Ottawa putting financial squeeze on Mi’kmaq over anti-fracking protests: councillor
By Jorge Barrera, APTN National News, Oct 4, 2013
Ottawa is starting to put the financial squeeze on a Mi’kmaq First Nation in retribution for ongoing anti-fracking protests that have led to a looming confrontation at a highway blockade in New Brunswick, according to a band councillor.
The Canada Revenue Agency is pressuring the Elsipogtog First Nation to pay back $1.2 million and Aboriginal Affairs is threatening to hold back funds until the band agrees to pay the money, APTN National News has learned.
Elsipogtog band councillor Scott Sanipass said the debt goes back about three years and is for taxes owed from the salaries of non-First Nation people who have worked for the band.
“It is too coincidental. It popped up all of a sudden when everyone started protesting,” said Sanipass. “They could have done it six months ago, two years ago, but it just shows up now.”
The debt stems from a decision initiated by a previous co-manager of the band who chose to redirect payments destined to CRA into social services. The band is still under co-management.
Aboriginal Affairs has since informed the band it would hold back $800,000 owed the band plus 15 per cent of the band’s block funding until the department gets a letter from CRA confirming it has made arrangements with Elsipogtog to get the money back, according to information obtained by APTN National News.
The band is proposing to pay back the tax agency about $10,000 a week.
Aboriginal Affairs is also holding about $2 million in tuition payments owed the band.
“They are really pulling the financial strings on it bad,” said Sanipass.
Meanwhile, the blockade on Route 134 continues near Rexton, NB, despite a Court of Queen’s Bench granting an injunction against the protestors on Thursday. The injunction was requested by SWN Resources which has been trying to conduct shale gas exploration in the area.
An RCMP spokesperson said the injunction is directed at the protestors and does not impose any timelines on the police’s operations in the area.
“It does not order the police to remove individuals within a certain time period,” said Const. Jullie Rogers-Marsh. “We are working toward a peaceful resolution and we are continuing to talk to those participating in the blockade and hope to come to a peaceful resolution.”
Elsipogtog Chief Arren Sock handed SWN an eviction notice Tuesday after his band council passed a resolution giving the community control over all unoccupied Crown lands in their territory.
Dozens of people have been arrested by the RCMP during the ongoing protests that began in the summer. The Mi’kmaq Warrior Society is also on the scene and previously attempted to seek help from the Canadian military based in Oromocto, NB.
New Brunswick Premier David Alward, who also handles his province’s Aboriginal affairs file, is trying to arrange a meeting with the Elsipogtog chief and council. A provincial official said a planned meeting Thursday fell through. He said the situation is “just too sensitive” to provide any more details.
Mi’kmaq and Maliseet protestors have been reinforced by Acadians and local residents in the area. They fear shale gas deposit discoveries will lead to the soiling of local waters through fracking. Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a controversial method of extracting natural gas by cracking rocks and rock formations by using high pressure to inject massive amounts of fluids into fractures, thereby creating large fissures for wells.
New Brunswick is covered by Peace and Friendship Treaties signed between the Mi’kmaq and Maliseet and the British.
Despite requests, Aboriginal Affairs and did not provide comment on the issue as of this article’s posting.
A CRA spokesperson said privacy provisions prevented the agency from commenting.
Posted on October 4, 2013, in Uncategorized and tagged band councils, Canada Revenue Agency, Elsipogtog First Nation, indian act band councils, Mi’kmaq, native blockades, New Brunswick shale gas protests, SWN Resources Canada. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.