On October 17th, 2013 a group of Mi’kmaq First Nations in New Brunswick organised what began as a peaceful protest to speak out against the harmful practice of fracking. Unfortunately, as you probably already know, that protest descended into violent chaos.
Before we get too ahead of ourselves, if you don’t know what fracking is, it’s a slangy way to describe the process of Hydraulic Fracturing wherein a big fucking pressurised water drill is used to carve through rock and extract shale gas. While this is a great way to make all sorts of dollar dollar bills y’all for the energy industry and their friends in the government, there are also major environmental concerns, including the slight problem of fresh water being poisoned with chemicals – and in some cases becoming flammable.
Since humans tend to love clean water, people all over the world are really freaked out about fracking. Russia Today recently aired a video that covered fracking protests from Romania, the UK, the US, and back over here in Canada. It’s an activist movement that’s been called the Global Frackdown, and the spark of it all was arguably started in New Brunswick. The Guardian even called the Mi’kmaq protest “the frontline of a democratic fight.”
What happened at the Mi’kmaq’s demonstration is the cause of outrage and controversy in Canada and “environmentalists” (read: regular people who care about the Earth) all over the planet are taking notice. The photographs and videos of First Nations people being confronted with heavily armed, militarised RCMP forces who showed up with dogs, Tasers, guns and sniper rifles have clearly struck a nerve – because the whole thing looked fucking terrifying.
To be fair to the 5-0, the RCMP has stated they found bear spray, knives, guns and bombs on First Nations protesters – plus, five cop cars were burned in the midst of the violent confrontation and 40 people ended up in cuffs. Putting aside the real history of undercover Canadian cops infiltrating protests, along with allegations that those undercover cops were actually agent provocateurs sent to inflame protests and have them shut down, if the RCMP is to be believed, it’s understandable to have a police presence to secure the event. But why the snipers and military tactics? At the very least, the perception of the situation sends a very clear message about who the RCMP is really there to defend.
Natives and non-Natives alike are understandably worried about the energy industry’s global drilling spree that nets short-term economic gains for their precious non-renewable resources, while leaving fresh water polluted with methane. For that clear reason, a Canadian branch of the hacktivist army Anonymous has decided to intervene.
Anonymous’s brand new operation, #OpFrackDown, began early last week with a video PSA striking out against the “forces of frack”. In the video, they latch onto a RCMP officer’s comment that “Crown land belongs to the government, not to fucking Natives,” a disturbingly vile (and historically ignorant) quote overheard at the protest that was originally reported by APTN.
Somehow, someway Anonymous has got their virtual hands on an audio clip where that anti-Native, pro-government hate can be heard under a cacophony of noise. I had to listen to the clip below about 12 times to make it out, but it’s certainly there. At the end of the video, they loop the unnamed RCMP officer – over top of a photograph that shows who they allege to be the hateful officer on the scene in Rexton – saying “fucking Natives” over and over again for dramatic effect. Hear it for yourself below.
I called Constable Jullie Rogers-Marsh, a media relations officer for the RCMP in New Brunswick, who confirmed that one of their officers had in fact uttered that ugly phrase. She told me that the officer was “sent home” once the police found out that he was caught making those remarks, and that there’s an ongoing investigation into the matter. Constable Rogers-Marsh added, “this type of behaviour is unacceptable and it's taken very seriously by the RCMP.”
After that, I spoke to one of the Anonymous organisers of OpFrackOff who told me: "Guns, dogs, less lethal weapons, pepper spray, arrests of drummers, warriors, Chief and band council show that this officer gave voice to a widely held Crown and police view of the Land and its Keepers. Still, one of our demands was met promptly and fairly. We applaud that fact without reservation. We are watching carefully, expect a full apology, and will focus for now on our insistence that a referendum on fracking be held in New Brunswick."
The thesis question of OpFrackOff is this: “Why is Canada attacking its First Nations population with a self-described paramilitary force? To protect the rights of a Texas oil company’s fracking ambitions?” It’s a question that I have, too – even though it appears to answer itself.
The video PSA for OpFrackOff also draws connections between Cavendish Farms – the Canadian potato merchants who hock their spuds to Wendy’s so they can make their lovely, golden fries – and the oil industry.
Cavendish is part of a larger parent company owned by the Irving Family. The Irvings also own Irving Oil, a big ol’ energy company who has their headquarters in Saint John, New Brunswick. The Irvings are reportedly in business with SWN, a Texas oil company, to get the fracking started in New Brunswick. As a result, a secondary operation, OpSWN, has been launched by Anonymous to investigate these connections – and perhaps call into question the ethics of eating Wendy’s fries.
Without getting too deep into the politicising of fried potato slices, Anonymous tends to appear when circumstances seem hopeless for regular citizens who are looking to see some kind of positive action from law enforcement and/or the government. That shoe fits perfectly in the case of these fracking protests.
It’s perfectly reasonable – in my opinion, at least – for the First Nations to be upset. This is not a problem that can be paid off with Canadian or American dollars, Euros or Pounds. The Mi’kmaq people love the Earth and want to conserve it, as we all should and fracking is shooting an oily wad of crap right in the face of their genuine hope that we, as humans, can slow our march towards environmental apocalypse.
While it certainly seems rational that the Mi’kmaq – also known as the rightful keepers of the land we stole – should have a voice in the conversation of whether or not to put Canadian water at risk for the benefit of some Canadian and Texan oil barons alike, they are being shut out. Not only are they being violently repressed by swarms of militarized cops, David Alward, the premier of New Brunswick, has repeatedly refused to hold a referendum on the subject.
With the Canadian energy industry in bed with our surveillance agency and their influence clearly impacting the way our super-cops with their super-guns police energy protests, whether or not fracking continues to spread it’s oily wings appears to be completely out of the hands of citizens. While more protests are inevitable and further research and activism from Anonymous is sure to come, it may be time to start investing in spring water and real estate on the moon if the prospect of an even more powerful energy industry is freaking you out about the water you drink and the air you breathe.
Follow Patrick on Twitter: @patrickmcguire
A report on the last time Anonymous and the RCMP got together: