Sep 22/98: Charges against Mohawk activist thrown out



Canadian Press
September 22, 1998

[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.]

VALLEYFIELD, Que. (CP) - A Quebec Superior Court judge acquitted a Mohawk activist of tobacco smuggling charges on Tuesday before a jury even heard his defence. Justice Jean-Guy Boilard told the jury that after listening to witnesses and reading documents filed in the case, he had determined there wasn't any evidence against Loran Thompson.

Thompson, 50, gained notoriety during the 1990 Oka crisis and has twice been featured on national TV talking about his business operations while displaying goods about to be smuggled - all while insisting it wasn't smuggling but native prerogative.

Boilard did not acquit Thompson's daughter, Tina, and her boyfriend, Edward Roundpoint, of similar charges on the grounds that there is "not an absence of proof against them." Reasons for Boilard's decision on those charges cannot be made public because the case against the other two continues.

Loran Thompson had dismissed his lawyers last week after being refused permission to make a statement in court on the grounds that as long as he had counsel, they would speak for him. As in other cases where an accused represents himself, the judge had no choice but to look out for Thompson legal interests.

Monday's decision overshadowed what Thompson former lawyers, who are still representing Tina Thompson and Roundpoint, said marked the first time in Canada that native peoples have argued aboriginal rights in a criminal case. Until recently, native autonomy issues have been excluded from criminal and civil courts.

But Boilard is allowing the jury to hear such arguments after the Supreme Court of Canada ruled last year that aboriginal title could not be arbitrarily extinguished and that aboriginal oral history can legitimately be entered into evidence.

The defence's first witness was Francis Boots, a Mohawk who also played a prominent role in the Oka crisis. He told the jury that he believes the Mohawks are a nation, a free people whose ability to adhere to their beliefs is compromised by the borders and laws of other nations.

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