Mi’kmaq Warriors Jailed Before Trial Plead Not Guilty

SOURCE: http://halifax.mediacoop.ca/newsrelease/19678

Mi’kmaq Warriors Jailed Before Trial Plead Not Guilty

Three Mi’kmaq Warriors Plead Not Guilty to Charges Stemming from Oct. 17th Violent Raid by RCMP

by Mi’kmaq Warrior Society

Moncton, NB—Three (3) members of the Mi’kmaq Warrior Society, held in custody since the day of the violent raid by RCMP officers on a peaceful anti-shale gas encampment, plead not guilty in the New Brunswick Provincial Courthouse on Friday Nov 8th.

Aaron Francis, Germaine “Junior” Breau and Coady Stevens have now been held in custody for three weeks, currently at the Southeastern Correctional Centre, with no date for trial set at this time.

Alison Menard, the lawyer who is representing the three Warriors in court says “We would like to see them get their trial dates as quickly as possible, as they have been remanded without a trial.”

The three young men have been refused access to phones and visits, and some have even been assaulted by corrections officers in custody.

“I know these men are not guilty of the charges being laid here by the Crown.” states Annie Clair, who is Junior’s mother and was also present the day of the raid, “They are peaceful men with good hearts. Thanks to everyone who has continued to give us the support we’ve needed.”

The courtroom was packed on Friday with supporters from Elsipogtog, surrounding Mi’kmaq communities, and non-native supporters from Moncton and elsewhere.

Susan Levi-Peters, former Chief of Elsipogtog says, “I am happy they have entered their plea of Not Guilty and I am saddened that they are still locked up for protecting our women and elders who were for fighting for our water and land.”

“Our warriors should be free, not locked up. We are not the savages”, states Susan in reference to RCMP treatment of Mi’kmaq people on the morning of the police raid, where police used sniper teams, and brought in officers from multiple provinces to enforce an injunction on the anti-shale gas encampment.  The former Chief of Elsipogtog goes on to say that the RCMP violated an agreement of Peace and Friendship made with the Mi’kmaq people only hours before, “As the trial begins, we will find out why the RCMP ambushed our people in the early hours of the morning when they had offered tobacco in Peace and Friendship the night before.” -30-

APTN: Mi’kmaq Warrior Society members say they were beaten, roughed-up after arrests

SOURCE: http://aptn.ca/pages/news/2013/10/31/mikmaq-warrior-society-members-say-beaten-roughed-arrests/

Mi’kmaq Warrior Society members say they were beaten, roughed-up after arrests

National News | 31. Oct, 2013 by | 0 Comments

Mi’kmaq Warrior Society members say they were beaten, roughed-up after arrests

(Mugshots of Mi’kmaq Warrior Society members arrested during Oct. 17 raid.)

By Jorge Barrera
APTN National News
Two members of the Mi’kmaq Warrior Society say they were roughed up and beaten by RCMP officers and jail guards after they were arrested following a heavily-armed raid on a Mi’kmaq led anti-fracking camp in New Brunswick earlier this month.

Jason Augustine, Warrior Society district chief, said he was kicked in the head by an RCMP officer after he was cuffed and arrested during the Oct. 17 raid.

Augustine said he was later diagnosed with a concussion at the hospital in Moncton, NB.

“I was kicked in the head three times when I was taken down,” said Augustine. “I wasn’t resisting arrest, I had my hands behind my back, and this one RCMP started bashing my head in.”

Augustine said he was nodding-off while he was held in one of the cells with other warriors at the Codiac RCMP detachment in Moncton. He claimed his head was hit against the wall as he was being taken to the ambulance.

“One of the guys called the guards up and said I needed an ambulance,” said Augustine. “The RCMP picked me up, they roughed me up and hit my head against the wall when they were taking me to the hospital.”

