(October 18, 2013) The Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee) unconditionally supports the Elsipogtog First Nation in exercising their aboriginal and human rights and categorically condemns the use of force by the RCMP to prevent the exercise of those rights.
The Elsipogtog First Nation was raising legitimate concerns about the environmental impacts of shale gas fracking which could have serious and negative impacts on its traditional territory and the health of its citizens. The environmental issues associated with shale gas fracking are far from clear. To raise concerns and to insist on an appropriate forum for airing these concerns is the proper things to do in a democratic society. Instead, the Elsipogtog First Nation was met with pepper spray, rubber bullets and arrest.
Both the rights of assembly and protest in a democratic society, and more profoundly, the aboriginal right to informed consent prior to commencing any projects affecting the traditional territories of aboriginal peoples, have been violated.Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come stated: "At a time in Canada's history when the intensified search for natural resources presents an opportunity for this country to address fundamental aboriginal concerns in an honourable and dignified way, the decision to meet the concerns of the Elsipogtog First Nation with brute force is shameful. There is another path, a path of authentic dialogue, reconciliation and inclusion, which is the only honourable way to move forward. To miss this historic opportunity will be disastrous for Canada. The response to the Elsipogtog First Nation sends a very provocative and ill-advised message to aboriginal peoples across the country."
This gross abrogation of fundamental human rights to free assembly and the disregard for aboriginal rights, coming at the conclusion of the visit to Canada by the UN's Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, James Anaya, can be interpreted as a direct response by this government to the conclusions of the Special Rapporteur on aboriginal human rights issues, and his reminders of the importance of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.