Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Chief storms out of court during hearing over mining blockades

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Mathias Colomb Cree Nation Chief Arlen Dumas stormed out of a Court of Queen's Bench hearing today being held to restrict his band from blockading Hudson Bay Mining & Smelting mine sites in the province’s north.

Dumas led an entourage out of the court precisely at 1 p.m. and told reporters outside he believed the northern band was not being treated fairly by Justice Glenn Joyal.

"It's unfortunate that we weren't able to have an honourable day in court," he said.

"Our legal representatives were continuously interrupted. They were called childish insults. It’s unbelievable that that type of conduct is allowed to be had from one of our justices in something that’s supposed to be an honourable institution."

Dumas and about a dozen supporters, most wearing Idle No More pins and including members of the Manitoba arm of the American Indian Movement, abruptly got out of the their seats and left the courtroom during an exchange by band lawyer Sunil Mathai and Joyal over whether the band’s blockade of the HBM&S Lalor project near Snow Lake twice this year was a lawful assembly and an expression of their right to free speech.

Dumas described the proceedings as protecting the interests of big business over the rights of ordinary people.

"Every Canadian, every Manitoban, should be shocked at what has happened here today," he said. "He never bothered to ask, ‘What is your side of the story?’ When we attempted to tell our side of the story, he interrupted and insulted and defended the company the whole way."

Lawyers for HBM&S want an injunction to stop the Mathias Colomb and Dumas from engaging in any acts that interfere with the mining company and its employees.

The company also argues that the two past blockades and any future blockades are bad for it business. The company is one of the largest employers in Manitoba’s north.

There is also a fear that without a court order prohibiting the band from blocking mine-site access roads, tensions on both sides could flare up.

The company wants RCMP to enforce such a order by making arrests. RCMP have been on hand at the two earlier blockades, but only to maintain the peace.

RCMP and other police services have been criticized for refusing to enforce court injunctions granted in other provinces to end rail blockades by the Idle No More movement.

Dumas would not comment on whether Mathias Colomb would respect an injunction should Joyal grant one.

"I will have to go back to my community where we will discuss it and weigh out all of our option. We will decide in a prudent way how we proceed."

The Idle No More movement is calling for a day of action across the country Thursday to markInternational Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.


Updated on Wednesday, March 20, 2013 at 2:57 PM CDT: updates with full writethru

3:42 PM: adds missing word

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