Judge in Aamjiwnaang blockade didn’t disclose past work for CN: Plain

ON THE LINE  Members of the Aamjiwnaang First Nation block the CN Rail Line into the Chemical Valley as part of the Idle No More protest against Bill 45. The judge who ordered the blockade come down was recently found to have worked as a lawyer for the rail line in the past.Heather Wright Photo

ON THE LINE Members of the Aamjiwnaang First Nation block the CN Rail Line into the Chemical Valley as part of the Idle No More protest against Bill 45. The judge who ordered the blockade come down was recently found to have worked as a lawyer for the rail line in the past.
Heather Wright Photo

The lone person still facing criminal contempt charges after the Aamjiwnaang blockade of a CN Line over Christmas says a Toronto judge who ordered the blockade come down didn’t say he had worked for the rail line in the past.

Members of the First Nation blocked a spur line leading into the Chemical Valley for nearly two weeks. CN wasted little time going to court to get an injunction against the move which was part of the support of Chief Theresa Spence who was then on a hunger strike to raise awareness of First Nation’s issues.

Justice David Brown of Ontario’s Superior court gave CN an injunction at a hearing in Toronto and then, a week later, harshly criticized Sarnia’s police chief for not acting on it. Phil Nelson at the time said he was making every effort to ensure the blockade came down peacefully.

The Aboriginal People Television Network recently found a court case where the same judge asked the defendants of another case if he should step down from their case because he had worked for CN.

“At the commencement of the hearing I advised the parties that when I practiced law I had acted for CN on some tax litigation and served as a witness for CN in some U.S. regulatory proceedings.  I told counsel that I would retire for a short time to enable them to consult with their clients and, on my return, one counsel was to inform me whether any (unnamed) party objected to my hearing the motions.  No party raised any objection,” wrote Brown in the ruling CN vs Holmes in August 2011.

Ron Plain, who spoke to the media for the people at the Sarnia blockade and still faces contempt charges, was angry on hearing the news.

“The fact that the judge in a previous case admitted his involve with CN to both parties was the right thing to do,” says Plain. “In our instance that was not the case.”

Plain referred questions about whether the information could help in his case to his lawyers. They were not immediately available for comment.

Meantime, Chief Nelson, who was criticized by the judge, was surprised by the news. “It is what it is,” he says. “I still have the greatest respect for the judges on the bench; they have a difficult job. I accept the fact that he did not particularly think we were taking the necessary action,” he says.

“I have had numerous people talk to me about this and 90 percent have supported what we did and 10 percent were against it.”

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