Advertisement

Abuse of process hearing for Wet'suwet'en leader, blockade members to resume in June

Wet'suwet'en leader Sleydo', also known as Molly Wickham, is shown at the Gidimt’en Checkpoint encampment near Houston, B.C. She is a Wing Chief of Cas Yikh, a house group of the Gidimt'en Clan of the Wet'suwet'en Nation. (Mia Sheldon/CBC - image credit)
Wet'suwet'en leader Sleydo', also known as Molly Wickham, is shown at the Gidimt’en Checkpoint encampment near Houston, B.C. She is a Wing Chief of Cas Yikh, a house group of the Gidimt'en Clan of the Wet'suwet'en Nation. (Mia Sheldon/CBC - image credit)

An abuse of process hearing for three people found guilty of criminal contempt of court for blocking work on the Coastal GasLink pipeline in November 2021 is being adjourned until June.

Two weeks were scheduled this month in B.C. Supreme Court in Smithers for a trial and abuse of process application for Sleydo', also known as Molly Wickham, a Wing Chief of Cas Yikh, a house group of the Gidimt'en Clan of the Wet'suwet'en Nation; Shaylynn Sampson, a Gitxsan woman with Wet'suwet'en family ties and Corey Jocko, who is Kanien'kehá:ka (Mohawk) from Akwesasne, which straddles the Quebec, Ontario and New York state borders.

The accused were found guilty last Friday by Justice Michael Tammen of criminal contempt of court for breaking a 2019 injunction that impedes anyone from blocking work on the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

Tammen then began hearing the abuse of process application that alleges RCMP used excessive force when they were arrested and that they were treated unfairly while in custody.

The filing asks if the judge doesn't stay their charges, then it would be appropriate to reduce their sentences based on their treatment by police.

The courthouse in Smithers, B.C.
The courthouse in Smithers, B.C.

The courthouse in Smithers, B.C. (Google)

Several RCMP witnesses have testified so far about the two-day raid in November 2021 enforcing the injunction.

Const. Mark Freeman and Cpl. Colin Warwick, who were in charge of police dogs on scene, testified on Friday.

They told the court that the dogs were there to look for people who may be hiding in the area or detect possible booby traps, but they found no people or booby traps.

During two days of testimony earlier this week, Supt. James Elliott spoke about factors that played a role in deciding the resources used to enforce the injunction.

Elliott said he was considering information about half-cut trees along the side of the forest service road that had potential to fall, a social media post that indicated weapons were hidden under the snow in the area, the possibility of booby traps along the road and use of the Kanien'kehá:ka (Mohawk) warrior flag, that police thought indicated heightened activism.

Several other police witnesses also mentioned the potential for booby traps but no one said any were found.

The Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline would run from Dawson Creek to Kitimat, B.C., through traditional territory of the Wet'suwet'en.
The Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline would run from Dawson Creek to Kitimat, B.C., through traditional territory of the Wet'suwet'en.

The Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline would run from Dawson Creek to Kitimat, B.C., through traditional territory of the Wet'suwet'en. (Office of the Wet'suwet'en/CBC)

During cross-examination of the RCMP witnesses, defence lawyer Frances Mahon told the court the social media post was referring to the Haudenosaunee great law of peace, in which five warring nations bury their weapons under a pine tree to unite.

Mahon also played audio recordings in which officers can be heard referring to people being arrested as "orcs" and "ogre." In another recording, RCMP officers can be heard laughing about an officer beating a person being arrested and grabbing and twisting their testicles.

When the hearing resumes, the defence is expected to call several witnesses, including the three accused.

The hearing is expected to resume in Smithers June 17-21.