David Mazerolle, another Warrior Society member, claimed in a YouTube video that Aaron Francis was beaten while handcuffed as he was being taken to a cell at the South East Regional Correction Centre in Shediac, NB.

“After we got split up and put into solitary confinement, my buddy Aaron as he was getting transferred, got beat up while he was in handcuffs,” said Mazerolle, in the video.

Augustine and Mazerolle, who were released from custody last Friday, both said they were denied use of the telephone.

Augustine said all six of the warriors kept in custody following the raid were put into solitary confinement.

An official at the correction centre referred queries on the allegations to New Brunswick’s Public Safety department. The department did not return telephoned and emailed requests for comment.

RCMP spokesperson Const. Jullie Rogers-Marsh said she would look into the issue before providing a response.

A total of 40 people were arrested the day of the raid which spiralled into chaos after members of the Elsipogtog First Nation clashed with police.

The RCMP raid, which included tactical unit members wearing camouflage and wielding assault weapons, freed several vehicles owned by a Houston-based company doing shale gas exploration work in the region. The anti-fracking camp was blocking SWN Resources Canada’s trucks from leaving a compound in Rexton, NB.

Augustine and Mazerolle face several charges including forcible confinement, mischief, assaulting a peace officer and escaping lawful custody.

Augustine also denied RCMP allegations that the warriors forcibly confined security guards employed by Industrial Securities Ltd in the compound holding SWN’s vehicles.

Augustine said the security guards were escorted by the RCMP at the beginning and end of their shifts.

“They were not held unlawfully,” he said. “They stayed there until their shift changes.”

Augustine also denied RCMP allegations that the warriors uttered death threats or brandished weapons at the security guards.

“There were no death threats, we had nobody in confinement and we had no weapons,” he said.

The RCMP held a press conference following the raid where they displayed three rifles and ammunition seized during the raid. The RCMP said officers also found crude explosive devices.

Augustine claimed the guns and explosives were planted after the raid.

“I do believe they were planted, they knew we wanted peace,” said Augustine. “They had a one track mind to hurt the warrior society.”

Augustine said the warriors were prepared to negotiate the release of SWN’s vehicles.

“They kept telling me, ‘we just want the trucks out’ and I said I was going to our War Chief to tell him to get the trucks out,” said Augustine.

Augustine said he was shot four times by RCMP officers using bean-bag rounds.

He said two RCMP officers presented the warriors with tobacco bundles the night before the raid.

Augustine said his main defence against the charges will be to demand a hearing before an international court.

“Under our treaty laws we have to go to international court,” said Augustine. “We can’t be under the Crown because we are not under the Indian Act, we are treaty people.”

Since spring 2013, RCMP in New Brunswick arrested 82 people in connection with anti-fracking related protests.

jbarrera@aptn.ca

@JorgeBarrera

OKT: “Do We Need the Rule of Law to Deal with Native Protestors?”

SOURCE: http://www.oktlaw.com/blog/do-we-need-the-rule-of-law-in-new-brunswick-to-deal-with-native-protestors/

October 23, 2013 4:47 pm

By Michael McClurg

Elsipogtog First Nation is only the most recent in a long line of examples of Aboriginal communities protesting resource development on their lands without their consent, and police force being used to ‘take down’ Aboriginal protest sites.  This is not a “new” story – it has happened before. In some cases, like Oka and Ipperwash, it led to full blown public inquiries to get to the roots of why the Aboriginal protests occurred in the first place, why violence escalated, what could have been done to reduce violence, and how to avoid future conflicts.

You would think that after the Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples and the Ipperwash Inquiry Report, we would have learned a lesson or two about helpful and unhelpful ways to deal with these types of conflicts over resources, including appropriate police responses. But watching reactions to Elsipogtog, we at OKT have a strong sense of history repeating itself.

