Tag Archives: Elsipogtog

Indigenous leaders warn of protests, halting developments over shale gas exemption

Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Roger Augustine says ‘the blueprint’ for government to consult Indigenous groups is there. (Radio-Canada)

‘It is our job to ensure the protection of lands and waters for our future generations’: Chief Ross Perley

Top Indigenous leaders are warning that the Higgs government has made “a serious mistake” on shale gas that may reignite protests like those seen in the Rexton area in 2013.

They say the province’s duty to consult Indigenous people is clearly defined, and the government should have known how to proceed as it tries to restart the industry in one part of the province.

“It’s not as if this is all new,” said Roger Augustine, the regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. “The blueprint is there.”

“There’s a lot of case law,” said Chief George Ginnish of Natoaganeg First Nation. “There are actual court cases. … If he needs clarity, we’ll certainly provide clarity if that’s what he needs.”

‘Reckless voice’

Augustine said the Progressive Conservative government’s decision to lift the moratorium on fracking in the Sussex area risks alarming members of First Nations communities.

“When a reckless voice speaks out, be it the premier or the prime minister, they should realize what could happen, what it causes in communities,” he said. “Once we’ve got outrage out there, and we’ve got roadblocks, we’ve got cars burned.”

He was referring to anti-shale gas protests near Elsipogtog First Nation in 2013 that saw violent confrontations between protestors and police.

Chief George Ginnish of Natoaganeg First Nation says there’s case law that clarifies government’s duty to consult. (Hadeel Ibrahim, CBC)

Ginnish warned that Mi’kmaq chiefs may pursue “whatever remedies might be available to us otherwise, legally” following the snub.

“In a partnership approach, you talk to your partners before you make a decision, not after,” said Ginnish, who co-chairs Mi’gmawe’l Tplu’taqnn Inc., made up of the nine Mi’kmaq bands in the province.

“You would think going forward a new government would want to build a good relationship and perhaps learn from the mistakes of the past.”

Higgs given instructions

This week Premier Blaine Higgs revealed that his cabinet had approved an order to end the moratorium in one part of the province. It would allow Corridor Resources to resume fracking its wells near Penobsquis, in the Sussex area.

Higgs said he met with Augustine last week to discuss the issue. Augustine told CBC News on Friday that he’s unhappy that Higgs told reporters, even after their meeting, that the duty to consult is “vague” and “undefined.”

He said he left notes with the premier after the meeting explaining how the duty to consult — laid out in several Supreme Court of Canada decisions on resource development projects — should work.

And he said that begins with Higgs saying publicly in the legislature that he honours and respects Aboriginal and treaty rights as laid out in the 1982 Constitution.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Jake Stewart sounded a conciliatory note at the legislature Friday, acknowledging that “there’s lots of questions today on whether or not we did it wrong.”


Stewart has said repeatedly this week that he recognizes Aboriginal treaties and Aboriginal rights, and he committed again Friday to meeting with chiefs and inviting them to lay out how they want consultations to unfold.

Jake Stewart, minister of Aboriginal affairs, appeared conciliatory at the New Brunswick legislature on Friday. (CBC)

“As tricky as that issue it, that’s a good starting point to at least get the consultation process right,” he said. “Maybe this is the reset we need to sit down and say, ‘How can we define this? How would you like this to go?'”

Augustine said it’s not too late for a reset. He said he has offer to assemble Indigenous representatives to talk to provincial officials about the process.

But he wouldn’t say whether communities would ever consent to shale gas development. “That’s down the road,” he said.

The government said there’s a potential investment of $70 million if Corridor can restart its fracking near Penobsquis, but no new development is likely before 2021.

The government says there’s a potential investment of $70 million if Corridor Resources can restart its fracking near Penobsquis. (CBC)

The Opposition Liberals, who brought in the provincial moratorium when they were in power, say the PC government has gone against the definition of the duty to consult from a 2010 Supreme Court decision.

That ruling said that the duty arises “when the Crown has knowledge, real or constructive, of the potential existence of the Aboriginal right or title and contemplates conduct that might adversely affect it.”

‘Happened over and over’

Augustine, who has been dealing with governments on resource issues for four decades, said he warned SWN Resources before they began seismic testing in 2013 that they needed to follow a consultation process.

