Pursued by calls to ‘talk to us,’ Dave Ramsay brushed past anti-fracking demonstrators Tuesday and into the refuge of the legislature, where a petition signed by 1.400 residents was later tabled by Weledeh MLA Bob Bromley.
The petition is not the last word on fracking that the minister of Industry Trade and Investment will hear. Well-organized opponents of the controversial extraction method have vowed to make it a central issue in the November 23 territorial election.
“This is not just a Yellowknife issue, as some have suggested,” Ben McDonald of Fracking Action North told about 75 demonstrators who gathered at the post office and walked to the legislature, drumming, chanting and waving placards.
Fracking Action North is a coalition of territorial organizations including the Council of Canadians, Alternatives North, Ecology North, the United Church, and the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment.
McDonald noted that “the Gwich‘in Tribal Council has declared its settlement area a frack-free zone; the Dene Nation has called for a moratorium on fracking; the Sahtu Secretariat has called for a comprehensive review; the Tlicho government has called for a ban; the Dehcho First Nation has banned fracking from its traditional territory.”
Anti-fracking marcher and speaker Besha Blondin | Photo Laurie Sarkadi
“It’s quite clear that there is a lot of concern in the Northwest Territories about fracking.” McDonald said.
The government’s proposed regulations on hydraulic fracturing have hit a solid wall of opposition at public meetings in communities from Fort Smith to the Mackenzie River delta. Many have demanded that the government ask a more fundamental question.
“To frack or not is the question we should be asking today,” Yellowknife city councilor Dan Wong said when the marchers stopped briefly at City Hall.
“Fracking is a risky business,” Wong said, “but it’s clear that those who control the territorial government would like to frack first and ask questions later.”
Ramsay has stated that hydraulic fracturing is necessary to unlock billions of barrels of oil from the Canol and Bluestone shale deposits in the central Mackenzie Valley. Without it, Ramsay has said, the oil will remain in the ground.
Before joining fellow legislators for an afternoon session which was dominated by talk about hydraulic fracturing, Bromley told the demonstrators that their presence “is a big sign of hope.
“We can’t lose. People are hearing you and I know a lot of members in the legislative assembly are hearing you. Keep it up. Mr. Ramsay will ultimately hear you,” Bromley said.