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Lack of consultation on shale gas irks N.B. First Nations chiefs
First Nations chiefs are hoping the New Brunswick government will make the right decision after they learned the government has been given the ability to lift the moratorium on shale gas fracking in the Sussex region.
One chief says lifting the moratorium would be a mistake that could have long-lasting consequences.
Over the last decade, the relationship between First Nations communities and the New Brunswick government has been tense.
There is a feeling of mistrust, especially after the October 2013 shale gas protest in which dozens were arrested and five RCMP vehicles set ablaze.
It led to a shale gas moratorium, put in place by the Brian Gallant government in late 2014.
Then, on Feb. 26, 2016, a commission released a report calling for an independent regulator to oversee the industry should the moratorium ever be lifted.
It also said the province needed to rebuild its relationship with First Nations communities.
“I think there was an assumption here that it was OK to lift this because it was only in the Sussex area,” said Chief George Ginnish of the Natoaganeg First Nation.
Ginnish learned last week -- the same time as everyone else -- that the Higgs government had been granted the ability to lift the moratorium partially in the Sussex region, so that Corridor Resources could resume fracking its wells.
“It definitely was a surprise,” said Ginnish. “We had hoped that, you know, we'd have a better relationship going forward in 2019. We'd say to the government, ‘Think seriously about these types of decisions,’ and absolutely, ‘You want to talk to us sooner than later.’”
It also comes a month after Ottawa signed a memorandum of understanding with the Elsipogtog First Nation on an aboriginal land title claim filed in 2016.
“We’re Mi’kmaq, we are a people, this is our nation, this is our land, and we decide, we decide what happens to it,” Chief Arren Sock of Elsipogtog First Nation said on May 9.
The provincial government says it will consult with Indigenous leaders as it develops rules the industry will have to follow.
“It's a deception,” said Jim Emberger, a spokesperson for the New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance.
Emberger has spent the last decade leading the charge against shale gas -- many times, taking that fight to the frontlines alongside First Nations communities.
“The premier, during his throne speech, went on about how it was going to be a new relationship, it was going to be much less paternalistic, and more consideration given,” Emberger said. “Well, telling someone after the fact is about as paternalistic as you can get; I didn't even know.”
In a statement, the Wolastoqey Nation, which represents six First Nations communities, called the move “shocking, unacceptable and unlawful.”
The six chiefs are calling on the government to “immediately re-establish the moratorium and engage with indigenous peoples on any proposal to allow fracking.”
The chiefs say the provincial government should have known to speak to them, to consult with them, before making the move.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Laura Brown.