“Every protest that I’ve seen across the country has already been the industry thinking they can just plow their way through the territory and pay no attention to the rights of the people, pay no attention to the history and culture of our people,” he said.

“That was a big mistake and that’s what happened over and over again.”

Anti-shale gas protesters blocked Highway 11 near Rexton in December of 2013. (Twitter)

Stewart maintained Friday that until cabinet approved the order to exempt the Sussex area from the moratorium, there was not much to consult on.

But he said he and Energy and Resource Development Minister Mike Holland were set to meet four Mi’kmaq chiefs and an elder later the same day.

Wolastoqey Nation opposition

In a statement released Friday by the Wolostoqey Nation, comprised of St. Mary’s, Woodstock, Madawaska, Oromocto, Tobique and Kingsclear First Nations, leaders denounced the “shocking, unacceptable, and unlawful” lifting of the moratorium.

The letter said part of the area where the moratorium is being lifted includes unceded Wolastoqey territory.

“The Province’s attempt to secretly open the door to fracking in our Territory is shocking, unacceptable, and unlawful. They need to restore the Moratorium immediately, and they need to have a serious dialogue with Indigenous peoples before taking any more steps in that direction,” said Patricia Bernard, Chief of Madawaska First Nation.

The statement also quoted Ross Perley, Chief of Tobique First Nation, saying he is disappointed by the move and promises to stop development.

“It falls short of the Higgs Government’s promise of defining a new relationship with the Wolastoqey and Mi’kmaw Nations,” he said. “It is our job to ensure the protection of lands and waters for our future generations and we will unify with our Mi’kmaw brothers and sisters to stop this development.”

By: Jacques Poitras ·  CBC News · Posted: Jun 08, 2019


RCMP charge man in connection with hit and run death of Brady Francis

Brady Francis, of Elsipogtog First Nation, is shown in this undated handout image. CP/Garnett Augustine

A 56-year-old man is facing charges in connection with the hit-and-run death of Brady Francis from Elsipogtog First Nation.

According to media reports Maurice Johnson of Saint-Charles, N.B., has been charged with failing to stop at the scene of an accident involving bodily harm or death.

Francis a well-liked 22-year-old was hit by a pickup truck on Feb. 24 as he departed a party in Saint-Charles, N.B., a predominantly francophone town about 12 kilometres south of the Elsipogtog reserve.

RCMP say it’s believed the Mi’kmaq youth was waiting for a drive home when he was struck.

Johnson is scheduled to appear in Moncton Provincial Court on July 10, 2018 to enter a plea.

Following Francis’s death, rallies and vigils were organized across the province, and people pleaded for the driver who hit Brady to come forward and confess.

Social media posts were circulating following the incident with pictures of Colten Boushie and Tina Fontaine and Francis side by side, and many were tweeting #justiceforbrady, echoing hashtags used after the recent Prairie verdicts.

Earlier this year, RCMP completed an investigation into the hit-and-run and handed the file over to Crown prosecutors to review possible charges.

This is the first charge laid in the case — four months after Francis was struck.

The news was welcomed with relief in the community.

“We’re extremely happy,” said Ruth Levi, a band councillor and director of social services at the Elsipogtog reserve.

Police say Johnson is the same person that was arrested and released without charges back in March. It was also his truck that was seized as part of the RCMP investigation.

Sabrina Polchies’s 2010 Death Still Raises Questions With Family

Sabrina Polchies was found dead in a Salisbury aprartment in 2010 at the age of 22. Foul play was ruled out by police, but her parents think she was murdered. (Facebook)

Sabrina Polchies was found dead in a Salisbury aprartment in 2010 at the age of 22. Foul play was ruled out by police, but her parents think she was murdered. (Facebook)

Mary Agnes Polchies feels her daughter’s 2010 death wasn’t properly investigated by the RCMP

By Tori Weldon, CBC News Posted: Jul 04, 2016

Sabrina Polchies, a Mi’kmaq woman from the Elsipogtog First Nation, moved to Moncton on Canada Day in 2010 to start a new life, but four days later she was found dead in a Salisbury apartment.

The RCMP ruled out foul play in her death six years ago, but members of her family believe Polchies was murdered.

It was July 1, 2010 and the 22 year-old posted, “Moving to Moncton whooo hoooo start a new life wish me luck.”

But only a few days later the RCMP would be knocking on her parents door, with news Mary Agnes Polchies describes as out of a nightmare.

