Grassy Narrows Protesters Refuse to Plea to Charges

Posted by admin on Feb 6th, 2007

Grassy Narrows Protesters Refuse to Plea to Charges. Kenora Daily Miner and News, February 6th. Dan Gauthier

Three Grassy Narrows First Nation women, charged with mischief in connection to a pair of highway blockades last summer, refused to enter pleas to the charges during a brief appearance in Kenora provincial court Monday. Adrienne Swain, 27, Bonnie Swain, 32, and Chrissy Swain, 27, told visiting Justice Thomas McKay, from Fort Frances, they neither had a lawyer, nor were they planning to seek one to deal with the charges.Each is facing two counts of mischief related to the July 13, 2006 roadblock at the Highway 17A Kenora bypass, and the July 26, blockade of the English River Road at the Separation Rapids Bridge.

Bonnie Swain told the court she was being represented by Lester John Howse who attended court with the three women, along with approximately 30 supporters seated in the body of the court.

Howse, who hails from Rocky Mountain Territory in Western Canada, told Justice McKay the women would not be entering pleas to the charges. He claimed there was no “rule of law” giving the court jurisdiction over the Swains and that it was a criminal act to press charges against them. “The law speaks for itself,” said Howse. “The court has no jurisdiction over these women.”

In 2005, Howse himself refused to enter a plea to an assault charge, claiming he had diplomatic immunity as a member of the “Signatory Indians”.

However, Kenora Justice Donald Fraser rejected Howse’s claim at the time, reasoning that the Signatory Indians could not be recognized in provincial court as a sovereign nation, and diplomatic immunity would not apply.

Assistant Crown attorney Mary Anne Mousseau noted several other protesters involved in the same incidents have had charges withdrawn upon completing a court-approved diversion – community service – for their offences.

Two other protesters, Leah Henderson, 22, and David Sone, 28, had charges of mischief put over until March 12. Howse said it was the Swains’ fifth appearance in court on the charges and he expected the matter to be dealt with on Monday.

Justice McKay told the Swains their options were to plead guilty, plead not guilty and set a date for trial, or arrange to discuss their matters with Kenora Crown attorney Richard Cummine, who is handling their cases.

The threesome told the judge they didn’t want to take any of these options. As a result, McKay adjourned their cases to Feb. 26 to set a date for trial in front of Justice Fraser. He also recommended that Cummine attend court that date to deal with the charges.

A total of 21 protesters were charged – mainly with mischief – in the two blockades.

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