Thursday, July 20, 2006

3 stories

Outsiders dominate list of protesters charged
Nine charged following highway blockade
By Mike Aiken
Kenora Daily Miner and News
Wednesday July 19, 2006

The OPP Kenora detachment has released the names of nine people charged following last week’s demonstration that closed the Trans-Canada Highway for most of a day. Only one name on the list was from Northwestern Ontario [Many protesters came from Winnipeg, a 3-hour-drive away!], supporting statements by community leaders the unrest was caused by activists imported for the occasion. “Some outsiders from San Francisco and Toronto used a volatile issue to their advantage,” said Kenora Mayor Dave Canfield Monday. “They broke the law and they’ll be dealt with accordingly.” Last Thursday morning, traffic normally using the Kenora Bypass was rerouted through the city for about 12 hours by the blockade. Demonstrators at the blockade included those attending a nearby gathering. The Rainforest Action Network and ForestEthics had organized a gathering of about 100 supporters from across North America, which took place near the Grassy Narrows First Nation road blockade north of the city against clear-cutting at the entry to the Whiskey Jack Forest. On Tuesday, Chief Simon Fobister said his community supported the protesters and their right to free speech. “The federal and provincial governments need to demonstrate a higher level of commitment to treat natural resources as a top priority. Our people have lived with the consequences of industry development causing environmental damage. It is time that our people shared in the benefits,” Fobister said. Media releases issued last weekend claimed police - who made the arrests the day following the blockade - were racist and targeted people of colour and aboriginals, when laying charges. A news release from the Rainforest Action Network suggested differential treatment for white people from visible minorities. A representative of the California-based group reserved comment, pending further discussions with those at the scene. OPP spokesperson S/Sgt. Leslie Rice said there hadn’t been any formal complaints of police misconduct filed as of Tuesday. The police press release issued late Tuesday said the investigation was ongoing. A member of ForestEthics said she had a videotape of the officers taken at the blockade as they were promising not to press charges relating to the protest. However, calls requesting more information about the video have not been returned. Facing charges of mischief are: Marla Brown, 25, of Toronto; Assam Shahzad Ahmad, 21, of Cambridge; Theresa Dupuis, 33, of Thunder Bay; Rocio Valasquez, 18, of Oakville; Julie Anna Lachance, 18, of Hamilton; Carman Teeple Hopkins, 21, of Toronto. Three from Six Nations First Nations are charged with mischief and related offences. Richard Crawford, 35, was also charged with breaching a recognizance. Shawn Anderson, 28, of Oshweken, also faces a charge of breaching probation, and Geri Gray of Kettle Point will also answer one count of assault. All are scheduled to appear in Kenora provincial court Sept. 18.

OPP denies charges of racism by protesters
By Mike Aiken
Miner and News
Tuesday July 18, 2006

OPP staff denied charges of racism Monday after allegations their officers targeted only First Nations demonstrators from last week’s blockade on the Trans-Canada Highway when charges were laid. Staff Sgt. Leslie Rice from the communications unit in Orillia said allegations only aboriginal people were charged in connection with the incident weren’t true. “That’s not the case,” she stated. “I’m not sure where they’re getting that information from.” Environmentalists joined with treaty rights activists last Thursday when they blocked the highway west of Airport Road, as part of a long-standing dispute over clear-cutting on traditional lands. Press releases issued by environmental groups over the weekend included a series of allegations against police. Grassy Narrows resident and activist Judy Da Silva said the officers had committed an act of war by raiding the First Nation without permission, so they could lay charges against protesters. The Rainforest Action Network said police were racist, since they only arrested aboriginal people. A third release said a woman traveling with a Six Nations delegation miscarried after she was arrested, because the OPP had used excessive force. Rice said the police force had started an investigation into the conduct of their members, and she didn’t have any information on the specific allegations. About 100 supporters from across North America had gathered at the Slant Lake blockade site near Grassy Narrows last week, and they blocked the Highway 17A bypass around Kenora for about 12 hours last Thursday. Nine people were charged following the blockade on the highway. They have been charged with mischief. Const. Sue Cain, acting communications officer for the Kenora OPP detachment, said the officers didn’t go onto the First Nation to lay the charges, they didn’t target only aboriginal protesters and she denied charges that officers denied medical help for a pregnant woman during her arrest. Grassy Narrows First Nation is located about 90 minutes northeast of Kenora, and it has been the focus of international attention as it deals with both clear-cutting and the lingering effects of mercury contamination in its food supply. OPP staff said they hoped to release a list of names of those charged Tuesday. They have been released pending their next court appearance, scheduled for Sept. 18 in Kenora.

Mischief charges laid as result of highway blockade
By Shelley Bujold
Miner and News
with files from Canadian Press
Monday July 17, 2006

Ontario Provincial Police have charged nine protesters in conjunction with last Thursday’s protest which blocked the Trans-Canada Highway. Activists blocked the Highway 17A bypass north of Kenora for the entire day as nearly 100 people protested clear-cutting taking place near Grassy Narrows First Nation, which they said was also having an impact on their rights as aboriginal people. Ontario Provincial Police made arrests over the weekend, charging nine individuals from various communities across the province with mischief. These people were released pending a court date Sept. 18. The protesters erected a 10-metre metal tripod in the middle of the Trans-Canada and suspended a woman from it. Another woman chained herself to the axle of a logging truck and others chained themselves to barrels filled with cement. The full blockade was taken down Thursday night. A provincial police spokesman on Saturday declined to provide reasons for the charges. Protesters provided conflicting descriptions, but claimed that as many as 30 police cars were involved in stopping vehicles outside the reserve, which is located one hour north of Kenora. A press release from Judy da Silva of Grassy Narrows First Nation stated the OPP came to the site of the Grassy Narrows ongoing blockade at Slant Lake to make the arrests. Organizers of the blockade said they were dumbfounded by the arrests. Kim Fry of environmental group Forest Ethics said the protesters reached an agreement with police that if the blockade was removed by Thursday evening, none of the people involved would be arrested. She said she has videotaped proof that police agreed to the arrangement. The da Silva press release stated some of the arrests are of Six Nations Warriors, who were visiting for the Earth Justice Gathering where discussions of the local environment were the focus. In a press release from the Rainforest Action Network and ForestEthics, who were active in staging Thursday’s protest, said police were targeting aboriginal people in their arrests. “Instead of dealing with the root issues of neglected native land rights the authorities have decided to criminalize dissent and punish peaceful protesters,” said David Sone with the Rainforest Action Network. Judy da Silva, a spokeswoman for the protesters who lives on the Grassy Narrows reserve, said Grassy Narrows protesters have been stopping logging vehicles in that area for several years. ‘‘From our perspective, this has been peaceful all along,’’ da Silva said. ‘‘We’ve had a good relationship with law enforcement officials until now.’’

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