October 15, 2007
PROSECUTION SEEKS MINIMUM 12 YEARS OF FEDERAL PENITENTIARY TIME:
If Convicted, Mohawk Shawn Brant Faces Serious Jail Time
On Friday, October 12th, Mohawk spokesperson Shawn Brant of Tyendinaga appeared in court to finalize the details of his impending trial.
Released on bail after spending two months in pre-trial custody, Shawn is currently facing a total of 9 charges in relation to two blockades, one in April 2007, and the other as part of the Aboriginal National Day of Action on June 29, 2007. Included in these charges are 6 "mischief" charges, which the Crown has elected to proceed on by indictment.
The Ottawa-based Crown, Robert Morrison, has indicated that he intends to seek a minimum of 2 years imprisonment per charge, for a minimum sentence of 12 years in a federal penitentiary.
Shawn's trial has been set for January 2009. He will continue to live under bail conditions that include a curfew, inability to leave the Province of Ontario, and a ban from attending any protest of any kind.
In the meantime, the reclamation of the quarry and the fight for the return of the Culbertson Tract to Mohawks of Tyendinaga - the land that lies at the heart of the recent blockades and actions - continues to hold strong. Tyendinaga Mohawks have long established a permanent presence on the former quarry site, with dozens of trailers and families living on the land on a fulltime basis. People are currently making preparations for a long, cold winter.
The severity of the prison time openly being sought by the Crown indicates the punishment the Canadian state is prepared to inflict on First Nations people who struggle for their land and their communities.
Clearly, the gravity of this possible sentence is proof that Shawn is being singled out, in an effort by the colonial authorities to crush First Nations' resistance. The community of Tyendinaga has, through working to re-establish a longhouse, self-governance, and economic self-sufficiency, long been a thorn in the side of the Canadian state, and its project of oppression and genocide of First Nations peoples.
Asking for twelve years prison time is not about the blockades of this summer. It is about sending a loud message to First Nations people who are not interested in submitting to the exploitation of their lands and resources, nor the continued denigration and suffering of their communities.
Shawn is being made an example of, in a state response of fear and concern that First Nations resistance will continue, and will succeed in forcing the rest of this country's population to realize that long-standing crimes against the Mohawk community of Tyendinaga, and all other First Nations communities, must be righted.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
In September of this year, the international community adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, despite high-profile opposition from Canada and three other settler states - New Zealand, the United States and Australia. Article 26 of the UN declaration states: "Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired."
By voting against the Declaration, Canada clearly belies its on-going contempt, racism, and lack of will to negotiate in good faith with or atone for the genocidal crimes committed against the First Nations peoples of this land. Colonialism continues.
The criminalization and persecution of Shawn Brant, a Mohawk who has made great sacrifices to stand up for his community, his people, and his land, serves as a sharp and unacceptable example of this very colonial agenda.
Seeking to send Shawn to jail for the acts of resistance taken by his community is unacceptable. In turn, return of the Culberston Tract to the Mohawks of Tyendinaga is a crucial step in building a new relationship between First Nations peoples and the rest of Canada.
Write or call the Attorney General of Ontario, the Minister of Indian Affairs, and the Head Office of CN Rail, to call for the following:
We demand that:
1. Michael Bryant, Attorney General of Ontario drop the charges against Shawn Brant, who, if convicted, could face serious time in a federal penitentiary.
2. CN Rail abandon its multi-million dollar lawsuits against Shawn Brant, Jason Maracle, and Tara Green.
3. The Provincial and Federal governments return all lands that rightfully belong to the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte and immediately cease exploitation of resources on those lands, thereby committing to negotiating land claims issues in good faith, and to honest governance for all Ontarians.
4. The Federal and Provincial Governments to engage in meaningful dialogue to end the exploitation of First Nation lands and resources.
ADRESS YOUR DEMANDS TO THE FOLLOWING:
Attorney General of Ontario
Ministry of the Attorney General
720 Bay St, 11th Flr
Toronto ON M5G 2K1
Tel : 416-326-4000
Fax : 416-326-4016
Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
Phone: (613) 992-2940
Fax: (613) 944-9376
Canadian National Railway Company
935 de La Gauchetière Street West
2. MAKE A DONATION:
Shawn Brant faces a jury trial that will likely last 3-4 weeks. Although the two defence lawyers have generously donated their time free of charge, there are still significant costs associated with the defence. Travel and accommodation expenses will be incurred as the trial is being held in Napanee, over 200 km from Toronto. Expert witnesses need to be paid, transcripts and other documents must be obtained, and there are significant other expenses generated in mounting the defense for a lengthy and complex jury trial.
In addition to defending Shawn Brant, the campaign to have the quarry license revoked and the Culbertson Tract returned to the Mohawk community requires the maintenance of an effective presence over the winter at the reclaimed quarry site on the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory. Doing this will put a substantial financial burden on the community. They will have to pay for winterization and equipping of the housing units, purchase of a diesel generator, fuel for heating, electricity and transport, additional clothing and food.
To cover the legal costs and to contribute to the winterization of the quarry site the Tyendinaga Support Committee has set a target of $40,000 for the Tyendinaga Legal Defence Fund. The money collected will be divided between legal costs incurred by Shawn Brant's counsel, and funds needed to winterize the quarry site in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory.
Shawn Brant must have adequately funded legal representation if he is to successfully defend himself against a very determined Crown Attorney who is set on making an example of him. To adequately prepare the case, defense counsel needs funds sooner rather than later. For example, expert witness reports cannot simply be secured at the last minute if the money happens to come in. Defence strategy is seriously impaired if we don't know what we're looking at in terms of incoming funds and tailoring strategy. Thus far this embattled community, in the forefront of indigenous struggle, has received little financial support for their legal battle. So it is with a sense of urgency that we request you to act on this appeal as soon as possible.
All donations are valued and appreciated.
CHEQUES PAYABLE TO:
Tyendinaga Legal Defence Fund
c/o 10 Britain Street
3. READ MORE:
RECENT BACKGROUND INFORMATION:
Shawn Brant: Another case of Canada's political persecution of indigenous people (Justin Podur, September 19/07)
Free Shawn Brant: Toronto Event: August 29/07
4. GET INVOLVED:
If you are interested in finding out about organizing efforts to support the Mohawks of Tyendinaga, if you would like to work with the Tyendinaga Support Committee here in Toronto or people in other cities, or if you think progressive union local, organization, school, or faith group would like to learn more about this struggle, please visit our website or contact:
Tyendinaga Support Committee:
support.tmt (at) gmail (dot) com