New Brunswick

Annie Clair, anti-shale gas protester free, charges dropped

Annie Clair had a short court appearance in a Moncton courthouse Monday and saw all charges against her dropped.

Annie Clair says the charges she faced in connection with anti-shale gas protests send a message

Annie Clair and her lawyer, Gordon Allen (Jennifer Choi/CBC)

Anti-shale gas protester Annie Clair had all charges against her dropped in a Moncton courthouse on Monday, almost two years after the charges were laid in relation to incidents near Elispogtog First Nation.

Clair was scheduled for a four-day trial, but the Crown dropped the charges and she walked out to a small group of clapping supporters. Clair hugged her lawyer, Gordon Allen, and thanked him for his work.

"I'm really happy that it's all done and that I don't have any charges," said Clair. "It just shows that I did the right thing. And that I hope that they [provincial government and SWN Resources Canada] realize that this is really important, that they don't do this to any other people any more and that this [shale gas development] stops."

Clair faced six charges stemming from incidents that took place in September and October 2013. She was charged with several counts of obstruction of justice, resisting arrest, assaulting a peace officer.

Annie Clair hugs her lawyer, Gordon Allen. (Jennifer Choi/CBC)
During a six-month period more than 40 protesters were arrested.

Some of the charges Clair faced stem from allegations that she blocked a SWN Resources Canada truck used for seismic testing.

Clair now lives in Halifax and hired Allen as her lawyer. He said a four-day trial would have taken up court resources for minor charges.

"Minor charges, but not minor in the instance," said Allen. "Because having the state come at you and having the risk of a criminal record certainly can be quite onerous and affect one in the future."

"I didn't do anything wrong," said Clair, "I was only trying to protect the water, not only for my people but for everyone." 

Outside of court, Allen compared Clair to American civil rights activists.

"Dealing with segregation, dealing with rights of people to have equal opportunities in society," he said. "People then were often subjected to arrest and many ended up with criminal records."

"And today we look at in retrospect at these people as heroes or people raising awareness for something and we think obviously that's the way it should have been."

Clair said she raised money to pay for her lawyer fees. With the charges dropped, Clair said she plans on giving $1,016 to the Unistot'en First Nation in British Columbia.

She said the money will be put towards their work to stop a proposed pipeline in their community.