Indigenous communities in Elsipogtog, New Brunswick are resisting shale gas exploration, as they have been since this summer. This resistance movement has only begun to make news in the last few weeks, as the RCMP has forcibly intervened in the protests. This media coverage has been skewed, with most of the focus on painting the Indigenous peoples of Elsipogtog as anti-government, violent insurgents who are causing undue stress on the local community.
Too often, coverage of grassroots resistance by Indigenous peoples across Canada is framed as something that does not impact the ‘average Canadian,’ as if the issues being protested occur in a bubble. This is not an isolated issue. The media needs to become aware that the struggles faced by Indigenous communities are issues that affect us all.
The residents of Elsipogtog do not stand alone in the fight against fracking. The majority of Canadians, and various environmentalist groups, such as the Council of Canadians, are against this practice. Fracking and other methods of fossil fuel extraction are not simply a matter of exploiting the ‘untapped resources’ of rural Canada – this exploitation is destructive to the communities that make their homes on the land where these resources are found.
Hydraulic fracking is a practice that uses high pressure water, sand, and chemicals to create fractures in bedrock to access shale gas. Fracking is extremely damaging to land and is known to have serious effects on the environment and the health of nearby populations. The chemicals used in fracking contaminate soil and groundwater, increase risks for earthquakes, release potent greenhouse gases contributing to climate change, and have been linked to illnesses such as cancer.
It is important to note that rural communities are most directly affected by these projects, and the large majority of fossil fuel extractions occur on Indigenous lands (ceded and unceded), meaning the most direct and potent effects will be felt in these communities. Elsipogtog is not the only recent instance of destructive resource-extraction projects on Indigenous lands: Le nord pour tous, a resource exploitation project in Quebec formerly known as Plan Nord, is one of many examples of the continual push to exploit Indigenous territory with limited consultation.
However, environmental issues aren’t only Indigenous issues. There are more local environmental projects to consider, such as the controversy surrounding the reversal of Enbridge’s Line 9 pipeline in southern Ontario and Quebec. But even if the direct impacts take place outside city borders, the exploitation that is currently being protested in Elsipogtog will have effects on us all. Instead of buying into the current media representation of these protesters as ‘rabble-rousers,’ we must recognize that their fight is a fight for all of our interests, and lend our support.
—The McGill Daily Editorial Board