Archive for April, 2008

Show of OPP force ends native blockade

Posted in Repression, Resistance, Six Nations Confederacy on April 23, 2008 by wiinimkiikaa

Show of OPP force ends native blockade

Posted By Jeremy Ashley
The Belleville Intelligencer (Ontario)
Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Native protesters who orchestrated a blockade of a major portion of this town earlier this week dispersed Tuesday morning when confronted by a phalanx of OPP officers.

As well, the developer who sparked the incident pledged Tuesday to stay away from developing any portion of lands involved in the native claim known as the Culbertson Tract.

Shortly before 10 a.m., almost 200 officers from area detachments and led by the OPP’s Public Order Unit approached the native demonstration set up along Old Highway 2 at the eastern boundary of Deseronto. Police “advised those present at the road closure site to leave or be subjected to arrest and criminal charges,” said OPP Const. Jackie Perry.

After a short verbal exchange, the protesters decided to fold up their banners and de-camp to the nearby quarry where they have been holed up for a year.

“All of them (the protesters) left and there were no injuries,” Perry added.

Many of the protesters, including spokesman Dan Doreen, were visibly upset after encountering such a strong show of manpower by OPP, whom Doreen said appeared to “want to fight.”

Doreen decried the use of OPP “SWAT teams” and said the demonstration was “not a fight with the OPP, but it is a fight with Mr. Nibourg and … for him to stay off our goddamn land.”

“I want every developer … that plans to develop in Deseronto to stay the hell out or we’re going to go through this again and again and again and again until it’s done,” he said in an interview with Quinte Broadcasting.

“We’re sick and tired of having to come down to Deseronto every week and protect our land. We’re sick of it.”

The move brought an abrupt end to a demonstration that, for the most part, was considered peaceful – but caused headaches for many residents and commuters when protesters sealed off traffic from portions of Old Highway 2, Deseronto and Slash roads around 6 a.m. Monday.

The initial police response Sunday night and Monday was designed not to disband the protest but to prevent the public from coming into close contact with the demonstrators by redirecting traffic, both pedestrian and vehicular, around the scene.

However, the move Tuesday morning to effectively shut down the protest was orchestrated by OPP command.

“I think we can say it was a measured response,” said Perry, in reference to the overall police reaction to the demonstration. “This has been going on since 6 a.m. yesterday (Monday), the road had been blocked since that time and that was the decision that was made.”

As well, OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino, who was actively involved in dealing with Mohawk protesters at last summer’s native Day of Action protests, issued a statement that police are going to react decisively in such incidents.

“The OPP will continue to uphold the right to lawful, peaceful protest; however we do not condone illegal activity and will not tolerate conduct intended to disrupt public peace and threaten public safety,” Fantino said in a statement.

It is the second instance in which protesters, after negotiating with police and encountering stiff resolve from OPP, have withdrawn blockades. In the first instance, Mohawk protest leader Shawn Brant agreed to take down the Highway 401 and rail blockades of the National Day of Action protest after speaking through the night and day with police. At the time, Brant declared he had achieved what he had set out to do and withdrew the protests after issuing statements to a large media throng.

Police had not assembled on that day in the numbers seen Tuesday, but a heavy OPP presence was at the nearby Napanee OPP detachment.

Protesters are still occupying portions of the disputed land development, most notably at the nearby Thurlow Aggregates quarry along Deseronto Road, which they have occupied since last March.

After speaking briefly Tuesday with several members of the Mohawk police service who were at the site, Brant was involved in what appeared to be an impromptu meeting with a number of protesters at the side of Deseronto Road.

The gathering involved upward of 25 people who stood, knelt or were laying on the roadway.

The assembly quickly turned into a debriefing of sorts, with a number of protesters – many whom appeared to be upset – engaging in a lengthy conversation.

“Shawn’s not allowed to comment at all,” Doreen said when asked if Brant was available to speak about the situation.

Brant is still on several conditions after he was granted bail on criminal charges laid in connection to last June’s National Day of Action.

To date, Brant remains the only person charged in connection to the event.

Meanwhile, a number of criminal investigations – which may include a probe into a Napanee-area developer’s comments thought to have sparked the protest – have been launched by provincial police, Const. Perry said.

While she couldn’t confirm specifically the subject of any criminal investigation, Perry said the OPP are committed to pressing criminal charges, if warranted.

“Those responsible for criminal wrongdoing will be held accountable to the full extent provided by the law,” Perry said in a statement issued earlier in the day.

Last week, Nibourg Development’s Emile Nibourg told The Intelligencer of plans to have a crew of workers at the site of a native land claim known as the Culbertson Tract in Deseronto to clear the property for construction early Monday.

