NEW BRUNSWICK, Canada — What would you do if the land and water you depended on for your way of life was put at risk by a powerful energy corporation? As the use of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to extract energy resources spreads around the world, rural communities are increasingly forced to confront that question.
In the eastern Canadian province of New Brunswick, an indigenous community and non-native locals have dared to challenge the wildly lucrative oil and gas boom sweeping North America. Last October, anti-fracking protesters clashed with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). Led by members of the Mi’kmaq Elsipogtog First Nation, the protesters set up a road blockade preventing natural gas exploration in the area by the Texas-based energy firm SWN. When the police raided their protest encampment, the melee resulted in more than 40 arrests, a storm of tear gas and the burning of six police cars. The battle made headlines across Canada. In December, SWN announced it was suspending operations in New Brunswick until 2015.
Fracking involves drilling deep into the earth and injecting millions of gallons of water and a toxic soup of chemicals in order to release reserves of oil and gas. It is a practice that often leaves the surrounding water and land badly polluted. With this in mind, Elsipogtog community members have vowed to resist any future fracking operations and expect that their fight with SWN is far from over. The struggle in Elsipogtog is part of a growing movement of indigenous resistance against extreme energy projects across Canada and is linked to similar struggles in the United States.
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