Mitchell taking anti-fracking message back to Qalipu council

Cory Hurley
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CORNER BROOK —  Kenny (Mutchie) Bennett said it most profoundly, but Corner Brook Qalipu ward councillor Brendan Mitchell is taking a message of anti-fracking back to the band council.

Mitchell, along with Benoit’s Cove ward councillor Bern White, organized a town hall meeting on the controversial issue of hydraulic fracturing or “fracking.”

The meeting comes more than a month after the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band signed a letter of intent with Black Spruce Exploration Corp. — the company intending to frack for oil along the west coast of Newfoundland. The agreement to work together on a number of important issues around the development of the oil and gas sector has been greeted with controversy and skepticism.

Mitchell opened the meeting, which was attended by close to 50 people, by clarifying that the letter of intent was discussed at the council table and that opportunities by way of conventional drilling only is supported. He said it was stated clearly that fracking cannot be supported at this time.

At the meeting’s end — following a resounding verbal vote of confidence from those in attendance — Mitchell confirmed that is his position.

“I was hoping to hear a message of yay or nay, and I think I got my answer,” he said. “As Corner Brook ward councillor, I will be going back to council and saying that, based on what I heard and saw, at least the large majority of the people in this session are nervous about fracking and can’t support it at this time.”

Earlier in the meeting, following presentations from Graham Oliver and Ian Simpson, Bennett took the microphone to make a plea to his fellow people to take a stand against fracking.


Pride replaced by shame

Bennett said he attended protests at a potential shale gas site in New Brunswick this month, actually leaving just hours before the violent clash with police. He said the pride he felt when he was told he was the first Qalipu member from Newfoundland to join the Elsipogtog First Nation in their protest was replaced with shame and embarrassment when he told them about the letter of intent that was signed.

“They were shocked and appalled and I was ashamed,” he said. “I am not ashamed of who I am ... but I was ashamed for that moment of who I was.

“ ... Come on Qalipu. Where are you? I agree you have to be progressive and you have to do what you can to get people educated and working, but not at this risk.”

If he had not been called away by a friend, Bennett said, he would have been there when the violence ignited. If physical protests are required to stop fracking in this area, he said he will be there too.

“Us as human beings, where did we ever get the right, or the gall, or the ego to put ourselves above the animals, above the environment, above the air, above the fish,” he said. “Where did we ever get that idea that we are superior to anything else that is a part of life. My goodness, where did we go wrong?”

It was a similar message expressed by others following the presentations. Keith Cormier, a Qalipu band member and Corner Brook councillor, said the technology people must rely on in determining the best course of action is their brain.

“If we need to get this stuff out of the ground, we are capable of finding a way to get it out safely,” he said.

Matthew Connolly, president of the Greater Corner Brook Board of Trade, reiterated that statement and a stance he has made before. He said the board believes in responsible economic development.

“If you can prove to me that you can do it right — and you have the safe policies, procedures and practices in place — I will help you dig that hole,” he said. “If you can’t, I am in the line stopping you from coming in there.”

Israel Hann was the only person at the meeting to speak against the notion of anti-fracking. He referred to people in opposition as “tree huggers,” and that they were fighting economic development pertaining to resources regardless of the impacts.

“We have I’d say 50,000 Newfoundland people who have to leave this island for employment in order to feed their families and themselves, and they can’t come back because there is nothing to come back to,” he said. “Every time we try to create an industry in this province, or on the west coast, there is a crowd of tree huggers who fight against everything that is positive in trying to creat employment.”



Organizations: Qalipu council, Black Spruce Exploration, Elsipogtog First Nation Greater Corner Brook Board of Trade

Geographic location: CORNER BROOK, Newfoundland, New Brunswick

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Recent comments

  • Cd
    October 31, 2013 - 17:47

    If the fracking occurs, the "home" that all those people that will come back too will no longer exist. It will be destroyed.

  • Terry Yates
    October 31, 2013 - 16:50

    Tell me what you really think Hydraulic fracturing is.As someone who has been involved with Fracing (not Fracking) for over 30 years I hate people to be mis informed about what fracing actually is and what it does.And what is your personal interest in fracing.Has fracing effected your life?

  • MJ Gorman
    October 31, 2013 - 11:47

    I think Israel Hann has defeated his own argument. NL has had oil and gas development for 20 yrs, yet 50,000 people are leaving the province for work?! So where are all these great jobs you are referring to? The oil and gas industry in NL has never provided the level of employment the renewable fishery and tourism industries have. And it never will. Oh and by the way, those trees we love to hug create the oxygen (along with our oceans) that enables life on earth and enable us to breathe.

  • Lorna Major
    October 31, 2013 - 10:59

    Search the world over,NO GOOD,HAS EVER COME FROM FRACKING.There wont be any employment if it contaminates all of newfoundland drinking water,where do we go then?,Driven of the island,just what Harper wants,he don't care about us,he cant stand Newfoundlanders!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • LM Wells
    October 31, 2013 - 09:15

    Congratulations to the Ward Councillors who provided this opportunity to hear the voices of their members on this important issue and for the commitment to gaining a full understanding of this process. As to the comment by Mr. Hann: There are worst things to be called than a "tree hugger" For some reason he chooses to believe that a great deal of money is to be made here and in one instance he is right! The company who will conduct the fracking will make money, as will the province, but what about the general population living in those areas? Everyone wants to see prosperity come to this part of the island, they just don't want it to be at the cost of their belief in their obligation to protect what we have for future generations and to force the oil companies to find a safer, cleaner way to extract what is there. I would suggest that Mr. Hann go out into the port au port area and look at what could be lost instead of what could be gained. He will find an imbalance in favor of what could be lost. It's okay for people not living where the fracking is taking place, to only look at the economic benefit because won't have to deal with it if anything goes wrong. All people want is for this project to slow down to ensure a mistake is not being made. What's the hurry? What there seeking to extract has been there since the beginning of the world and will be there as long as the planet exists! More discussions definitely need to take place before people would be convinced that this is a safe way to extract resources.

  • qalipu member
    October 31, 2013 - 08:16

    Mr.Brendan Sheppard has already stated his view on fracking! its seems he believes its perfectly acceptable because, the alternative ; wind power, kills many species of birds!