The moment still haunts her.

“Two RCMP came over and they said, ‘We found an aboriginal woman dead in Moncton’ and I knew, I knew that was my baby,” she said.

Polchies had been worried about her 22-year-old daughter since the early hours of July 2, when she said she received a troubling phone call from Sabrina.

Polchies said her daughter sounded scared and said she didn’t know where she was.

Polchies describes pleading with her daughter to get a civic address, as she heard men swearing aggressively.

“I can hear in the background, ‘F–king squaw, you f–king bitch,'” she said.

“I was like, ‘Oh my God, get out of there.'”

Polchies said that’s when the line went dead. It was the last time she would ever speak to her daughter.

Body discovered on July 5

This is the Salisbury apartment where Polchies was found dead in July 2010. RCMP first deemed the death suspicious, until later in the week, the autopsy report, coroner’s report and evidence gathered led the RCMP to rule out foul play. (CBC)

This is the Salisbury apartment where Polchies was found dead in July 2010. RCMP first deemed the death suspicious, until later in the week, the autopsy report, coroner’s report and evidence gathered led the RCMP to rule out foul play. (CBC)

RCMP say it was two days later that Sabrina Polchies was reported missing on July 4.

But her mother insists she dialled 911 as soon as that call ended. And followed up again the next day, on July 3, and again July 4.

The young woman’s body was discovered on July 5 in a Salisbury apartment. Police said she died of a combination of alcohol and prescription medicine.

Foul play was ruled out on July 9.

But Polchies said she thinks the circumstances surrounding her daughter’s death are too suspicious to be ignored.

She said she’s heard rumours over the years suggesting that the men her daughter was with in the early hours of July 2, 2010, forcibly injected Sabrina with drugs, causing her death.

Wilson Polchies, Sabrina’s father, said his daughter’s cellphone was recovered from a dumpster days after she was found dead, he wonders why that didn’t raise more red flags for police.

“Mostly what bothers me is there is no justice at all. They dropped it and that was all,” he said.

Police investigation questioned

Six years after her daughter's death, Mary Agnes Polchies is still looking for closure. (CBC )

Six years after her daughter’s death, Mary Agnes Polchies is still looking for closure. (CBC )

Mary Agnes Polchies is also dissatisfied with the investigation carried out by the RCMP.

She said she feels that once the autopsy revealed drugs in her daughter’s system, she was written off.

“For like 25 minutes they did their job, just to look good on TV,” she said.

“They did what they had to do because they were in public’s eyes, but after you know, after when the public stopped caring that’s when they stopped. ‘Oh, she overdosed,’ that’s all.”

Cases highlight pattern

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett said the pattern of "no foul play" being found in so many deaths of aboriginal women is worthy of assessment. (CBC)

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett said the pattern of “no foul play” being found in so many deaths of aboriginal women is worthy of assessment. (CBC)

A CBC News investigation found this is just one case of dozens where police say there is no evidence of foul play, but the families of missing and murdered indigenous girls and women maintain their loved ones may have been victims of homicide.

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett commented on Thursday that the cases highlighted in the investigation show a pattern.

“This isn’t just one time that this happened this seems to be way too common, she said.

Bennett expressed that the pattern of “no foul play” found in so many aboriginal women’s deaths is worthy of assessment.

“I think it is a teachable moment for policing across this country to really look at the kinds of assumptions that are being made, the kinds of decisions that are being taken based on assumptions instead of based on fact,” she said.

Roland Chrisjohn, an associate professor in the Department of Native Studies at St. Thomas University, said he agrees with the concerns raised by the minister.

Chrisjohn is writing a book about indigenous people and racism in Canada.

“The pattern of police under-investigation of indigenous deaths, particularly of women, is commonplace across Canada, and in my opinion another instantiation of Canada’s institutionalized racism toward native peoples.”

RCMP willing to meet family

RCMP Const. Jullie Rogers-Marsh said the Polchies family is welcome to contact their local RCMP detachment if they are looking for more information about their daughter's death. (RCMP/YouTube)

RCMP Const. Jullie Rogers-Marsh said the Polchies family is welcome to contact their local RCMP detachment if they are looking for more information about their daughter’s death. (RCMP/YouTube)

RCMP Const. Jullie Rogers-Marsh would not provide any specific details about the Polchies case.

