‘No Fracking Way’ Marchers Tell NWT Government
‘No fracking way,’ marchers tell NWT government
Fracking foes aim to make controversial process an election issue
by Jack Danylchuk
Chanting “no fracking way,” 75 people marched through downtown Yellowknife on Saturday to demonstrate their opposition to hydraulic fracturing, the controversial method of extracting oil and gas.
Sponsored by the Council of Canadians, the march was part of a global protest and was preceded by a rally by First Nations from northeastern Alberta in Fort McMurray on Friday to demonstrate solidarity with Mi’kmaq in New Brunswick, who clashed with RCMP last week at blockades protesting hydraulic fracturing on their lands.
“This is a non-violent event,” Hewlett said before marchers set out from Somba K’e Plaza on their circuitous route that took them to the courthouse and then to Northern United Place to view a documentary on the impact of horizontal fracturing in Alberta.
“We are joining people all over the planet who are protesting the same thing: we are all concerned with people’s health and the health of the land,” Hewlett said.
“Horizontal fracking is moving forward in the Sahtu without even an environmental assessment. We have no detailed inventory of the water resource, we don’t know the full details of the composition or quantity of chemicals being used, and we have no idea of the potential for permanent damage to our waters.”
Dene National Chief Bill Erasmus joined the march with his brother Georges, a past president of the Assembly of First Nations, but Weledeh’s Bob Bromley was the only MLA to lend his name to Saturday’s demonstration. He met with marchers at an informational session at Northern United Place.
In Fort McMurray, dozens gathered outside the RCMP station for a peaceful rally and response to a confrontation earlier in the week in New Brunswick between police and Mi’kmaq from the Elsipogtog First Nation who were protesting fracking exploration on traditional lands and territory.
Gitz Crazyboy, organizer of the Fort McMurray rally, said First Nations in northern Alberta are no strangers to the loss of lands and treaty rights through resource extraction.
“Whether it’s tar sands expansion or fracking or simply the protection of our lands, water and animals, or missing and murdered women, First Nations people are not being treated as equals,” Crazyboy said.
The rally in Fort McMurray included Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, George Poitras, former chief of the Mikisew Cree First Nation, Fort McMurray First Nation councillor Cleo Reece and Roland LeFort, president of UNIFOR Local 707, a Suncor Unit.
Unlike in New Brunswick, where protests ended with half a dozen police vehicles in flames and the arrest of 40 protesters, Hewlett made it clear that police who escorted the march through Yellowknife “are here to keep us safe.
“If there is anyone here with any intent other than a peaceful demonstration, you shouldn’t be in our group; our demonstration is peaceful and meant to be educational,” Hewlett said before the marchers set out.
“We understand there can be a lot of anger around the issue of fracking; I certainly understand why people would be angry and we’ll have discussions about how we can make change without anybody getting hurt.”
One way to bring change is to make fracking an election issue, Hewlett said, noting the Council has had some success in setting the government’s agenda on the issue.
The Council challenged the territorial government earlier this year to require ConocoPhillips to reveal details of the chemicals it will use in the Sahtu this winter. The National Energy Board later announced that oil companies have agreed to disclose all fluids used in hydraulic fracturing, despite no requirements forcing them to.
The territorial government is promoting the economic potential of the Canol shale formation in the Sahtu and supports ConocoPhillips in its plan to conduct horizontal fracturing on two exploratory wells without an environmental review.
The Council is looking to the next territorial election in 2015 when the results of the ConocoPhillips exploration program will be known and the potential of the Canol shale will be clearer.
“We need to ask all the candidates where they stand on the question of hydraulic fracturing,” Hewlett said.