By Samantha Craggs
Tuesday, July 03, 2007 - 10:00
Local News - Canadian National says it is examining its legal options after a local aboriginal protest prompted it to halt traffic last week.
The company is “reviewing our legal options and determining what’s available to us,” said spokesman Frank Binder of the rail line blockade on Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory during Friday’s national aboriginal day of action. The threat of a blockade stopped an estimated $103 million worth of freight and about 5,000 passenger trips.
A 30-hour blockade in April by the same Mohawk group, led by Shawn Brant, has already resulted a variety of legal actions. CN Rail obtained a court injunction in May preventing its rail line from being blocked, an injunction that proved useless Friday. The corporation also launched a civil suit for an undisclosed amount against Brant, Jason Maracle, Tara Green, “John Doe, Jane Doe and persons unknown.”
CN Rail said in a media release Friday that it stopped traffic because the OPP refused to intervene and uphold the injunction. But in an interview Tuesday, Binder said they are happy everyone is OK.
“Things are pretty well back on track...and we’re just thankful no one was hurt,” he said.
Friday’s national aboriginal day of action was a call for peaceful uprising and public education for Canada’s First Nations communities. Locally, it saw Brant and a group of protesters who have been inhabiting a Deseronto-area quarry threaten to block Highway 401 and the CN Rail line. The former threat resulted in police shutting down the highway for 11 hours.
Brant will turn himself in to Napanee OPP Thursday morning on charges of mischief and breach of recognizance. He was already out on bail on charges resulting from the April blockade on the condition that he not participate in any unlawful protests.
Brant negotiated the surrender through his lawyer, Toronto-based social justice lawyer Peter Rosenthal, said Const. Jackie Perry with Napanee OPP. Police have been trying to arrest Brant since the warrant was issued but can’t find him, she said.
“There have been attempts to find Mr. Brant and execute the warrant,” she said. Tyendinaga Mohawk police officers “have been looking for him.”
Brant’s bail hearing will likely be that afternoon in Napanee court, said Rosenthal.
“The police, I think, recognize that (Shawn) is a man of his word, and when he says he’ll show up to surrender on Thursday, he will do so,” he said.
Chief R. Donald Maracle of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte said it was disappointing that so much attention focused on Brant rather than the issues.
“The media tends to be interested in deeds, feathers and blockades,” he said. “This issue isn’t about one individual and one blockade...I really felt there could have been more coverage of the issues.”
Band council’s information campaign in Shannonville Friday morning, where traffic was slowed and motorists given sheets of information, “went very well,” Maracle said.
Christine Claus, vice chair of the Tyendinaga Native Women’s Association, said the group was also pleased with its information campaign on Highway 49. The day seemed to achieve its goal of heightened awareness, she said.
“On the national level, I felt that all of the news coverage I saw on TV was very complimentary because it showed some of the positive things,” she said.