Shawn Brant receives conditional sentence

Posted by admin on Sep 29th, 2008

Mainstream News article follows Tyendinaga Support Committee Statement

CROWN BUYS FANTINO’S SILENCE WITH BRANT’S FREEDOM- Statement from the Tyendinaga Support Committee: Today, in a Belleville court, a conviction for three counts of mischief was entered against Mohawk spokesperson Shawn Brant for his role in the CN rail line and Highway 401 blockades which took place in April and June, 2007. Brant has been ordered to stay on the Tyendinaga reserve for three months and to be on probation for one year. Originally, the Crown had been asking for 12 years in jail for Brant. While Shawn Brant will face no more jail time for the blockades and will not go to trial, there are still 16 people from the Tyendinaga facing criminal charges for defending their community.

The critical issues which prompted the Mohawks to take action have yet to be addressed. Most of the community does not have drinkable water. Most households have been unable to drink the water from their own taps for at least the last decade.  The reserve school, with 300+ students, ranging in age from 2 to 13, who attend daily, has had its water deemed unfit for human consumption for the past eighteen months.  In addition, the lands which comprise the Culbertson Tract and Simcoe Deed have yet to be returned. This despite all levels of governments’ admission that the lands do legitimately belong to the Mohawks of Tyendinaga.

In Shawn Brant’s case, the dramatic turn-around by government lawyers came after disturbing details of OPP impropriety, abuse of practice and the flaunting of policing guidelines created after the Ipperwash Inquiry were made public in July of this year, following the lifting of a publication ban on Brant’s preliminary hearing.

Abuses revealed included OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino’s threats to Shawn Brant that “your whole world’s going to come crashing down”, the orders to have snipers and armored personnel carriers on standby, and the presence of an undercover police officer posing as a media cameraman.  The preliminary hearing also revealed that the OPP used an obscure section of the Criminal Code to implement an emergency wiretap of Brant and other Mohawks’ telephone conversations, on June 28th, 2007, even though the National Day of Action had been publicly planned for months.

The Crown went to great lengths to try to keep this critical information from becoming known and was successful in keeping the material under a publication ban for about a year. The release of these damning details prompted calls for the firing of OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino. Pretrial motions, originally set to begin today, would have seen Commissioner Fantino subpoenaed to answer for his conduct leading up to and during the 2007 Aboriginal Day of Action.

Since the blockades of 2007, CUPE Ontario has passed a resolution in support of the Mohawks of Tyendinaga, NDP MPP Peter Kormos has called for the firing of OPP Chief Fantino and thousands of people have attended events, made donations and signed petitions in support of the Mohawks and their demands.

Shawn Brant’s arrest and the excessive prison sentence that the crown sought against him were part of an attempt to destabilize the community of Tyendinaga.  However, the Mohawks of Tyendinaga remain united and continue to fight for what should already be theirs: land and clean water.

The Tyendinaga Support Committee is a Toronto-based organization working to support the Mohawks of Tyendinaga.


Mohawk activist Brant avoids jail time. JOSH WINGROVE. Globe and Mail September 30, 2008

The trial of Shawn Brant, who became the face of a series of native blockades across Southern Ontario last year, came to an unexpected end yesterday with a deal that will see him avoid jail time.

Mr. Brant had been facing a slew of mischief charges related to the 2007 aboriginal day of action, when native blockades were erected along highways and rail lines.

In Mr. Brant’s defence, lawyer Peter Rosenthal was set to begin yesterday a lengthy series of pretrial motions alleging misconduct, such as unauthorized wiretaps, by both Ontario Provincial Police officers and Commissioner Julian Fantino.

But after a surprise deal, those pretrial motions were skipped, an agreed-upon statement of fact was read, and Mr. Brant was quickly found guilty on just three mischief charges – two for blocking a rail line and one for blocking Highway 401.

He was sentenced to time already served, a three-month conditional term and one-year’s probation. He can’t leave his reserve during his conditional sentence, and is barred from “unlawful protest” until the end of his probation. He won’t serve jail time.

“I feel good. I feel there’s been a weight lifted off my shoulders,” Mr. Brant said in an interview yesterday. But he also said he was disappointed, having hoped to lay out details of alleged OPP misconduct. Mr. Fantino, who personally intervened in negotiations during the blockade and warned Mr. Brant his “whole world’s going to come crashing down,” would have likely been called to testify.

“It’s a fair trade. It’s [Mr. Fantino’s] secrets for my freedom,” Mr. Brant said.

Mr. Brant was the vocal leader of the day of action, leading protests that shut down a series of highways and rail lines. He’s an outspoken advocate for his Tyendinaga Mohawk nation, advocating for issues such as land claims and access to clean water.

Crown attorney Robert Morrison was rebuffed on a deal a month ago that would have included five years of jail time for Mr. Brant. Yesterday’s deal, while more lenient, avoids a lengthy trial that was set to begin in January.

“The recommended sentence is designed to achieve a number of things,” Mr. Morrison said outside court. “It is designed to reflect Mr. Brant’s criminal culpability in the commission of offences of this nature…and to prevent him from involving himself in unlawful protests in the future.”

Mr. Rosenthal and Mr. Brant still plan to work for changes at the reserve near Deseronto, Ont., where Mr. Brant says schools haven’t had drinkable water for 18 months.

“This is the closure of a chapter, but it’s not closure of the issue,” he said.

Mr. Fantino couldn’t be reached for comment.


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