First Nations man faces $16K bill for ‘Idle No More’ blockade on CN Railway
By Tyler Kula, Sarnia Observer, Thursday, July 25, 2013
Aamjiwnaang First Nation activist Ron Plain has been ordered to pay more than $16,000 to CN Rail for his role in a 13-day blockade that was part of the Idle No More movement.
On Wednesday in Ontario Superior Court, Justice Bruce G. Thomas ordered Plain to pay $16,584.87 to CN to cover the company’s legal costs.
Plain, a spokesperson for the Sarnia rail spur blockade that began Dec. 21, 2012, was declared in contempt of a court order to end the blockade last December.
CN spokesperson Jim Feeny said the railroad company is pleased with the outcome.
“The ruling underscores the importance of the principle that everyone must abide by the rule of law,” he said.
CN sought $50,000 plus an order preventing Plain from coming within 100 feet of the spur line, while Plain’s lawyer, Peter Rosenthal of Toronto, argued for $1,000.
When contacted, Rosenthal said “we are still considering the situation and are not ready to comment.”
Tables, tents and vehicles on and around the track during the blockade impacted a number of petrochemical, plastics recycling, and other industries served by the line, CN officials have said.
An affidavit from Plain makes it clear he had knowledge of the court order and continued participating in the blockade, Thomas wrote in his decision.
CN, meanwhile, is planning to donate the money to the Aamjiwnaang community, Feeny said.
“We felt it was the most appropriate course of action.”
CN initially offered to forward collected costs to its aboriginal scholarship program, but Feeny said officials are planning to confer with Aamjiwnaang community members to determine the best recipient.
Plain, 51, has been off work since May due to a neck injury, and is waiting for a decision on his disability benefits. Thomas said he weighed that, and Plain’s role in helping dismantle the protest in early January, in his decision.
Thomas also ruled for no restrictions on Plain’s mobility.
A campaign to raise $10,000 for Plain’s legal defence raised $4,798.
CN officials had initially asked for $5,000 in January to recoup contempt motion costs, but Plain refused, maintaining he did not violate the court order and saying he had proof CN is not entitled to the spur line land because it belongs to First Nations.
“I do not fear CN … I will run this up the flagpole as far as I can,” said Plain during a January court appearance.
On June 24, Plain filed a statement saying although he did not admit the contempt he would not contest it.
Justice Thomas said a finding of contempt was “inescapable” during that June 24 hearing in Sarnia.
The CN rail blockade was one of several demonstrations organized by Aamjiwnaang First Nation members during the Idle No More movement, including a January rally that held up traffic for more than an hour at the Blue Water Bridge.
Sarnia police were criticized by a Superior Court judge for not forcing an end to the blockade, but were praised by local leaders for maintaining a peaceful presence at the site.