Jeff Green | Sep 20, 2007
Sep 20/07 - Algonquins Accept Court Summons Feature Article - September 20, 2007
Algonquins Accept Court SummonsBy Jeff GreenIn a Kingston courtroom on September 18, two OPP officers testified about what they’ve seen at the Robertsville mine site since an injunction was served on August 31. Before a third officer took the stand, however, lawyers on all sides agreed that six members of the Shabot Obaadjiwaan and Ardoch Algonquin First Nation would be served for contempt of court.The contempt case will be spoken to in front of Judge Cunningham (who will be taking over the case from Jude Thomson) on Monday, September 24, at the beginning of a hearing on a motion by Frontenac Ventures Corporation for an interlocutory injunction against the two Algonquin communities. Chief Doreen Davis and Earl Badour Sr. from the Shabot Obaadjiwaan First Nation, and Harold Perry, Robert Lovelace, Chief Paula Sherman, and Mitchell Shewell from the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation will be served, through their lawyers.When contacted later on Tuesday, Robert Lovelace said he was not particularly concerned about the contempt of court charges and that the occupation at the mine site will carry on as usual. “The most significant thing that happened today, and the failure of today, is that the relationship that we’ve built with the OPP, which began even before we initiated the direct action, is completely undermined.”For Lovelace, this happened mainly because Judge Thomson agreed to allow OPP Officer Brian Heslip to be subpoenaed, and he allowed hearsay evidence about the statements of OPP Officer Brandy Winter to be heard.Heslip has been a senior member of the OPP Major Event Liaison Team (MELT) and has been a major conduit for information between the OPP and the Algonquins on site. Brandy Winter is a member of the Aboriginal Relations Team (ART) whose members were integrated officers throughout the summer, staying with the communities as liaison officers.“These people were not undercover officers, and from now on what community will agree to have liaison officers if what is said to them can be used in a court of law?” Lovelace said. “The OPP argues vociferously that they shouldn’t be subpoenaed, but the judge didn’t listen.”The ART and MELT team approach to Aboriginal occupations and blockades came about as the OPP’s response to the death of Dudley George at Ipperwash, and was endorsed by the Ipperwash inquiry. It is a radically different approach to policing these kinds of incidents, and both Algonquin and non-Algonquin protesters in North Frontenac have expressed heir support for this new approach.“I think the police were pretty discouraged after today,” Lovelace said. “Other aboriginal communities have said we shouldn’t be taking part in this, that we shouldn’t put our trust in the OPP by working with the ART and MELT. I had been hoping we could say that this process works.”Lovelace added that the Ardoch and Shabot Obaadjiwaan Algonquns will continue to keep open communications with the OPP, although they will be significantly more guarded.During their testimony, Brian Heslip and Jeff McCann, the detachment commander for Sharbot Lake, were asked who they witnessed at the site on specific dates, and whether those people were in front of or behind the gate.It was unnecessary for Neal Smitheman, the lawyer for Frontenac Venures, to subpoena the OPP officers in the first place, according to Lovelace. “He could have subpoenaed any one of us. We don’t deny that were at the site, that we have been behind the gate.”The contempt of court proceedings may be moot in the end, according to reports about what Judge Thomson said at the end of the hearing. Once Judge Cunningham renders a ruling after the hearings that are starting next week, Judge Thomson’s ruling will be nullified, so these contempt matters may no longer apply.