The disputed land is part of a claim accepted by the federal government for negotiation in 2003.

According to native protesters, the comments sparked the demonstration and blockades.

Shortly after the demonstration, Nibourg’s firm issued a statement saying construction crews would not be attending “in the name of public safety.”

The statement called upon the federal and provincial governments to resolve the dispute and its inaction “is leading to unrest between the natives and non-natives, putting all people at great risk.”

“Today’s large protest and occupation of our land proves that this explosive situation will only intensify without government action.”

In what would be considered an about-face, Tuesday, the company issued another news bulletin stating the firm would “refrain from the pursuit of a development of the Culbertson Tract, to allow the different levels of government the opportunity to continue with negotiations in a timely manner.”

Both of the company’s owners – Theo and Emile Nibourg – declined to be interviewed about the situation.

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Two Mohawks cleared, one convicted

Posted in Repression, Six Nations Confederacy on April 17, 2008 by wiinimkiikaa

Two Mohawks cleared, one convicted

Posted By Luke Hendry
The Belleville Intelligencer (Ontario)
Apr 15, 2008

A protester from Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory was convicted here Tuesday on charges of assault and mischief in a confrontation 18 months ago with Canadian Armed Forces soldiers near the territory.

But two protesters, cleared on charges related to the blockade of an army convoy in 2006, say they will continue their fight to return disputed land to the area’s First Nations people.

Shawn Michael Brant and Jerome Barnhart were found not guilty Monday of uttering threats against Canadian soldiers in Deseronto on Nov. 15, 2006. Justice Charles Anderson cleared Brant of three charges; Barnhart was cleared of two, plus one count of mischief.

Anderson found a third protester, Mario Baptiste Jr., guilty on all three counts against him: two counts of assault for punching two soldiers, and one count of mischief for his attack on a military pickup truck.

“Mr. Anderson made a decision on the facts and not a decision on the political environment,” Brant said.

“The charges were about threats,” he said. “We don’t make threats about our actions; we just carry them out.”

The case, he said, was more “about putting us on conditions” than anything else.

As Baptiste Jr., Barnhart, and Brant stood outside the courthouse with a few friends after the hearing, the two acquitted men said they had already suffered because of the charges.

“I just think it’s terribly ironic,” Barnhart said of the charges being dismissed after 18 months of court-ordered conditions.

“I spent two months in jail because of this; I’ve been on conditions for 18 months,” Brant said. “To have them set aside like this is a hollow victory at best.”

Each of the three reiterated his commitment to seeing the Culbertson Land Tract placed permanently under Mohawk control.

“No one should take this as a diminishment of our commitment to the land and the issue at hand,” said Brant. “We’re going to protect the land.”

“This is our land and it was a larcenous theft, and we’re going to take it back,” Barnhart said. “We’ve got a job to finish.”

The charges were laid after a group of protesters blocked a convoy of five 10-ton army trucks and one half-ton pickup travelling along Highway 2 at Deseronto Road, detaining the vehicles and crew for just over an hour.

In his reasons for judgement, Anderson said the soldiers, who were based at CFB Borden near Barrie, were on a training exercise and travelling from Sandbanks Provincial Park in Prince Edward County toward Kingston.

The protesters, meanwhile, had been staging a protest over proposed development over the Culbertson tract when the army trucks rolled through town.

“Innocently the convoy stumbled onto the blockade,” said Anderson, calling the stoppage a “hornet’s nest” in which the soldiers showed “exemplary” behaviour by remaining calm and trying to defuse the tension.

Anderson noted the defence called no witnesses, arguing instead only that the Crown had failed to prove its case fully.

The judge agreed with that argument in regard to the counts against Brant and Barnhart. He said he could not find them guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt” because of “weaknesses” in the Crown’s case pertaining to the pair.

That, he said, was not a criticism of police and military police investigators, nor of the soldiers themselves.

“The issue is not their (credibility); it is the reliability of their evidence,” Anderson said of the soldiers.

Anderson said their testimony was conflicted and that Brant and Barnhart had been identified by the troops after they had already seen an Intelligencer photo of them confronting one soldier during the blockade.

The judge also cited a language barrier between the French-speaking troops and English-speaking protesters as one reason why the threats could not be proven, since at least one soldier admitted he didn’t understand all the “nasty expressions in English,” as Anderson said. He added some of the soldiers’ testimony did not match the photographic record of the blockade, a point he found “troublesome” and one which “did not sit comfortably” with the court.

“It may well be that Barnhart and Brant uttered threats,” said Anderson, again saying it could not be proven beyond reasonable doubt.