But she said the Polchies family is welcome to contact their local RCMP detachment if they are looking for more information.

“The RCMP is always open to meeting with families to provide an update on investigations in their jurisdiction or to explain the reasons for the decision to close the file,” she said.

Mary Agnes Polchies isn’t interested in those reasons, she wants the file reopened and her daughter’s death investigated more thoroughly.

After six years, she said she still struggles with the unanswered questions surrounding her daughter’s death.

“I stopped crying so much, I mean I have bad days, I have really bad days, but not as much,” she said.


Warrior Chief Plans Roadblocks To Keep Drugs Out Of Elsipogtog

John Levi, an Elsipogtog warrior chief, plans to set up roadblocks in his community to stem the flow of drugs. (Ian Bonnell/CBC)

John Levi, an Elsipogtog warrior chief, plans to set up roadblocks in his community to stem the flow of drugs. (Ian Bonnell/CBC)

Warrior chief John Levi says ‘It’s about time we made a stand and got our community back’ from influx of drugs

CBC News Posted: Apr 28, 2016

Elsipogtog roadblocks planned to keep drugs out of community

John Levi, the warrior chief at Elsipogtog First Nation, is planning to erect roadblocks on the three routes into the Mi’kmaq community in an attempt to curtail what he says is a steady stream of street drugs entering the reserve.

“It’s been many years that we’ve had problems with drugs in our reserve,” said Levi.

“It’s not only Elsipogtog that’s having problems, it’s every community, but after so many years you know we decided we’re going to stand up and get our community back.”

Members of the community name hydromorphone, an opioid pain medication, and crystal methamphetamine, an illegal street drug, as some of the substances being brought in to the community.

‘We are First Nations and we make our own laws.’– John Levi, warrior chief

Levi says people with drug problems are stealing others’ personal property and sometimes sending their kids to bed hungry because any family income is funneled into drugs.

DJ Joseph, Elsiopogtog Nation administrator, says he’s not aware of the plan, but he sees some potential for success.

“I personally would applaud anything that helps deter some of the more negative things that kind of come up in Elsipogtog,” he said.

DJ Joseph

DJ Joseph, the Elsipogtog administrator, said he would support any move to block drugs from coming into the First Nation (CBC)

Joseph grew up in the Mi’kmaq community and is aware of the difficulties some families face.

“Addiction plays a huge part in almost every … aspect of Elsipogtog life,” said Joseph.

“Often times other things fall out of place whenever there’s an addiction in the house.”

There are a number of programs in place on the reserve, including a needle exchange, group therapy, an addiction centre, a crisis unit and family support.

But Joseph explains funding for these programs isn’t easy to come by. He says many programs are started, but without core funding the initiatives don’t always stick.

“I kind of see it as a balance that hasn’t been hit yet,” he said.

Joseph says as a band administrator, he thinks a lot of work has to be done before the plan is put into action, like making sure Levi has proper authorization, and the RCMP is informed.

Roadblocks are illegal

The RCMP won’t confirm it is aware of any plans to erect community road blocks.

Sgt. Benoit Jolette says the RCMP is always open to receiving information from the public, but is not in favour of people taking the law into their own hands, adding roadblocks are illegal.

Levi said he wants the RCMP to be involved, but ultimately he said he only needs permission from the band chief and council.

“Once we get the approval from the chief and council we aren’t breaking any laws, we are First Nations and we make our own laws,” he said.

Levi doesn’t plan to search each car passing by, but does want to keep track who is coming and going in Elsipogtog.

While the RCMP conduct check stops in the community, Levi feels this one will be more effective because no one knows the community like the people who live there.

“We know who is bringing the drugs into the reserve and we’re just going to be standing and waiting for the right people that are bringing in the drugs,” he explained.

Eight people have volunteered to help conduct check stops, and Levi says about 25 elders are on board with the plan.

The CBC spoke to a number of members of the community and none would go on record.

But many said they are in favour of the roadblocks and hope it does slow the flow of drugs entering the community.

Others expressed concern about the loss of personal rights.

Levi said he knows the move is a controversial one but he feels the potential benefits to the First Nation are worth the infringement of personal freedoms.


Idle No More Movement Was Like ‘Bacteria,’ Says Internal RCMP Document



The Idle No More movement was like “bacteria” that spread across the country carrying with it the potential for an outbreak of violence, according to an internal RCMP document shared by senior officers.

