Criminal charges dropped against group that occupied Muskrat Falls in 2016
With protesters facing civil court charges, Crown ends criminal proceedings on 'double jeopardy' principle
Criminal charges have been withdrawn against 14 people who were involved in protests at the Muskrat Falls project site more than two years ago.
"I cried happy tears of joy when I saw my name and my son's name on the list," said Beatrice Hunter of the Labrador Land Protectors group.
Hunter — who was imprisoned for refusing to tell a Supreme Court judge she would abide by an injunction ordering her not to block traffic or enter the work site — is one of many who have been tied up in both civil and criminal court proceedings since the site's occupation by protesters in October 2016.
The Crown said because the same set of circumstances were dealt with through civil proceedings in Supreme Court, trying them again as criminal charges would violate the legal principle that person can't be tried twice for the same charges, known as "double jeopardy."
"It's so relieving to have your criminal charges dropped. It's not like we were hiding anything when we went inside the Muskrat Falls gate," Hunter said.
For the most part, the 14 people who had their charges dropped were facing one charge of mischief and one charge of disobeying an order of the court each. In one case a charge of taking a motor vehicle or vessel without consent was also dropped.
"It means we're not criminals and hopefully it means for other protectors, like water protectors everywhere, that they're not criminals as well," Hunter said. "Even though it's been almost three years out, it's like the light at the end of the tunnel now."
Civil contempt proceedings, which Hunter is also a part of, concluded last week, and the judge is expected to rule on those matters sometime this summer.
"I pray and hope every day that our civil charges will get dropped as well because we're only trying to save our own lives from Muskrat Falls," Hunter said. "There's still no independent study on the North Spur, and the methylmercury isn't cleared, and that's what drives us."
Other individuals facing criminal charges for their alleged actions at the Muskrat Falls site, including Justin Brake, who was a journalist at the online Independent at the time, had their court matters set over to mid-June.