When conflicts arise about Aboriginal people protesting resource development, you often hear people talk about the “rule of law”; it has come up regularly in media reports and commentary during the current occupation and protests involving the people of Elsipogtog. The concept refers to the idea that power needs to be applied uniformly and not arbitrarily. Some people invoke this term to suggest that the Canadian authorities are not applying the rule of law to Aboriginal protesters in the same manner that they would apply them to non-Aboriginal protesters in similar circumstances.

This argument is often raised by people who support “cracking down on” or quashing (possibly through violence) protests in the same manner that the RCMP raided the occupation at Elsipogtog. This refrain has been repeated many times over the past decades, in response to Aboriginal protests in Canada such as Burnt Church, Kanesatake (Oka), Ipperwash, and Caledonia. It is a simplistic and emotional response to highly complex situations which often have deep roots in historical conflicts. It also  misrepresents the “rule of law” by suggesting that it means applying the law strictly under all circumstances regardless of context. This could not be further from the truth. Indeed, courts and other authorities have repeatedly endorsed a contextual approach to Aboriginal occupations and protests.

The Ontario Court of Appeal in Henco Industries Ltd. v. Haudenosaunee Six Nations Confederacy Council et. al. regarding charges for contempt of court for violation of an injunction spoke of the complex nature of the rule of law in the context of Aboriginal protest and occupation:

“… the rule of law has many dimensions, or in the words of the Supreme Court of Canada is ‘highly textured’… The rule of law requires a justice system that can ensure orders of the court are enforced and the process of the court is respected. Other dimensions of the rule of law, however, have a significant role in this dispute. These other dimensions include respect for minority rights, reconciliation of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal interests through negotiations, fair procedural safeguards for those subject to criminal proceedings, respect for Crown and police discretion, respect for the separation of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government and respect for Crown property rights.”

Picking up on this language two years later, the Ontario Court of Appeal in Frontenac Ventures Corporation v. Ardoch Algonquin First Nation endorsed its holding in Henco that enforcing the rule of law involves a complex balancing. It said that this balancing should be performed before an injunction is ordered in an Aboriginal protest and it emphasized the importance of negotiation in this balancing.

In other words, the rule of law is not just about issuing and strictly enforcing court orders. Upholding the rule of law involves looking at each matter contextually through the lens of the long history of relations between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in Canada. An excellent synopsis of this history and context is provided in the report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, a commission that was created in the wake of the Kanesatake (Oka) standoff. You can read the highlights of that report here.

A very helpful resource for better understanding the rule of law in the context of Aboriginal occupation/protest is the report of the Ipperwash Inquiry. The Ipperwash Inquiry was headed by the Hon. Justice Sidney B. Linden, a judge of the Ontario Court of Justice and was formed by the Government of Ontario in the aftermath of the shooting of Dudley George during the protest at Ipperwash Provincial Park. Part of the purpose of the inquiry was to consider how violence could be avoided in similar circumstances. The report that emerged from the Ipperwash Inquiry is invaluable to understanding these conflicts and the appropriate police response to them.

If you want to understand what is happening at Elsipogtog, and recommended ways to deal with a conflict like this, we highly recommend reading the Ipperwash Inquiry report, as there are many parallels and many of the final recommendations are relevant.

Here are some highlights from the Ipperwash Inquiry report that provide important context on the current events at Elsipogtog:

  • Aboriginal occupations and protests are a symptom of our collective inability to fairly resolve centuries-old tensions and conflicts between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities over the control, use, and ownership of land. Until we “design institutions or implement processes that can resolve these tensions more effectively”, protests and occupations are very likely to continue
  • Aboriginal occupations differ from other kinds of protest and occupation in part because of the long history of mistrust between the police and Aboriginal people – “Police strategy must emphasize the development of communication networks and trusting relationships with Aboriginal people before, during, and after protests”
  • The role of the police is limited to maintaining public order. It is not the role of police to resolve the underlying issue, that is the role of government and government should not duck it – “(G)overnments should not avoid their constitutional obligations to First Nations and Aboriginal people under the cloak of keeping out of police ‘operational matters’”
  • Occupations and protests over land and resources are not new: Historically both non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal communities have used occupations and protests to secure lands and resources from one another, however, non-Aboriginal people have secured much more land and resources this way than Aboriginal people have
  • Studies have shown that, despite commonly held misconceptions, Aboriginal occupations and protests over the past 50 years have been notable for their low levels of violence

