One of the top mining companies in Manitoba won a court injunction Wednesday to stop aboriginal protesters from blocking access to two of its remote mines.
But Justice Glenn Joyal's court order could end up having no more clout than similar injunctions issued by courts in Manitoba and other provinces to restrict Idle No More protestors, who've called for a national day of action today to mark International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
In approving the temporary injunction on behalf of Hudson Bay Mining & Smelting, Joyal said he expects protesters from Mathias Colomb Cree Nation (MCCN) to follow it and perhaps more importantly, RCMP to enforce it.
"The intention has to be to enforce the order," Joyal said to lawyers representing the Mounties. "I'm confident the injunction will be respected and that the parties will in good faith carry on about their business."
An RCMP spokesman said late in the day the Mounties were reviewing the injunction.
A judge criticized the RCMP in January for not enforcing an injunction on behalf of Canadian National to remove protesters from a rail line west of Portage la Prairie.
Joyal's decision came after a heated hearing in which about a dozen members of MCCN and its supporters stormed out of the courtroom. Those supporters wore Idle No More pins and included members of the Manitoba arm of the American Indian Movement.
Winnipeg police and extra sheriff's officers were present to contain any possible outburst.
"It's unfortunate that we weren't able to have an honourable day in court," MCCN Chief Arlen Dumas said later.
"Our legal representatives were continuously interrupted. They were called childish insults. It's unbelievable that type of conduct is allowed to be had from one of our justices in something that's supposed to be an honourable institution.
"Every Canadian, every Manitoban, should be shocked at what has happened here today," he added.
"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."
Dumas said the HBM&S mine projects are on his band's traditional territory and the company does not have permission to extract its resources.
Failure of the province and HBM&S to discuss the issue led to two blockades Jan. 28 and March 5 at the company's Lalor project near Snow Lake.
The hearing also saw a frustrated Joyal threaten to kick one of those supporters out of the courtroom after someone groaned loudly during an exchange by band lawyer Sunil Mathai and Joyal about whether the band's blockade was an expression of their right to free speech.
"If you're going to interrupt me and my exchange with counsel, you'll be out of this court so quick your heads will spin," an angry Joyal said.
"I'm not going to have our courtroom discussions with counsel interrupted. Do you understand?"
HBM&S lawyer Jim Edmonds said the company needs an injunction to stop MCCN and Dumas from engaging in any further acts that interfere with the mining company and its employees, including putting the safety of those workers at risk, both at its Lalor and Reed Lake project, 120 kilometres east of Flin Flon.
"Make no mistake about it, these were blockades," Edmonds said.
Edmonds also said HBM&S doesn't want to quash the band's ability to demonstrate. It doesn't want protests to prevent workers from doing their jobs or be conducted on remote roads used by heavy trucks. The company is one of the largest employers in Manitoba's north.
Dumas said it remains to be seen whether the band will respect Joyal's decision.
"I will have to go back to my community where we will discuss it and weigh out all of our options," he said. "We will decide in a prudent way how we proceed.
"I have always been one who respects the rule of law. I've always followed that respectful relationship. I'm well aware of my role as a treaty-holder and a First Nations person."