 

I write with deep concern and in awareness of the demand for public inquiry delivered to you by the New Brunswick Anti Shale Gas Alliance (NBASGA) regarding the disturbing events that took place in Rexton on October 17, 2013.

 

Your government policies and actions with regard to development on native reserved (“Crown”) lands, shale gas developments in particular at this time, are creating widespread distress to countless members of our communities. The peaceful, non-violent opponents of the ruination of the lands and waters, along with their many allies, including true authorities of First Peoples, Amnesty International, doctors, scientists and economists, deserve a government that is there for them when their survival is on the line… as is now evident with the threats they are facing, and harm already caused, by your permitting these operations.

 

Our peoples in the province, and beyond, have been victimized. They are understandably deeply concerned that further violent incidents, such as what happened in Rexton last October 17th, could happen again. The peoples concerns are abundantly and clearly stated and they are amply justified; they do not approve of actions taken and sanctioned by your government, and they have been harmed. Given the reasoned appeals and growing public outcry for a public inquiry into these events, the people deserve to be certain that justice and the Rule of Law are being respectfully observed in New Brunswick. This is necessary in the public interest and essential for the public good.

 

As Premier, it is now incumbent upon you to facilitate a full, arm’s length and independent public inquiry into the circumstances and events culminating in the RCMP raid on a peaceful protest camp near Rexton on October 17th. The citizens of New Brunswick need, demand and have every right to know all the circumstances surrounding the escalation in the use of force by corporate and provincial security personnel, what precipitated the use of violence, and how the peoples can be assured that there will never be a recurrence.

 

I am grateful for and in full agreement with the legal opinions expressed by Amnesty International, the world’s foremost human rights organization, in its November 1, 2013 letter to you. The violence at Rexton most certainly “could have been avoided had the province acted in a manner consistent with its obligations to respect the human rights of Indigenous peoples under Canadian and international law”. In that letter, you were warned that without appropriate action, further clashes could occur. I hope and pray that you will heed this warning and change direction away from the dangerous and cruel path that you are forcing upon troubled and vulnerable peoples.

 

Please be advised that I, as Wilhelmina (Willi) Nolan, as a named defendant and/or “Jane Doe”, am pursuing legal action against third parties in relation to Southwestern Energy’s (SWN-Resources Canada Inc.) SLAPP suit. I have stated my understanding that the province of New Brunswick is ignoring its legal obligations to indigenous peoples and provincial citizens under Canadian and international law. I look forward to judicial scrutiny of the full nature and extent of the province’s violations of the aboriginal and human rights of our peoples as well as your responsibilities as an individual, Premier and Minister. I have every intention of pursuing this matter to the fullest possible extent of the Rule of Law.

 

It is impossible for me to understand what happened in the days leading up to October 17 that made the police think the situation had changed so radically after years of peaceful protest. For years, thousands of New Brunswickers, myself included, have written appeals to your offices, visited peaceful demonstrations and and offered support for the movement to protect our precious lands and waters.

 

Witnesses have publicly reported that there was no threat to public safety at the Rexton camp until police, accompanied by dogs and snipers in camouflage, attacked unarmed civilians, including women and children, with pepper spray, drawn handguns and non-lethal rounds. I was shocked and distressed to see an incident where an old woman praying the rosary was pepper-sprayed in the face. Did you order this level of violence against the camp?

 

When a court injunction against the peaceful protest was to be heard the very next day, why did you order the RCMP to raid the Rexton protest camp on October 17th? I would not want to believe that it was actually your intent to silence citizen engagement and judicial process. That would most certainly create an even more grievous ‘black eye’ on the province.

 

There are too many gravely serious and unanswered questions about the specific circumstances leading to the lamentable incidents that took place in Rexton. I find myself now also concerned about continuing negative impact following these incidents; please be aware that further harms are being suffered by many of our peoples seeking justice under the New Brunswick correction and court systems. Because the Province of New Brunswick itself became a player in these circumstances and events, its unfortunate position is in conflict of interest which precludes it from organizing or conducting an impartial public inquiry.

 

You must answer the public call without delay and empower the people of New Brunswick to conduct an independent, impartial public inquiry, held at arm’s length from the government. A few of the unanswered questions already expressed to you by the New Brunswick Anti Shale Gas Alliance include:

 

– Why were police continuing to allow citizens to enter the Rexton site, considering that the police themselves claim it was a dangerous situation threatening public safety, but drove away persons from the media (excepting one Brunswick News reporter who was curiously there at dawn)?

 

– Why didn’t police consult with First Nations chiefs who were vocal advocates of non-violence; especially why did they arrest a respected chief who had repeatedly stressed the importance of peaceful protest in the midst of inflamed situations?

 

– Why, despite a massive police presence at the camp, six RCMP vehicles were left unattended; how they could be set on fire with no police intervention and, to date, no arrests of suspects for arson?

 

I fully agree with you that “the truth cannot be silenced” and I look forward to your favourable response to this letter and to the citizen appeals for a public inquiry at your earliest convenience. Thank you for your attention to these matters.

 

Yours very truly,

 

Willi (Wilhelmina) Nolan

 

Cc: Noel Joe Augustine, Keptin Mi’kmaq Grand Council Sikniktuk District; His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada; Hon. Graydon Nicholas, New Brunswick Lieutenant Governor; Hon. Dominic Leblanc, MP Beauséjour; Passamaquoddy Chief Hugh Akaji; Penobscot Chief Dave Mitchell; Dan Ennis, Saugem, Wulustukieg Traditional Council of Tobic; members of Wabanaki Confederacy;Brian Gallant, Leader NB Liberal Party; David Coon, Leader NB Green Party; Dominic Cardy, Leader NB NDP; Kris Austin, Leader People’s Alliance; Charles Murray, New Brunswick Ombudsman; members of the New Brunswick Anti Shale Gas Alliance, members of The Council of Canadians; Prof. James Anaya, Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights; members of Amnesty International.

 

enclosed: text of Dec 111, 2013 Times and Transcript article “New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance wants ‘unanswered questions’ looked at surrounding incident on Oct. 17 that led to 40 arrests

