Nfld. & Labrador

Protesters served papers to leave government offices in Happy Valley-Goose Bay

Sheriff's Officers were at the scene of a demonstration outside government offices Friday, to serve protesters with papers ordering them to leave the property.

Court appearances co-incide with protest at Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs office

Protesters set up a tent outside the Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs office in Happy Valley-Goose Bay Friday morning. (Katie Breen/CBC)

A group of protesters that have been outside government offices in Happy Valley-Goose Bay through Friday have been ordered to leave the premises.

The group was blocking workers from entering the Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs office, setting up a temporary campsite, while 42 others accused of breaking a court injunction during protests at the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric site in October appeared in Supreme Court in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

By 3:30 p.m. AT Friday, Sheriff's Officers served a number of protesters with papers from Supreme Court, ordering them to vacate the premises.

RCMP had visited the protesters Friday morning, warning them it was possible they could be served papers and forced to vacate.

John Learning, one of the protesters served papers, said "it's ridiculous" they're being told to leave.

We have to leave, and we will do that, but they will hear us.- John Learning

"We have a right to do that, especially at a government office. We pay taxes, we are people. We have the right to do this, but they're cutting us off everywhere."

"They're trying to chop us down, they ignore us every way possible, so we're just gonna have to ramp up the pressure on them, that's all."

John Learning says it's ridiculous the way protesters are being stopped from letting their voices be heard. (Katie Breen/CBC)

Learning said the protesters will follow the order, but won't stop protesting.

"We have to leave, and we will do that, but they will hear us."

Earlier on Friday, Denise Cole, one of the people blocking the entrance, said the group wants Premier Dwight Ball to step down as Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs minister.

As long as government refuses to respond, she said protesters will continue blocking the building.

"Government refused to listened to us on Monday and dismissed us and disrespected us," she said.

"This has nothing to do with the staff on the ground but the two ministers that like to call this office home, who are never here, have not listen to our demands and we are not opening this office until we start to have some conversations."

A group came to support those appearing in Supreme Court for allegedly breaking court ordered injunciton at Muskrat Falls (Jacob Barker/CBC)

Slow going in court

The court appearances were staggered throughout the day, mainly for people to inform the judge who they've taken on as counsel. Most said they are represented by St. John's lawyer Bob Buckingham.

"The onus is on Nalcor to show that each of the individuals, that are alleged to have breached this injunction, have done so," Buckingham told CBC's Labrador Morning.

"They have to meet the steps to show that people were aware of the injunction and willfully broke it."

Laywer Bob Buckingham says over 40 people have approached him to deal with their contempt of court proceedings. (CBC)

Buckingham said some protesters call themselves land protectors and think what they did is legitimate. Some don't understand why they were called to court in the first place.

"People are stressed out by this whole process, are upset by it, do not understand the process or the possible consequences of it," Buckingham said.

Buckingham told the judge on Thursday he will likely be asking that all of his matters be set over for a month. Chris King, the lawyer representing Nalcor, said even more time would be needed.

"I'm concerned about the length of time and what could possibly happen," said Jennifer Hefler-Elsen, one of the people called to court. "Because I think there needs to be more action."

Jennifer Hefler-Elsen appeared in Supreme court in Happy Valley Goose Bay this morning. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

'Get done with it and move on'

Craig Brown chose to represent himself. He said he just wants to move on and spend time with his three children.

Government worker confronts protesters blocking access to Happy Valley-Goose Bay building

5 years ago
Duration 1:37
An employee at the Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs office in Happy Valley-Goose Bay tried to cross protesters outside the building on Friday.

"Stand up for your kiddos and this is what you end up with," Brown told the CBC, "I felt back then, it had to be done. I had no choice."

Brown worked as a carpenter for Astaldi, the main contractor on the site, and said the risk was worth it. He said he was supported by his co-workers.

"They were fully behind what I was doing. They fully understood and said 'you have my respect,'" Brown said.

Craig Brown and his mother Blenda. Brown said he will be representing himself and is accepting that he broke the court ordered injunction at Muskrat Falls. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

"I'm proud of what he done, the stand that he took, that he believed in," said Blenda Brown, his mother, who came to court to support him. 

"I appreciate the risk that he took and he didn't take it lightly and he knew that his job could be done but at the time he looked at — I have a family and I believe in what I'm fighting for — and I think that's still there but he just wants to get rid of this court thing."

One protester pleads guilty

Donald Newman could be the first to have his case resolved by the Supreme Court. Newman appeared yesterday, and told the judge he wanted to settle case sooner, rather than later.

In an agreed-upon statement of facts, Newman acknowledged that he did break the injunction. The statement said Newman was one of about 50 people who entered the project site on Oct. 22 and 'occupied' the accommodations complex.

It also said Newman approached security guards, and asked them to allow him to go the main gate to "convince protesters there to let the busses exit the project site."

Some wore 'Labrador Land Protector' pins in court on Thursday. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

Newman said he did know about the injunction generally, but did not specifically read the terms until after he was inside the site.

Nalcor's lawyer said he did not want to suggest imprisonment for Newman, but did suggest to the judge a period of prison stayed or "bound over" — if there was a further breach of the injunction, the penalty would be applied at that time.

King also made the suggestion the judge could impose a fine, with the threat of imprisonment if the fine was not paid.

The judge said he wasn't prepared to make a decision right away, but will on Jan. 17. He said he is not considering imprisonment as a penalty.

Nalcor Lawyer, Chris King waits for the judge to enter the courtroom. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jacob Barker

Videojournalist

Jacob Barker is a videojournalist for CBC Windsor.

With files from Geoff Bartlett and Katie Breen

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