Larry Kowalchuk, the Saskatchewan lawyer representing the New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance and the “People’s Lawsuit” plaintiffs in suing the federal and New Brunswick governments for infringing the rights of citizens and First Nations by recklessly supporting unconventional gas and oil development.
Larry Kowalchuk is a courageous and distinguished human rights lawyer from Saskatchewan, who is acting for anti-fracking activists in New Brunswick. In 2013 anti-fracking protests took place in NB as a result of exploratory drilling and seismic testing by SWN Resources, a company that the NB government leased 2.5 million acres of public land to for natural gas exploration—land many indigenous people in NB claim as their traditional territory. Demonstrations in NB over a period of months—lead by members of Elsipogtog First Nation—with support across the country, attempted to prevent the oil and gas company from working. They resulted in dozens of arrests, and allegations of violence against both the RCMP and the protesters. The protests resulted in two legal challenges, both have retained Kowalchuk as their legal counsel.
The anti-fracking lawsuits and citizen empowerment
Larry Kowalchuk is the lawyer representing New Brunswick citizens in two legal challenges to the fossil fuel industry and the governments that support them. In this exclusive Green Interview, Kowalchuk discusses the two suits he’s involved in: one for the New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance, and the other involving a group of individuals referred to as The People’s lawsuit. He discusses the legal arguments for each case and explains how the process has empowered and solidified the communities affected by unconventional oil and gas development.
The anti-fracking lawsuits
The New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance argues that the development of unconventional shale gas and oil deposits poses so great a threat to human health and the environment that it violates Section 7 of the Canadian Charter or Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees the right to life and security of the person. The People’s lawsuit argues that the two governments and their courts have attacked the rights of citizens and have granted illegal approval to the industry to develop shale gas, ignore environmental protection laws and unlawfully use police and malicious lawsuits to suppress and silence protectors of civil and human rights. Both suits seek to halt such development until it can be shown to be safe, if indeed it ever can be.
Kowalchuk says that the anti-fracking protests of 2013 resulted in the initiation of a dialogue in New Brunswick. He says people from all walks of life and backgrounds are now “participating in a discussion about how they want life to be here.” He says this empowerment is not only heartening but effective: In a recent provincial election citizens replaced the pro-fracking government with one that issued a moratorium on all forms of hydraulic fracturing.