The judge, however, said the evidence against Baptiste Jr. was much stronger.

The accused’s red hair and hearing aid made him recognizable, the judge said, and not only did police identify him during the incident, but the Crown’s case was helped by photographs of Baptiste Jr. at the scene taken by a Napanee newspaper reporter.

Baptiste Jr. remains free pending sentencing, which will occur after a pre-sentencing report has been completed. Anderson noted it could take eight weeks to prepare the report.

Baptiste Jr.’s next court date is April 22, when lawyers will discuss possible sentencing dates.

Crown attorney Richard Floyd declined to comment on the case, but said in court he would seek jail time for Baptiste Jr.

Brant, meanwhile, noted the unusually high security at the trial made it “hard for people to perceive us as not being a threat.”

Provincial police officers in tactical uniforms were stationed at the courthouse and anyone entering the room during the trial and verdict was scanned with a handheld metal detector.

“It’s something no one else is subjected to,” Brant said. “It’s the police trying to influence the outcome of these court cases.”

Trevor Miller arrested in U.S., Albert Douglas released

Posted in Repression, Six Nations Confederacy on April 12, 2008 by wiinimkiikaa

Douglas Estates protester facing charges in U.S. court

April 11, 2008
John Burman
The Hamilton Spectator
BUFFALO ( Apr 11, 2008 )

A Six Nations man who has already done Canadian jail time for stealing a United States Border Patrol vehicle at the height of the violent times in the Caledonia land dispute two years ago now faces similar charges on the American side of the border.

Trevor Miller, 32, was arrested by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents as he crossed the Canada-U.S. border in Minnesota with his wife early last week.

He appeared in a Duluth courtroom Monday for a removal hearing so he could be transferred into the custody of the United States District Court in Buffalo. No date has been set for a bail hearing.

It is alleged he was involved in the assault of three U.S. officers and one OPP officer who were in the vehicle when native protesters swarmed the car near the former Douglas Creek Estates subdivision in Caledonia June 9, 2006, and stole items from the vehicle.

The same warrant also names Albert Douglas, 33, of Six Nations, who has also been convicted in Ontario court for stealing the vehicle and sentenced to time served awaiting trial for his part in the same incident.

The charges are contained in a criminal complaint sworn by Border Patrol agent Philip Knapp in an affidavit last July.

Miller was arrested on an OPP warrant in August 2006 and charged with stealing the unmarked vehicle. He pleaded guilty in Cayuga court in May last year and vowed to return to his home in the Grassy Narrows First Nations reserve north of Kenora.

Knapp’s sworn complaint says two border patrol agents and one United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) special agent escorted by an OPP detective were “observing” the dispute and had parked a U.S. government SUV in a cul-de-sac. When they attempted to leave, about 15 native demonstrators blocked their way and two men dressed in military style camouflage clothing came forward to bang their hands on the front and sides of the car, demanding they get out of the vehicle

One of them wore a large, sheathed hunting knife.

Because the vehicle could not move without injuring the demonstrators, the OPP officer told the American agents to comply with the demonstrators’ demands and get out.

As they did, there was an altercation between one of the border agents and the demonstrator with the knife who tried to steal his identification. The man began to draw the knife and the agent karate-chopped him twice on the neck and shoulders to break away.

Meanwhile, one of the two men had gotten into the SUV and was starting to drive away and the OPP officer was injured as he fell from the vehicle to the pavement. Then the SUV disappeared into native territory for two hours.

When it was returned after negotiations with the OPP, its radio and some equipment and personal belongings of the officers were missing.

Also missing was a classified document containing details concerning the native occupation and including the identities of undercover officers and operational OPP officers and U.S. agents involved in the standoff, home phone numbers and details of surveillance operations and information from confidential informants.

The documents were returned by the demonstrators’ representatives after being photocopied. The SUV was deemed unsafe and withdrawn from service.

Why We Are In Jail: From the Chief and Council of KI

Posted in Anishinabe Nation, Cree Nation, Repression on April 12, 2008 by wiinimkiikaa

KITCHENUHMAYKOOSIB INNINUWUG

April 9, 2008

To Our Allies, Friends and Supporters

From the Chief and Council of KI:

Why We Are In Jail

We have been in jail since March 17. This is a small note to our friends and supporters to explain why we are still in jail and why we may be in jail for several more months.

First of all, we want to thank all of you for your support and encouragement. You have given added strength to a strong community under siege. We especially want to thank our brothers and sisters from Muskrat Dam, Bearskin Lake, Wawakapeewin, Wapekaka, and Kingfisher Lake First Nations, as well as Nishnawbe-Aski Nation, who have supported KI and our allies, the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation, by suspending lands and resources negotiations with Ontario.