The internal document was a site report from Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence’s camp which set up during her liquids-only fast on Victoria Island in the Ottawa River within sight of Parliament Hill and the Supreme Court of Canada. The camp became a hub of activity during the height of the Idle No More movement between December 2012 and January 2013.

The site report was written by RCMP Cpl. Wayne Russet, the Aboriginal liaison for the national capital region, and sent to Insp. Mike LeSage, the acting director general for National Aboriginal Policing. LeSage passed it on to Carrie Ann McPherson, a senior analyst with the RCMP’s Operations Intelligence Analysis Section.

APTN National News obtained the document under the Access to Information Act. APTN filed the request in April 2013 and only recently received it.

While the document primarily provided close to real-time details of the evolving situation inside Spence’s camp, it also included a discussion of the Idle No More movement.

“This Idle No More Movement is like bacteria, it has grown a life of its own all across this nation,” wrote Russet, in the Dec.24, 2012, document which was based on events as of noon that day and sent at 1:17 p.m. “It may be advisable for all to have contingency plans in place, as this is one issue that is not going to go away.”

The report also struck an ominous tone.

“There is a high probability that we could see flash mobs, round dances and blockades become much less compliant to laws in an attempt to get their point across,” said the document. “The escalation of violence is ever near.”

The document was titled, “Chief Spense’s Hunger Strike and the Idle No More Movement (sic)” and classified “for law enforcement only.”

It also provides mundane details about Spence’s state of health and life in the camp and non-events of the previous days.

“Chief (Spence) is doing well, she is in good spirts. Her camp is being well maintained by the Fire Keeper and the eight male Peace Keepers. Cpl. Russett is in daily contact with the camp,” said the document. “The chief has shown no signs of weakening in her previous commitment to continue her hunger strike until she and the other chiefs get a meeting with the prime minister.”

Russett also often forwarded emails he received from unknown persons giving him information on upcoming protests in the Ottawa region.

Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence during her liquids-only fast on Victoria Island

At its peak, the Idle No More movement attracted significant RCMP attention, according to the cache of documents released to APTN under the Act.

The RCMP “stood up” a “federal policing intelligence coordination team” to monitor Idle No More. It also created an email account specifically for Idle No More monitoring which received 575 emails between January 2013 and the end of March. The RCMP also tallied about 1,000 Idle No More related events as of April 8, according to a separate document outlining options for using the RCMP’s national intelligence capabilities to support monitoring of First Nation protests.

The majority of Idle No More protests, round-dances and blockades occurred between the end of December 2012 and January 2013.

The highly redacted document was titled, National Aboriginal Demonstrations and Protests; Framework for Defining the RCMP’s Coordinated National Intelligence support.

It has no date, but appears to have been drafted in April 2013.

It discussed a perceived shift away from specific-Idle No More movement to spin-off protests.

In particular, the document mentions plans for “Sovereignty Summer” which was a March 2013 campaign planned between Idle No More and Defenders of the Land, a pre-established network of Indigenous activists.

The document said the campaign planned to target pipelines, tar sands, natural gas, fisheries and mines.

“The spring of 2013 has been marked by an evolution in terms of Aboriginal protests whereby INM-specific events have abated and land sovereignty/environmental protests that are not necessarily associated with INM have emerged,” said the document. “Associations of convenience have occurred and may continue to form in order to gain political traction. These associations blur the line between INM-sponsored events and activities from other groups or movements.”

One Idle No More spin-off which appears not to have been on the radar at the time was the simmering opposition to hydraulic fracturing in New Brunswick.

Things took a turn in the province after the Mi’kmaq took the lead in protests against shale gas exploration. The first flare up came on June 21 that year, Aboriginal Day, when the RCMP arrested about 40 people during a tense demonstration.

On Oct. 17, 2013, heavily-armed RCMP tactical units raided a Mi’kmaq Warrior-anchored camp which had trapped several exploration vehicles. The RCMP raid turned up ammunition and three bolt-action, single shot rifles during a day of clashes that led to the torching of several RCMP vehicles.

The protests continued after the raid, culminating in the burning of tires on Hwy 11 in New Brunswick which connects Moncton and Bathurst.

During the first night the tires burned, people were heard chanting “Idle No More, Idle No More.”