It is this context that informs the “rule of law” as it pertains to Aboriginal occupation and protest. Respecting the rule of law is about more than simply charging and arresting people according to the strict letter of the written law. A nuanced and contextual approach is required. An approach that recognizes the underlying history of these protests is needed. An approach that addresses the need of governments to uphold the rule of law by meeting their legal obligations to respect Aboriginal rights is needed.

An extremely important part of the legal context at Elsipogtog is that the protests are occurring on land (and are about land) that the people of Elsipogtog never ceded title to. Aboriginal people in this part of Canada signed Peace and Friendship Treaties with the British in which they never ceded any territory. Canadian law recognizes that the occupation of land by an Aboriginal community at the time of the arrival of Crown sovereignty means that the Aboriginal community owns that land. So, the rule of law in this case would arguably dictate that the protesters have every right to be on their traditional land and that in fact, others, including the Crown and resource extraction companies, are trespassers.

In cases like Elsipogtog, injunction orders and police enforcement cannot and should not exist in a vacuum, separated from the extremely complex historical, cultural, and legal nuances of the situation. If such a simplistic approach is taken to Aboriginal protests, as some in the media would encourage, trust and the potential for negotiation and reconciliation is greatly reduced and the potential for violence and continued protest greatly increases. Those results are not consistent with upholding the rule of law. And they will not bring peace to the land …

HMC: Mi’kmaq Warrior bail hearings risks turning into week-long event

SOURCE: http://halifax.mediacoop.ca/story/mikmaq-warrior-bail-hearings-risks-turning-week-lo/19421

Zero down, six to go as first day draws to a close

by Miles Howe

Defence lawyer Gilles Lemieux speaks to a reporter after today's non-bail hearing. [Photo: Miles Howe]
Defence lawyer Gilles Lemieux speaks to a reporter after today’s non-bail hearing. [Photo: Miles Howe]

Moncton, New Brunswick – The Moncton courthouse was again abuzz today as supporters of the six remaining incarcerated members of the Mi’kmaq Warriors Society awaited their bail hearings. Originally, the court was supposed to process the hearings of Coady Stevens, Dave Mazerolle and Jason “Okay” Augustine. However, due to the Crown’s attempts to pile on extra charges on all three men, not even Coady Stevens’ bail hearing was completed.

The defence team of Gilles Lemieux and Alison Menard have requested a press ban on the evidence presented in court today, so details of the charges will have to wait, potentially for the actual trial (if there is one) or beyond. We can say that Stevens is up on six charges, however, and they are as follows: Two counts of threats, two counts of obstruction of justice, one summary assault and one count of unlawful confinement.

The unlawful confinement would be the ‘big one’, as the Crown appears to want to proceed on it as an indictable offence, which carries a maximum sentence of not over ten years. Surprisingly, the unlawful confinement is related to incidents that occurred on or around the 16th of October, not the 17th when the RCMP viciously raided the Warrior encampment.

On this we can say no more.

The other interesting aspect of these bail hearings is that the Crown is using all three possible grounds in order to justify detaining all six accused prior to sentencing.

Primary grounds refers to the possibility that an accused will attend court.

Secondary grounds refers to the protection or safety of the public.

The rarely used third grounds refers to maintaining confidence in the administration of justice. Defence lawyer Menard notes that this third grounds is most commonly reserved for crimes that “strike at the public’s conscience.”

In any case, Menard was understandably surprised at the fact that on a day when the court was supposed to deal with three bail hearings, not even one was completed.

