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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Thursday 17 October 2013


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There are two stories that are emerging out of Elsipogtog First Nation today - one, as the RCMP tells it, is of dedicated law enforcement officers doing their duty when all hope of a peaceful resolution failed.

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In this version, forty people who happen to be First Nations were arrested for criminal activity in defiance of the law the RCMP is charged with upholding.  These folk threw Molotov cocktails and set expensive police cars on fire - clearly bad behaviour that needed to be punished.

That's one version.

In the other version, the people of Elsipogtog First Nation tried to stop the abuse of the land we all share and put a halt to fracking - a practise that is being questioned and resisted all over the place in much the same was as windmills are in Ontario.

These people looked ahead and saw their children's future at risk, so they used every peaceful means at their disposal; after years of failed efforts, these means eventually came to include a blockade.  There aren't many other tools in the hands of those who don't have the resources of an SWN Resources Canada.

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While the people of Elsipogtog First Nation spent years seeking justice, it took SWN days to get an injunction put in place.

Which is where the RCMP raid came in.  It's no wonder they failed to get their peaceful resolution - it's hard to talk peace when you come to the party with dogs, snipers, tear gas, hoses, rubber bullets, pepper spray and the like.  In fact, being so armed almost makes it look like you were spoiling for a fight.

Were the RCMP involved in deliberations before then?  I don't know.  This story came to my attention through social media; I followed via Twitter with rapt attention as the situation continued to escalate.  I wasn't on the ground; I can't verify with accuracy any of the accounts I've read, or that thousands of others have read around the globe.  

What I do know is that the version presented by people representing themselves and those representing national/SWN Resources' interests aren't the same.  In the absence of fact and when those with power suggest they did nothing wrong, I'm like most people - I tend to root for the underdog.

That's what I fear the people in charge aren't cluing in to; the Rob Ford mayoralty, the Tea Party, Occupy and Idle No More are all symptoms of the same illness - the people don't trust that those in power have their best interests at heart.  They're not even sure their leaders have any sense of where they're leading the people to.

The RCMP, the frackers, the federal and provincial governments can try to spin this any way they want; they can bring out their most confident sound-bite deliverers and talk boldly about law and order.  It won't make a difference.  When you have multiple sources suggesting that the police set their own car on fire and are believed by many, bluster (whether justified or no) merely fans the flames of discontent. 

Year after year, scandal after scandal, protest movement after protest movement, those flames keep leaping higher.

The tipping point has been reached - the only way to keep from toppling over is to stop charging forward and take a step back.

I hope the RCMP realize this isn't about their brand or saving face; I hope the Federal government doesn't double-down on their tough-on-crime, weak-on-respect-for-First-Nations approach.  I hope David Alward realizes that, when he speaks about respecting the law and punishment for misdeeds, he is carrying the torch for the whole country's political class - including those who have blatantly abused the law and gotten away with it.

At the same time, I hope that the average citizens who will line up on either side of the fence, largely for reasons nothing to do with fracking, pause to think about what they really hope to accomplish.

Someone has to be the adult in the room.  If it isn't going to be them, let it be us.

- Chief Gabriel Atwin, Kingsclear First Nation

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