[S.I.S.I.S. note: The following mainstream news article may contain biased or distorted information and may be missing pertinent facts and/or context. It is provided for reference only.]
The first of two groups of native protesters who occupied the Westbank First Nation offices for two days were released from custody Wednesday to shouts of jubilation from their supporters in the courtroom. Mr. Justice Holmes, who was in the courtroom. Mr. Justice Ronald Holmes, who was in Kelowna to deal with the civil contempt of court case, released five Native Youth Movement members on the condition that they not go near the Westbank band office except for legitimate purposes. Nine other members, who were involved in a similar protest last month at the BC Treaty Commission in Vancouver, agreed to an additional undertaking to keep the peace.
Homes modified a request by Westbank band lawyer Grant Hardwick asking that the undertaking require the nine defendants to not obstruct the treaty negotiation process, indicating that it might interfere with their rights to free speech. Nine more protesters, who had not been held in custody, will appear today, It's also thought an appearance date on the charges for all of those involved will be set today. That day will likely be about two weeks away so that the Crown can decide whether to raise the charges to a criminal level. "The more public the defiance, the closer you get to criminal charges," said Crown counsel Norm Yates, who was not involved in Wednesday's civil proceeding.
Hardwick said the band's civil action would be put on hold if criminal charges were laid. He didn't object to Holmes' keep the peace order replacing his request the group undertake not to disrupt the treaty process. "We wanted to make sure that this kind of thing doesn't happen next in Prince George or Pemberton," he said. "From a legal perspective keeping the peace should preclude them from occupying private property." Noting that only the group involved in the Vancouver protest were ordered to keep the peace as a condition of their release, Hardwick said restrictions on accused escalate with each incident.
"In Vancouver, they let them go with an undertaking that they not go back to the treaty commission (offices)," he said. "Now we have something broader. If they do it again they may have to cool their heels in the bucket." Westbank band councillor Larry Derrickson said insurance adjusters were estimating the amount of damages to the offices. He said the band, in pursuing civil damages against the protesers, would also come up with a claim for lost productivity of staff. The occupation of the band offices by 40 NYM members came to a peaceful conclusion Tuesday night with 23 members being escorted to jail. Seventeen others left the building after an injunction was read and were allowed to walk away without facing charges.
Westbank Band Council
Phone (250) 769-4999
Fax (250) 769-4377
Kelowna RCMP detachment
Phone (250) 762-3300
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