Shawn Brant released on bail

Posted by admin on May 3rd, 2007

Intelligencer, 3 May 2007 Samantha Craggs

NAPANEE — The spokesman in a Mohawk protest at a Deseronto quarry is out on bail on the condition he not participate in any unlawful protests. Shawn Brant has been ordered to keep the peace and not participate in any protests that block roads, railways or other thoroughfares on or off Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory. He will appear in court again June 26. Brant is charged with mischief, disobeying a court order and breach of recognizance in connection with a 30-hour blockade of a Canadian National rail line April 20. The warrant for his arrest was issued five days later.

Both Crown Attorney Bob Morrison and Brant’s lawyer Peter Rosenthal agreed to bail, which was posted by Brant’s wife. But Morrison argued for the amendment regarding protesting, citing media articles where Brant “in fact promised” to reoffend by taking the occupation of the Thurlow Aggregates gravel quarry to local highways, railways and the town of Deseronto if the quarry’s licence is not suspended.

The blockade caused about 3,500 passengers to make alternate travel arrangements without notice, and Canadian National has said its financial losses are in the millions, Morrison said.

But Rosenthal said Brant was promised immunity from any charges by Ontario Provincial Police officers if the blockade was removed by 6 a.m., which it was. Orders to lay charges anyway, he said, came directly from OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino. Rosenthal read a written account from Napanee OPP Insp. Ron Van Straalen, who said he could see how the conversation would be interpreted as promising immunity.

Rosenthal, a social justice lawyer who represented the family of slain aboriginal Dudley George in the 2004 inquiry in the Ipperwash stand-off, said he will bring that up at the trial. It is “another broken promise to the First Nations community,” he said.

“I’m astonished this is taking place at all and that we’re before you today,” he said.

Brant has been the spokesman for a group of native protesters who have inhabited the quarry since March 22. The quarry is located on the Culbertson Tract, 923.5 acres currently subject to land claim negotiations between the federal government and the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte. The protesters say they will stay until the quarry’s licence is revoked.

Brant turned himself in to Napanee OPP Thursday morning in a surrender previously negotiated by Rosenthal and police. The surrender happened without incident, except it was initiated by a detective other than the one Rosenthal had arranged for, to which Rosenthal objected. Brant, Rosenthal and an officer waited about 15 minutes to complete the arrest until the detective was on the scene.

Before turning himself in, Brant said he and fellow quarry occupiers made the decision because they feared the warrant would detract attention from their cause.

“We don’t run, we don’t hide and we don’t want that suggestion to be made,” he said.

Brant appeared at the bail hearing later that day, handcuffed and sitting quietly during the proceedings. The audience was filled with Brant supporters, many of them First Nations people.

Jason Maracle, one of the protesters, said the arrest does not impact the occupation. He was, however, quieter about their future plans.

“We’ll leave that up to Canada’s spy agencies,” he said. “We’ll leave it to the experts to figure it out.”

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