News reports on the first three days of court proceedings against Indigenous land defenders charged with criminal contempt

Published by Brent Patterson on

The Tyee Photo: Corey Jocko, Shay Lynn Sampson and Sleydo’ Molly Wickham stand outside the courthouse in Smithers, British Columbia on Monday January 8. Photo for The Tyee by Amanda Follett Hosgood. The Tyee article can be read at Trial Begins for Land Defenders Arrested at CGL Drill Site (January 9, 2023).

PBI-Canada is monitoring news reports and social media posts on the trial of three Indigenous land defenders – Sleydo’ (Wet’suwet’en), Shaylynn Sampson (Gitxsan), and Corey Jocko (Mohawk) – now on trial for their opposition to the construction of the Coastal GasLink fracked gas pipeline then being built on Wet’suwet’en territory in British Columbia.

They were arrested on November 19, 2021, during a Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Community-Industry Response Group (C-IRG) raid on Wet’suwet’en territory.

CBC has previously reported: “In April [2022], Justice Marguerite Church invited the B.C. Prosecution Service to consider bringing criminal charges against” the land defenders for breaching “a court injunction to stay away from the pipeline construction zone”.

On July 7, 2022, Crown prosecutors decided to pursue criminal charges against land defenders including Sleydo’, Sampson and Jocko.

This is happening despite this call from the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on December 13, 2019, for Canada to halt construction on the pipeline and for the RCMP to be withdrawn from Wet’suwet’en territory. On April 29, 2022, the UN Committee issued its third rebuke calling for the “the Community-Industry Response Group (C-IRG)” to leave the territory.

The Northern View now reports:

“The Crown’s case over the first two days focussed on testimony from and cross-examination of Julie Jones, a private investigator tasked by RCMP with collecting video evidence from social media; James Lank, a security advisor with Forsythe Security, Coastal GasLink’s security contractor; and RCMP corporal Kelly Grant, an officer who provided his own video of the arrest. Other Crown witnesses include Clint Colwell, a construction manager with Coastal GasLink and TC Energy (CGL parent company) officials Jesse Erickson and Tom Munro.”

Photo: “People gather outside the courthouse before the Supreme Court hearing against pipeline opponents Sleydo’ (Molly Wickham), Shaylynn Sampson, and Corey Jocko.” Photo by Morgan Powell/The Interior News.

BNN also notes:

“The trial, which opened its proceedings on Monday in Smithers, B.C., featured the testimony of RCMP Cpl. Kelly Grant alongside video evidence from a two-day raid leading to several arrests at a resistance camp stationed at a pipeline worksite. The video, recorded by Grant, captures RCMP officers reading an injunction and attempting to arrest individuals inside a small house and a cabin. A striking moment in the footage is the use of a chainsaw by the RCMP to break down the door of the small house, resulting in several arrests, including those identified as members of the media.”

And CBC News highlights:

Video footage captured by RCMP during a two-day police raid to enforce an injunction on the Coastal GasLink pipeline was shown in court Wednesday during the trial of three people accused of taking part in a blockade on Wet’suwet’en territory.

The Crown called RCMP Cpl. Kelly Grant to the stand Wednesday.

Video shot by Grant on the day of the arrests was shown in court on Wednesday.

In the video, one of at least three RCMP officers at the scene identified himself as Ken Floyd, who at the time was the RCMP bronze police of jurisdiction commander for North District stationed in Prince George.

Floyd testified Wednesday that he was the one in the video who knocked on the door of the tiny house and read from a script to inform the occupants of an injunction granted by the B.C. Supreme Court in December 2019 that bars anyone from impeding work on the pipeline.

In the next clip filmed by Grant, several RCMP officers are seen back outside the tiny house. 

The video shows one of the officers in tactical gear holding a barking police dog and another officer using a chainsaw to cut the door of the tiny house. Grant said in court he was unsure if the officer brought the chainsaw or was using one found at the location.

The Crown concluded its case Wednesday. On Tuesday, the Crown called several Coastal GasLink workers to testify about their role during the two days of police raids.

Court will resume at 10 a.m. Thursday in Smithers, B.C.

Photo: “RCMP officers on the Morice River Forest Service Road on Friday, Nov. 19, 2021.” Photo submitted by Dan Loan.

We continue to follow this.

The trial is expected to conclude on January 19.

Further reading: Land defenders charged with criminal contempt for defending Wet’suwet’en territory now in Canadian court (PBI-Canada, January 9, 2023)


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