“Our system is based upon not punishing people prior to trial,” says Menard. “If you believe in that system, if you believe in the presumption of innocence and the importance of our Charter values, [then] we don’t punish people pre-trial.”

Menard also was quick to point out that while the Crown is at an advantage because it can create a narrative surrounding the events of an alleged crime (through press conferences where the RCMP put on display weapons and ammunition allegedly seized from their raid, for example), the public should maintain mental vigilance when analyzing such information through media who weren’t at the scene of the arrests and often blindly re-hash police press releases.

“The narrative for the RCMP and the government is out there in the media,” says Menard. “They can give interviews and do press releases. [So] the average person probably has a settled view of what happened [in the RCMP’s raid on October 17th]. That’s not necessarily an accurate view.”

Bail hearings for the six incarcerated Mi’kmaq Warriors will most likely continue all week at the Moncton courthouse.

CBC: N.B. Premier firm on shale-gas pledge as anti-fracking protesters cheer injunction’s end

In an interview, New Brunswick Premier David Alward says he is hoping SWN Resources, the Texas energy company exploring for shale gas near Rexton, N.B., will resume its operations. (ANDREW VAUGHAN/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

JANE TABER

HALIFAX — The Globe and Mail

Published Monday, Oct. 21 2013, 9:06 PM EDT

Last updated Monday, Oct. 21 2013, 9:10 PM EDT

Just days after a violent anti-fracking protest, New Brunswick Premier David Alward is pressing ahead with his vow to develop a shale gas industry, suggesting First Nations people will share the economic benefits.

But natives are not budging, arguing that their drinking water, which they fear the fracking process could contaminate, is not for sale.

In an interview on Monday, Mr. Alward said he is hoping SWN Resources, the Texas energy company exploring for shale gas near Rexton, N.B., will resume its operations.

He made his comments as native protesters and Elsipogtog First Nation people cheered a New Brunswick judge’s decision on Monday to lift an injunction that had ordered them to stop blocking trucks from leaving the SWN Resources compound to do seismic testing in the area.

The trucks were removed after the RCMP moved in on the native protesters’ encampment last Thursday to enforce the injunction.

Some First Nations people interpreted the judge’s decision as a message to SWN to leave the province. The Premier sees no correlation.

“It’s very much one day at a time,” Mr. Alward said of the resumption of SWN operations. “What we have to remember is that the current work that SWN is doing is exploration. That’s what this phase has been.”

SWN has not replied to requests to comment on when or if it will restart exploration.

“Certainly, my hope and my confidence is that we will see a shale gas industry develop in New Brunswick,” Mr. Alward said. “We can’t afford otherwise.”

He said it would bring prosperity to the province and allow young people who have moved west for work to return home. The Premier repeated, too, that the industry would be developed safely and securely with environmental studies and consultations with First Nations.

“In the end, we are all collectively going to benefit as New Brunswickers, including First Nations, both as individuals but as communities as well,” he said.

Support has poured in for Elsipogtog First Nation from other native groups across the country after Thurday’s violence, in which police cars were torched, rocks thrown and protesters pepper-sprayed. Over the weekend, the native leadership there called for calm – and uneasy quiet has fallen, although protesters remain at the encampment.

It is not clear how the situation will be resolved.

“There is absolutely no way, absolutely no way [we] are going to agree to any form of fracking on or near our community,” said Robert Levy, a band councillor and a former Elsipogtog chief. “They can offer everything. They can offer all the monies they want. We just can’t take that chance of our water for our kids and our kids yet to be born.”

Native groups are not the only ones concerned about fracking. Liberal opposition leader Brian Gallant is calling for a moratorium.

“I believe we need to press pause,” Mr. Gallant said, noting that two studies of the industry are to be released in the next year. “The environment and health risks concern me more than the potential economic benefits excite me.”

