CROWN BUYS FANTINO'S SILENCE WITH BRANT'S FREEDOM
- Statement from the Tyendinaga Support Committee
(Monday, September 29th, 2008) Today, in a Belleville court, a conviction for three counts of mischief was entered against Mohawk spokesperson Shawn Brant for his role in the CN rail line and Highway 401 blockades which took place in April and June, 2007.
Brant has been ordered to stay on the Tyendinaga reserve for three months and to be on probation for one year. Originally, the Crown had been asking for 12 years in jail for Brant. While Shawn Brant will face no more jail time for the blockades and will not go to trial, there are still 16 people from the Tyendinaga facing criminal charges for defending their community.
The critical issues which prompted the Mohawks to take action have yet to be addressed. Most of the community does not have drinkable water. Most
households have been unable to drink the water from their own taps for at least the last decade. The reserve school, with 300+ students, ranging in age from 2 to 13, who attend daily, has had its water deemed unfit for human consumption for the past eighteen months. In addition, the lands which comprise the Culbertson Tract and Simcoe Deed have yet to be returned.
This despite all levels of governments' admission that the lands do legitimately belong to the Mohawks of Tyendinaga.
In Shawn Brant's case, the dramatic turn-around by government lawyers came after disturbing details of OPP impropriety, abuse of practice and the flaunting of policing guidelines created after the Ipperwash Inquiry were made public in July of this year, following the lifting of a publication ban on Brant's preliminary hearing.
Abuses revealed included OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino's threats to Shawn Brant that "your whole world's going to come crashing down", the orders to have snipers and armored personnel carriers on standby, and the presence of an undercover police officer posing as a media cameraman. The preliminary hearing also revealed that the OPP used an obscure section of the Criminal Code to implement an emergency wiretap of Brant and other Mohawks' telephone conversations, on June 28th, 2007, even though the National Day of Action
had been publicly planned for months.
The Crown went to great lengths to try to keep this critical information from becoming known and was successful in keeping the material under a
publication ban for about a year. The release of these damning details prompted calls for the firing of OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino. Pretrial motions, originally set to begin today, would have seen Commissioner Fantino *subpoenaed* to answer for his conduct leading up to and during the 2007 Aboriginal Day of Action.
Since the blockades of 2007, CUPE Ontario has passed a resolution in support of the Mohawks of Tyendinaga, NDP MPP Peter Kormos has called for the firing of OPP Chief Fantino and thousands of people have attended events, made donations and signed petitions in support of the Mohawks and their demands.
Shawn Brant's arrest and the excessive prison sentence that the crown sought against him were part of an attempt to destabilize the community of
Tyendinaga. However, the Mohawks of Tyendinaga remain united and continue to fight for what should already be theirs: land and clean water.
The Tyendinaga Support Committee is a Toronto-based organization working to support the Mohawks of Tyendinaga.
For more information, visit: www.ocap.ca/supporttmt or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org