Thursday night, roughly 150 protesters marched in Montreal in solidarity with Mi’kmaq land defenders in New Brunswick, where 40 activists were arrested near Rexton, earlier in the day. Elsipogtog Chief Arren Sock was among those arrested.
The arrests followed a violent clash between police and Mi’kmaq activists protesting the continued development of shale gas in the province. In September, the Mi’kmaq Warrior Society began a peaceful blockade on unceded Mi’kmaq territory in New Brunswick, aiming to stop fracking company SWN Resources. The blockade reportedly costs the company $60,000 a day. The RCMP has responded with violence, bringing in armoured riot police and snipers, and using intimidation tactics.
“We are here to show our solidarity with the Mi’kmaq nation,” protester Natasha Kanapé Fontaine told The Daily in French. “[The violence] is really caused by the racism that exists between the band and the RCMP.”
Some at the protest compared the New Brunswick events on Thursday to the 1990 Oka crisis, where violence erupted after police used tear gas and pepper spray to disperse a crowd of protesters attempting to block the development of a golf course on their Indigenous lands.
“At the time of the Oka crisis, there wasn’t much solidarity,” a protest organizer told The Daily. “If this is a second crisis, [the government] will have to recall that this time we are much more active.”
Kanapé Fontaine shared a similar sentiment. “I have the impression that mindsets are more open now […] I was surprised by the number of people who showed up today.”
The protest began with speeches at Cabot Square before making its way slowly to the RCMP building on the corner of Greene and Dorchester. Following the speeches and drumming, the protest passed once again by Cabot Square before turning down Ste. Catherine where it continued east through downtown.
Tensions rose temporarily as the protest took a sudden turn on McGill College to arrive in front of the Victoria Rifles Armoury where a few demonstrators confronted the uniformed servicemen inside. The demonstration dispersed eventually at the corner of Réné-Levesque and St. Laurent without incident.
The confrontation began Thursday in New Brunswick as RCMP attempted to enforce a court injunction requiring the activists to remove a blockade on the road leading to facilities owned by SWN Resources.
To break the blockade, the RCMP used pepper spray and fired non-lethal rounds of rubber bullets into the crowd. In response, resisters confiscated fracking equipment of SWN, and six RCMP cars were torched.
“They’re setting an example of what we all should be doing,” Kanapé Fontaine said through a megaphone to the crowd in Montreal, in reference to the resistance in Elsipogtog.
“Standing up for the earth, for our children, for the future generations, standing up against colonial exploitations […] today they were extremely brave,” said an unidentified protester about the Elsipogtog resisters.
“It’s clear that they want to eliminate us because we are simply going to continue to fight for what is right,” said an organizer to The Daily in French. “I think it’s a continuation of a cultural and ecological genocide.”
A subsequent solidarity protest was held Friday as part of the National Day of Action.