Mr. Gallant is meeting on Tuesday with native leaders. Mr. Alward said provincial and band officials are trying to work out a process to resolve the situation. He decided to skip a trade mission this week to Brazil with his Atlantic colleagues to deal with the situation.

With a report from the Canadian Press

Rabble: Out of order: Indigenous protest and the rule of law

Out of order: Indigenous protest and the rule of law

| October 21, 2013

Out of order: Indigenous protest and the rule of law

Sometimes it helps to put things in order, in precedence and priority, in order to see them clearly.  This is one of those times.

With today’s lifting of the injunction preventing anti-fracking protests in New Brunswick, the first question that comes to mind is why the RCMP felt it necessary to provoke the conflict that occurred last Thursday.

Having waited two weeks, they could have waited another five days to see what the law would rule on the issue, but instead showed up at a previously peaceful protest with hundreds of officers, snipers, dogs, riot gear and tear gas.

The chaos that followed led to plenty of negative media coverage of the protests, which is convenient for the Texan seismic testing company SWN, their partners Irving Oil, and the provincial and federal governments, but decidedly inconvenient for the Elsipogtog First Nation.

Questions around whether the protesters, agents provocateur, or the RCMP themselves set the police cars on fire and who was responsible for the “cache” of weapons the RCMP were so keen to display will likely never be answered.  As no charges are pending for those questions, no legal finding of fact will be made.  This, too, is a convenient result for those wishing to assign blame based on prejudice rather than facts, but unhelpful to the rest of us.

The events of October 17 also added to the pre-existing mistrust between the parties – something UN Special Rapporteur James Anaya had highlighted in his preliminary report on Canada’s human rights abuses one week ago – and make a negotiated settlement of the issues less likely, adding to the probability of future conflict.  Again, this is rather inconvenient for those of us who would prefer a turn toward the reconciliation the Supreme Court has ordered and the Crown claims to seek, but decidedly advantageous to those who wish to continue the status quo.

More broadly, what the events of last week reveal is the ongoing confusion over the idea of “the rule of law” among the media and public alike.

Every time Indigenous people block a road or a rail line, or even slow traffic to hand out information pamphlets, there is outrage over the failure to respect and enforce the rule of law.  These are almost always temporary events, usually amounting to minor inconvenience, occasionally some damage to property, rarely an injury to anyone except the protesters.

Yet, every day of the last 250 years, the Crown has violated the rule of law.  It will do so again today and again tomorrow.  And there will be no public outrage.

The Peace and Friendship Treaty of 1761 between the Mi’kmaq and the Crown governs the area in New Brunswick where the anti-fracking protests took place.  It did not cede any land, but that is inconvenient and so the Crown shows it no respect.

Nor is the Crown fully respecting other treaties across the country, whether historic or modern, another point UNSR Anaya mentioned.  Nor is it respecting its own Royal Proclamation of 1763.

All of these documents are valid international law and enshrined in Canada’s Constitution domestically, surely more important law than a temporary injunction covering a few metres of highway.

The net effect of the Crown’s violation of the rule of law is a 50% poverty rate among First Nations children, a 30% earned income gap for Indigenous people, grossly disproportionate rates of suicide and other social ills, hundreds of missing and murdered Indigenous women, and the ongoing destruction of the environment, any one of which is surely more important than a traffic delay or a dent in SWN’s bottom line.

If, as I argue here, the significance of the laws being broken by the Crown is greater both as a matter of law and in effect, the priority for respecting those laws seems clear.

The hundreds of court cases won by First Nations against the Crown over the past 40 years are more than sufficient evidence of the Crown’s utter contempt for the rule of law when it comes to Indigenous rights in this country.  And yet, politicians, media and members of the public will portray last week as another example of Indigenous peoples’ intransigence.  None of them will give a moment’s thought to the ongoing violation of the Peace and Friendship Treaty of 1761, a continuing violation that preceded last week’s events by over 250 years.

It is time to put these matters in order, because clearly there is no peace.  And with friends like these….