New Brunswick's Indigenous chiefs issue warning against Tory OK of gas fracking

A decision by New Brunswick's Progressive Conservative government to allow shale gas development in one region is drawing sharp criticism from Indigenous leaders who say they weren't properly consulted.

Premier Blaine Higgs confirmed on Tuesday that his government has quietly passed regulatory changes to permit the method of extracting hydrocarbons to resume in the Sussex area.

The process known as fracking involves pumping water and chemicals deep underground at high pressure to fracture layers of shale and release pockets of gas.

Higgs's move fulfils a commitment his minority government made in its throne speech earlier this year and is in line with his party's past support of the process.

However, the organization that represents Mi'kmaq chiefs,  Mi'gmawe'l Tplu'taqnn Inc., or MTI, denounced the step as secretive and a step backwards in the province's relationship with Indigenous populations.

A 2016 final report of a commission on the shale gas issue had urged the province to rebuild its relationship with Indigenous peoples, and to maintain the moratorium introduced in 2014 by the Liberals.