Contempt of Court and Sentencing

On October 25, 2007 KI announced that we could no longer afford to participate in court proceedings in the Platinex dispute, and then we walked away from the court. After 18 months of litigation and negotiations, legal options had been exhausted and our community was virtually bankrupt. Our position had not changed: KI will not support any exploratory drilling by Platinex and we will not negotiate with Platinex, despite being ordered by the court to do so. Our priority is the protection of our land, not money.

After KI walked out of court, Mr. Justice Smith issued an order which prohibits our members and supporters from interfering with or obstructing Platinex as they conduct exploratory drilling within KI’s traditional territory. When KI responded to the October 25 order by publicly announcing that Platinex would not be welcome in KI’s traditional territory, Platinex brought a motion for civil contempt of court.

On November 12, 2007 we retained Chris Reid as our lawyer. We have given Chris very clear instructions not to appeal any orders or defend against contempt of court proceedings. Our dispute with Ontario will not be resolved through the courts – it must be resolved through government-to-government negotiations between KI and Ontario.

On December 7, Platinex’s contempt motion was heard by Mr. Justice Smith in Thunder Bay. We offered no defence to the contempt of court motion. We told the court that we would not obey the October 25 order and would not engage in any further negotiations with Platinex. We then were found in contempt of court. Contrary to what Minister Bryant has been saying in the media. Ontario did not support KI in any way.

On virtually every issue they support Platinex.

On March 17, we were sentenced to six months in prison for contempt of court. This was expected since Robert Lovelace, former Chief of the Ardoch Algonquin FN, had received a six month sentence in a very similar case on February 15, 2008. Again, contrary to what Minister Bryant has been saying in the media, Ontario did not support KI on the sentencing issue. Bryant’s lawyers asked the court to severely punish us for our “disobedience”.

Appeal

Although our focus is no longer on the courts, a process to appeal the sentences has begun. Since it could take many months before the appeal will be heard we will also be bringing a motion in the Court of Appeal to have the sentences suspended pending the hearing of the appeal. The motion will also ask that all prisoners be released unconditionally and immediately. Our lawyer has asked lawyers for Ontario whether they have instructions from Mr. Bryant to support a motion for our immediate and unconditional release. Ontario’s lawyers have not yet responded.

After We Are Released

Both KI and Ardoch remain committed to the proposal which we made in January for a Joint Panel to examine the causes of these disputes and make recommendations for preventing similar disputes in the future. Although Mr. Bryant has not yet responded to the proposal, both communities have told him that we are still prepared to work with Ontario to set up the Joint Panel, as soon as all of the prisoners are released from jail and a moratorium on mining and exploration in the disputed territories is implemented.

KI’s Position on Legal Issues

Although we say that Ontario failed in its duty to consult with us before giving Platinex permission to explore for minerals on our land, we do not expect to achieve our goal of protecting our lands through the courts. We learned the hard way that the courts are not always the way for First Nations to get justice.

To encourage mining and exploration, Ontario’s Mining Act is based on a “free entry” system, which means that all Crown lands, including those subject to Aboriginal title claims, are open for staking, exploration and mining without any consultation or permitting required. Anyone with a prospector’s license may stake claims and prospect for minerals on any Crown land. Once a claim has been staked the Mining Recorder “shall” record the claims. There is no opportunity or requirement for consultations with affected First Nation communities. Once a claim is recorded, the prospector can conduct exploratory drilling without any more permits being required.

It is also important to know that in the 2004 Haida case, the Supreme Court made it clear that First Nations which have asserted rights claims or land claims, but not have not yet proven their claims, must be consulted and accommodated, but they cannot “veto” development on disputed land. Consultations and accommodation can include measures to mitigate the impacts of the project and provide some compensation for the affected communities, but they must lead towards implementation of the project. KI spent more than 18 months and $700,000 trying to break out of this legal box only to find ourselves faced with an injunction which permits drilling by Platinex and forbids us from obstructing Platinex.

The only way to achieve what KI and Ardoch believe is a fair and just solution is through negotiations between Ontario and the First Nations. Negotiations could lead to land use plans which withdraw sensitive lands from mineral staking and mining. That’s why we ask that our supporters focus on the need for political action to resolve these disputes, not the courts.

We want to get out of jail and go back to our families, but please remember why we are here. We need Ontario to agree that Platinex will not be allowed to drill on our territory, and to work with us to ensure that disputes like this one do not happened again. If we have to remain in jail for five more months, or even five years, so be it.