BOOK LAUNCH & DISCUSSION
Debriefing Elsipogtog: The Anatomy of a Struggle
by Miles Howe
What happens when fracking comes to your community?
The Corner Brook launch of Miles Howe’s book Debriefing Elsipogtog: The Anatomy of a Struggle, promises to give area residents a first-hand glimpse of the real, on-the-ground and behind-the-scenes events in the 2013 summer of resistance against shale gas development in New Brunswick.
Howe, an independent journalist with the Halifax Media Co-op, and Annie Clair, a Mi’kmaq land defender from Elsipogtog First Nation, will visit Corner Brook on Saturday, June 27 to share their experiences and the stories of those who defended their land and water from an American oil and gas company who wanted to risk the environment and the health of those who live in Kent County, N.B. for profit.
Hear Howe and Clair’s detailed accounts of the resistance while Howe was embedded for several months in the Mi’kmaq community of Elsipogtog, which was at the heart of the struggle. He was diligent in observing and reporting on the protests and the efforts by members of Elsipogtog First Nation and their allies to stop shale gas exploration.
For years, thousands of New Brunswickers had protested and written letters to their government in opposition to a deal which gave Texas-based Southwestern Energy a license to explore over a million hectares of land for shale gas, and presumably then to exploit it by using the controversial method of oil and gas extraction known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”.
The opposition efforts were supported by concerned people and organizations from far and wide, including neighbouring Nova Scotia, where a moratorium was due to be lifted in April 2014. Many feared shale-rich Cumberland County, N.S. would be next.
The story became national news in October 2013 when RCMP stormed a blockade site in full riot gear, arresting 40 people and, after several hours of confrontation, dispersing the protesters at gunpoint. The images of burning police cars were repeatedly used by mainstream media — but there is much more to the story.
In Debriefing Elsipogtog, Howe, who himself was arrested three times during the 2013 struggle, examines the diminishment of regulatory oversight and a compromised Indigenous consultation process, as well as how people united to build a successful resistance which ultimately forced Southwestern Energy to leave the province.
Howe’s book has been lauded by such notable authors as Naomi Klein, who describes how he “weaves into this story the deep significance of Indigenous treaty rights,” and Silver Donald Cameron, who said “this is likely to be the only such book about this transformative moment in Maritime social history.”
Recently in Newfoundland and Labrador, junior oil companies have proposed to use fracking to access oil embedded in the Green Point Shale formation on the Island’s west coast. In response, a grassroots movement of residents and organizations has mobilized to oppose the industry setting up shop in their communities.
“What happened in New Brunswick can just as easily happen in Newfoundland,” says Howe. “This isn’t a book I necessarily wanted to write, but its value as a primer to those who find themselves in similar situations of opposition shouldn’t be underestimated.”
“Sharing the story of this struggle is important to all people, not just Mi’kmaq people,” says Annie Clair. “We all drink water and share the land.”
As part of the Newfoundland tour for Debriefing Elsipogtog, Howe and Clair will visit the Mi’kmaq community of Flat Bay to participate in a talking circle with local residents (June 23), Stephenville (June 26), Corner Brook (June 27), Woody Point (June 28), Miawpukek First Nation (Conne River) (June 30) and St. John’s (July 2).
On June 27 at 7:00 pm Howe and Claire will share their experiences from the frontlines of the anti-fracking movement and resistance at Grenfell Campus (room FA 224, Fine Arts Building). A Q&A and discussion will follow. The event is free and open to the public.
The Corner Brook event is co-sponsored by The NL Social Justice Co-operative and The Independent.