 

~~~~~~~

(article) New Brunswick Times & Transcript DEC 11, 2013

 

New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance wants ‘unanswered questions’ looked at surrounding incident on Oct. 17 that led to 40 arrests

 

By COLE HOBSON, TIMES & TRANSCRIPT

 

The New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance is asking the provincial government for an independent, public inquiry into events surrounding the Oct. 17 clash between shale gas protesters and the RCMP that led to an eruption of violence and 40 arrests along Route 134 near Rexton.

 

The group believes the people of New Brunswick have a right to know the reasons behind the escalation in the use of force used by RCMP, with the group saying there are ‘many unanswered questions’ about what transpired along the highway that day.

 

Jim Emberger, a spokesman for New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance, said the discussion in the past couple of months has been about the demonstration and protests, but they want to return the dialogue to the pertinent information and scientific studies surrounding shale gas itself.

 

Yesterday was International Human Rights Day and the group used the opportunity to echo the concerns expressed in an Amnesty International letter to Premier David Alward and his cabinet dated on Nov. 1.

 

That letter stated that unless steps are taken to rebuild the relationship with Indigenous Peoples with respect to resource development, further incidents could occur.

 

Amnesty International said in the letter that this incident ‘could have been avoided had the province acted in a manner consistent with its obligations to respect the human rights of Indigenous peoples under Canadian and international law.’ The Alliance believes that if Amnesty International is raising concern about human rights issues in New Brunswick, citizens should be concerned as well.

 

‘We would like an independent public inquiry to examine what role this failure to respect the human rights of Indigenous peoples may have played in the events leading up to Oct. 17,’ said Emberger. ‘An independent, impartial inquiry held at arm’s length from government is necessary because the provincial government itself played a role in those events.’ It was during that October confrontation that the Mounties noted they found guns and firebombs at the protest camp and while the two sides squared off in the middle of Route 134 several police vehicles were set on fire. Some protesters claim the weapons were planted by police and the police cars were set ablaze by police ‘agents provocateurs’ but the end result was 40 arrests and six protesters behind bars facing charges ranging from weapons offences to assaulting police officers to unlawfully confining security guards who felt they couldn’t safely leave from behind the barricaded compound.

 

Alward has called it a ‘black eye’ on the province and said in a Moncton speech on Monday that he was troubled by what SWN was put through during their seismic exploration process, but was pleased they ‘persevered’ through the controversy.

 

Alward said it’s easy to be against things, ‘but very rarely do these opponents bring forward alternative ideas,’ he said, noting it’s ‘difficult to argue with those who use misinformation and false statements to promote fear and division within our communities. But I believe the truth cannot be silenced.’ Emberger contended that the government has been acting with blinders on, as he said for three years groups like theirs have been ready and willing to present alternative options and factual information to the government.

 

‘They are not responding in any way to options that have (been presented) in three years,’ he said, noting everything they’ve put forward has been based on peer-reviewed science and reliable reports.

 

The Alliance represents community groups and voices from across New Brunswick who are opposed to unconventional oil and gas development. While putting forward information about the potential risks of unconventional oil and gas development, the group also explore and promote clean energy and economic alternatives.

 

Emberger said they have seen studies showing that as an example, the clean energy economy in Massachusetts has created close to three times as many direct jobs as in Pennsylvania with jobs related to shale gas development.

 

Emberger said with the support their group has throughout the province, he has a hard time believing Alward’s assertions that most of what he’s hearing on the ground is overall support for the industry.

 

‘It’s not like we’re not telling anyone, but if you’re not listening you won’t hear it,’ he said.

 

‘We will admit that shale gas will do something, but it’s up to the government to make the case that it’s the economic and even more than that environmentally correct thing to do in particular in terms of all the news of all the climate change (issues).’ Emberger believes different methods, other than force, could have been used to achieve the goal of enforcing the injunction on Oct. 17 and believes it didn’t have to come to what it did.

 

‘This was civil disobedience and people were prepared to be arrested and had been all summer,’ he said. ‘The fact that people were surprised early in the morning as the first thing they saw were people with sniper rifles, sitting in fields all around. That’s not going from step one to step two, that’s going from step one to step 15. So our question is, OK, what did you know that made you think that you had to go to a military-style assault on what has been a peaceful demonstration?’ In the aftermath of the Oct. 17 incident, RCMP Assistant Commissioner Roger Brown said threat to public safety posed by lethal weapons and escalating tensions at the Rexton blockade forced them to take action against protesters.

 

Brown said on Oct. 18 at a press conference that in addition to 40 arrests and the six police cars being destroyed, several shots were fired by persons unknown within the encampment, potentially deadly explosives were seized and police officers discharged ‘soft rounds’ of bean-bag-like projectiles and pepper spray.

 

He said experts had to defuse several improvised explosive devices found at the blockade, where protesters had been encamped for close to three weeks.

 

‘Some contained shrapnel and had the potential to seriously injure or kill,’ Brown said. ‘This was no longer a peaceful protest, and there was a serious threat to public safety.’ Emberger said the presence of legally owned hunting rifles at a campsite in New Brunswick during hunting season isn’t cause for alarm. He said it also seems suspicious that despite the police cars lit on fire, there hasn’t been an arrest made for arson in relation to the incident. As for the other dangerous weapons found, he said he couldn’t comment as he never saw them, but he would like to see some context provided by the RCMP on what was found and how it was discovered.

 

‘From what we can see,’ Emberger said, ‘there was no threat to public safety until police, advancing with drawn guns and accompanied by dogs and snipers in camouflage, attacked unarmed civilians, including women and children, with pepper spray and non-lethal rounds.’ A request for comment from the Premier’s office was not returned by press time.

 

In the end, Emberger said he doesn’t believe the government will act on their request for an inquiry.

 

‘Do I have confidence the government will actually do anything about this … I think the answer is no,’ he said, noting he believes the Alward government will ultimately lose the next election based on their ‘my way or the highway’ attitude on issues.

 

He added that in the new year their group, in co-ordination with others to be named, will be doing a concentrated education and electoral campaign about issues relating to shale gas.

 

The NBASGA said they and other anti-shale groups have been engaged in peaceful education, discussion and debate for three years and it is their intent to continue.

 

The group said it recognizes that peaceful protest may include civil disobedience, but never violence, and feel acts of civil disobedience have occurred only because of government refusal to address citizen concerns in any meaningful way.

 

‘The current and continuing threat of violence was initiated by the RCMP and government in the Rexton raid,’ said Emberger. ‘This violence has drawn the public’s attention away from the important issues, and also from the coverage of recent significant scientific, economic and political reports and events concerning shale gas.’

 

– 30 –

 

Read more background with links to court filings:

“Jane Doe” SLAPPs Back! Defending Lawsuit to Silence & Intimidate Anti-Fracking Protests – http://willinolanspeaks.com/shares/jane-doe-slapps-back-defending-lawsuit-to-silence-intimidate-anti-fracking-protests/

NB Referata Wiki – Main Page – http://nb.referata.com/wiki/Main_Page

New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance Calls for Public Inquiry into October 17 Raid – http://protectalbertcounty.wordpress.com/2013/12/10/nbasga-calls-for-inquiry/

Open Letter to Premier David Alward from Amnesty International concerning anti-fracking protests at the Elsipogtog Mi’kmaq Nation Nov. 1, 2013 – http://www.amnesty.ca/news/coalition-letters/open-letter-concerning-anti-fracking-protests-at-the-elsipogtog-mi%E2%80%99kmaq-natio

You can find links to Support Willi Nolan’s Spirit Led Activism  here