Shale gas protest peacekeeper's role tested
- Shale gas protest peacekeeper's role tested
By Laura BrownVideo Journalist
ELSIPOGTOG FIRST NATION, N.B. - First Nations leaders say an anti-fracking protest camp has been moved to a new location along Route 116, near Bass River, for safety reasons.
At its new location, there's less traffic along the route and people are able to set up further from the road.
It was one thing Wendall Nicholas wanted to see happen when he became a peacekeeper of the ongoing protests, on June 27.
Nicholas told Global News his role is all about public safety.
"As conflict situations occur, and they have happened. I'm in a role to make sure that all sides understand what the potential outcome could be, so that people are not hurt," he said.
Those sides include RCMP, Native leaders, protesters and SWN Resources - the company performing seismic testing in the area in search of shale gas.
Read more: NB would get $13M in spinoffs if shale gas sector proceeds: study
Protests have been ongoing since SWN Resources began seismic testing four weeks ago.
Some have demonstrations have been peaceful, but others have not.
Police have made 33 arrests since the protests began.
Read more: Shale gas protesters regroup following arrests
That is why Nicholas was hired.
He said he will keep communications flowing between all parties, and monitor the situation in the hopes these protests won't get out of hand.
Nicholas is from Tobique First Nation and has worked on sensitive issues before, including the Truth and Reconciliation Commission into residential schools.
He has already dealt with some potentially violent situations.
On July 2, an unknown package was delivered to Elsipogtog.
Nicholas couldn't tell Global News much about the situation, but he said people were worried about their safety.
"The material was safely removed and analyzed by RCMP, and I was informed [Tuesday] that the content that was discovered was spare parts from a drilling rig located nearby the community," he said. "There was also concern there was explosive devices that might have been taken off the equipment."
Any possible explosive parts on the rig were accounted for and RCMP are looking into the incident.
In the meantime, Assembly of First Nations' National Chief Shawn Atleo is working on a statement regarding the protests.
He spoke to protesters at the camp on July 1, saying he recognized their passion for the issue.
"I honour your courage for what all of you are doing here," Atleo said.
Protesters say they're at the new location to stay, and will spread their message in whatever means possible.
"The democratic right is to express yourself, and that can mean getting in the way of something that's going to damage the environment and damage your country," said protester Robert Holmes.
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