CN Sues Tyendinaga Protesters Over Blockades

Posted by admin on Mar 27th, 2009

By KIRK MAKIN, JUSTICE REPORTER; March 27, 2009 – Globe & Mail

In an aggressive response to a series of train-track blockades in 2007, Canadian National Railways is suing three aboriginal activists for disrupting its flow of business. CN alleges the blockades intimidated employees, dislocated the flow of rail traffic, precipitated layoffs and caused “significant economic damages due to compounded delays in delivery of bulk commodities and goods.” However, an aboriginal leader targeted in the lawsuit, Shawn Brant, said yesterday that CN is naive to believe heavy-handed legal action will deter activists from protesting its role in wrongfully expropriating and exploiting aboriginal land.

“This a strong community, and I don’t think CN or its pursuit of this lawsuit is going to push this community back into suffering in silence any more,” Mr. Brant said in an interview. “Our power isn’t in appealing to people’s compassion and compelling them to feel sorry because we live like this. Our power exists in these rail lines that run through our communities.”

Mr. Brant said more than 430 native communities have a railway running through or close to them. “Our land was used for these things because it was cheap and nobody else wanted these things running through their communities,” he said.

His Tyendinaga Mohawk nation, near Deseronto, Ont., remains committed to using “any and all means in order to force this government and future governments to do the right thing for first nations people who are living in squalor,” Mr. Brant said.

“If that means targeting this economy or shutting down a railway, we have shut it down three times and the likelihood is that we’ll shut it down again.”

In a statement of claim for CN, lawyer Christopher Bredt alleges that on April 21, 2007, the protesters ignored a court order to dismantle one of their blockades.

“The blockades have caused damages through increased yard congestion at CN’s facilities, including increased costs of yard crew activities,” it adds. “The blockades have caused damages through loss of revenue to CN and increased costs for CN’s customers.”

A $10-million countersuit filed by the defendants’ lawyer, Peter Rosenthal, alleges that CN should be punished for trespassing; causing noise, water and air pollution; and scaring away game.

Mr. Rosenthal said in an interview the defence will focus on showing the defendants were justified in defending their community.

“Participation in actions such as the blockades is a healthy reaction to the history of exploitation of first nations people and can help to lessen the number of suicides among first nations people,” he said.

Mr. Brant said he expects to lose the lawsuit “and owe them a couple of hundred million dollars. They can take my old-age security until the day I die – and I’m sure they will. It doesn’t really scare me at all. I guess they just want to scare the rest of the community.”


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