Canada’s First Nations against fracking

November 21, 2013

World in View

by Gerry Emmett

On Oct. 17, Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) attacked men and women of the Mi’kmaq and Elsipogtog First Nation for the “crime” of defending their recognized treaty rights. People, including elders, were beaten and pepper sprayed. The Mi’kmaq were blocking a New Brunswick highway in protest of Southwestern Energy doing seismic testing to determine whether local shale gas deposits merit drilling—which would be done by way of destructive fracking.


In response to the RCMP’s brutal assault, six police vehicles were torched. Forty protesters were arrested, some still in jail as of this writing. Opposition to the possibility of fracking has been building since 2010, when the government of Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper opened up huge areas of the province to shale gas exploration.

Photo by Miles Howe, Halifax Media Coop

Photo by Miles Howe, Halifax Media Coop

This demonstration is part of a nationwide, and international, struggle by Indigenous people against exploitation and environmental degradation. Global warming makes it a fight for human survival. As Indigenous group Idle No More has stated: “The taking of resources has left many lands and waters poisoned—the animals and plants are dying in many areas in Canada. We cannot live without the land and water. We have laws older than this colonial government about how to live with the land… We believe in healthy, just, equitable and sustainable communities and have a vision and plan of how to build them.”

In neighboring Nova Scotia, previous Canadian governments have recognized the right of the Mi’kmaq to be consulted on plans regarding the land, and for a decade have been negotiating a Mi’kmaq-Nova Scotia-Canada Consultation Process. This recognition, if only in principle, reveals the regressive nature of the latest actions.


The Harper government regards First Nations people and climate scientists as its enemies. It has moved to gut environmental protections, vilified all who dared to question the impact of tar sands drilling and pipeline construction, and pulled out of the Kyoto accords.

Harper is determined to wring every last drop of saleable oil and gas out of the Canadian earth. His power base, economic perspective, even his religious views, belong to the oil and gas industries. To this free market and Christian fundamentalist it makes no difference if the environment is ruined.

What the brutality expressed in New Brunswick demonstrates is that the “free market” is based on the denial of freedom to live human beings.

This is the history of so-called primitive accumulation of capital as described by Karl Marx in Capital. The destruction of Indigenous societies was integral to it from the beginning. As Mi’kmaq Chief Alphonse Metallic put it following a previous episode of RCMP brutality over fishing rights, “Until Canada and the provinces recognize the aboriginal nations of North America, incidents of this nature will continue to happen.”

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