Shawn Brant denied bail again

Brant denied bail again

Samantha Craggs and Luke Hendry
The Belleville Intelligencer
Saturday, August 11, 2007


While Mohawk and anti-poverty activists protested peacefully outside the courthouse, inside, Shawn Brant was once again denied bail Friday.

The protest leader from Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, charged with two counts each of mischief and breach of recognizance for blocking roads and rail lines, will remain in Quinte Detention Centre awaiting trial. Brant has a preliminary hearing scheduled for Aug. 27.

After a day-long bail review Friday, Ontario Superior Court Justice Denis Power agreed with the previous justice who said Brant posed too much of a public risk to be out on bail. He also said that with Brant’s history, he is likely to reoffend.

“In my opinion, there is not only a serious and real risk (of reoffending), but also a risk that the public will be endangered or injured by subsequent offences by Mr. Brant,” he said.

Brant has lead a group of Mohawks who have occupied a Deseronto-area quarry since March 22, protesting the quarry’s operation on land subject to land-claim negotiations. On April 20, the group blocked the main CN rail line. Brant, already out on bail for an accidental clash with military vehicles while protesting, was arrested, charged with mischief and breach of recognizance and released on bail again in May.

He was still out on bail June 29 when he participated in the national aboriginal day of action, leading protests that led to the blockage of the CN rail line and County Road 2 and a police shutdown of Highway 401.
That led to another arrest and another set of charges of mischief and breach of recognizance. He was denied bail by Justice D.K. Kirkland July 5.

At Friday’s review, Brant’s lawyer Peter Rosenthal argued that Kirkland had made errors in principle when rendering his judgment. He also argued that unlike in May, the day of action has been achieved and the political climate has changed. He offered two sureties of $50,000 each – Brant’s mother Deanna and family friend Winston Brant.

Rosenthal and lawyer Howard Morton presented a folder of new information, including an Angus Reid poll showing 35 per cent of Canadians recognized the legitimacy of the day of action events.

Brant might participate in future protests, Rosenthal said, but he would not participate in any between now and the end of his trial. Brant also hopes to return to cabinet making and post-secondary studies learning the Mohawk language, Rosenthal said.

“We’re in a different situation (from May) because Mr. Brant has made real commitments,” he said.

But Crown attorney Brad Kelneck said the best indicator of future behaviour is looking at the past.

“He was not straight about it time one, he was not straight about it time two, but he’s going to be straight about it now?” he said.

Outside, Brant supporters milled about the courthouse grounds, waving flags, playing drums and singing songs in the Mohawk language. Police presence was heavy. In addition to metal detectors, officers refused admittance to anyone who did not show identification and write down his or her name, birth date and address. Five armed officers lined the courtroom exit door when Power read his decision.

But Power was undeterred, citing part of Brant’s affidavit where he said he he was willing to sit back and let First Nations and the federal government negotiate.

“It’s not for Mr. Brant to stand before the court and say what he’s prepared to let the Canadian government do,” he said.

“I am concerned that there seems to be very much the attitude on the part of Mr. Brant that he appears to be willing to advance the interests of himself and his supporters and say to hell with the interests of the other citizens of this country.”

Rosenthal said afterward that he plans to appeal.

Dustin Brant, the new spokesman for the quarry protesters, said the group is feeling “frustration and anger and sadness.

“It’s time to start dealing with these issues (facing First Nations),” said Brant. “It’s time to do what’s right.”

But when reporters asked for reasons why Shawn Brant should be released, the younger spokesman appeared to be looking for answers from his fellow activists.

“I don’t know,” he said, laughing nervously.

A reporter’s question about what would happen if Brant wasn’t released was met with a laugh from an unnamed protester seen often at Shawn Brant’s side during the June 29 action and its aftermath.

“You’ll see,” the unnamed protester said.

Several dozen protesters from the Kingston Mohawk Support Network (KMSN) and the Kingston Coalition Against Poverty were joined outside the courthouse by about 40 more from the Toronto-based Ontario Coalition Against Poverty and PARC, a Toronto drop-in centre.

“It’s a good sign that there are so many Canadians out in support of indigenous people,” said the KMSN’s Richard Day, who teaches sociology at Queen’s University.

Also in the crowd was Bryan Isaacs, owner and publisher of the Tyendinaga-based Mohawk Nation Drummer newspaper.

He said some Mohawks on the reserve have faced a racist backlash since the recent high-profile protests, yet few Canadians understand the problems facing First Nations, such as suicide and contaminated water on reserves.

Isaacs said aboriginals are “second-class citizens” who want land claims settled and original treaties honoured – not financial compensation.

“We want everybody to understand we want the land, not the money,” said Isaacs.

He, too, called for the swift resolution of land claims.

“When you do it with good faith, something happens. When you do it with bad faith, nothing happens.”

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