RCMP refusal to clear blockade angers judge
Fears of violence in Hazelton ‘completely inappropriate’
He said the inaction, because of fears about potential violence, is “completely inappropriate.”
“Policing in this country is in a dire condition if this can’t be responded to,” Justice McEwan complained at a recent chambers hearing triggered by the Gitxsan Treaty Society’s plea to be allowed back into its only office.
“This is just not that big a problem in terms of the number of people I’ve heard about.”
The judge couldn’t believe the government’s excuses for ignoring the standoff – “you are saying that as long as you assemble enough people in this country you can get away with anything. That cannot be. That cannot be.”
But Kyle Friesen, a Department of Justice lawyer, insisted the law wasn’t being enforced because the situation “would very quickly spiral out of control.”
He said the Mounties were concerned any arrests in the dispute between two factions of the local Gitxsan First Nation would ignite an angry confrontation with a mob.
At the chambers hearing in Vancouver April 3, a transcript of which was obtained by The Sun, Justice McEwan lambasted the RCMP and the Crown for failing to end the conflict that began Dec. 5.
On that day, a number of people upset about the Gitxsan Treaty Society’s alleged involvement in the controversial Enbridge Pipeline Project invaded and boarded up the group’s office building.
A fluctuating number of protesters have remained there since.
Justice McEwan wanted to know why police hadn’t ousted the illegal occupants instead of forcing the treaty society to get an injunction on Dec. 7.
“Why weren’t the police acting on the fact that they are people who are occupying a building that they have no right to be in?” Justice McEwan queried.
“This is a trespass at a minimum of premises by people who have no right to be there, as far as I can see. And so it starts with why do you even bother with an injunction? There’s the general law that obliges the police to enforce the law. Why don’t they do that?”
When the justice learned Crown counsel were refusing to approve charges and police were exercising their “discretion” not to enforce the injunction until it was ruled a contempt of court, he all but threw up his hands.
“There’s a criminal problem out there that it’s the police’s duty to deal with,” Justice McEwan fumed, adding that the RCMP should be acting; an injunction wasn’t even needed.
He had no time for cowardly concerns: “The police give you this huge, ‘Oh, no, we judge it will be horrifying.’ It will be terrible if they just go in and do their job. Often it isn’t.”
Logging companies, resorts, municipalities and others have been too long plagued by squatting demonstrators interfering with their operations, Justice McEwan continued.
“I mean, I’ve expressed quite bluntly that I view the attorney-general’s policy that they don’t wade into these things in civil cases, particularly in logging pro-tests and things like that, as – as a way of avoiding a hard decision, but it is – it compounds what is already a problem,” he said.
Police and prosecutors are failing to do their duty, and it is “a disgrace,” he said. “Why would you go straight to con-tempt [proceedings] without getting the problem solved? The problem gets solved when the police enforce the injunction and clear the people out of there. The [treaty society] gets back in and the people who are in defiance of the order are arrested and before the court.”
Police have an operational discretion, Justice McEwan acknowledged, “but they can’t use operational discretion to refuse to enforce the injunction.”
He rebuked the lawyer for the protesters, Ian Lawson, telling him to quit the “small-town lawyer jive.”
“Your people should get out of there today,” the justice admonished.
“That’s just really simple. The court cannot tolerate a situation where people have taken the law into their own hands.”
Yet the illegal occupation goes on.
The treaty society this week called on Attorney-General Shirley Bond to order the RCMP to enforce the injunction.
“Recently there was a blockade of some railway tracks in White Rock,” Gitxsan treaty negotiator Bev Clifton Percival said. “An injunction was obtained and the RCMP removed the blockade within 24 hours. It is disappointing to see that there appears to be a double standard in how the RCMP is responding. Why is there immediate action in Vancouver but none taken here in Hazelton?”
In spite of the judge’s admonitions more than a month ago, there has been no movement in the dispute, and the RCMP has made no attempt to resolve the situation. Another hearing is set for Monday, where the justice will face the same chaos.
Posted on May 11, 2012, in Oil & Gas, State Security Forces and tagged Enbridge pipeline, Gitxsan, Gitxsan Treaty Society, Gitxsan Treaty Society blockade, Indigenous resistance, oil and gas pipelines+Indigenous resistance, RCMP and Natives, repression. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.