Nova Scotia

Man ejected from Atlantic Gold public meeting shocked by 'violence'

A Nova Scotia man says he's shaken and sore after he was arrested in a rough manner at a public meeting about gold mining in Sherbrooke, N.S., on Thursday evening.

John Perkins denies causing disturbance at public meeting into proposed gold mine near Sherbrooke, N.S.

John Perkins, a member of Sustainable Northern Nova Scotia, is looking at legal action after Atlantic Gold called RCMP to have him ejected from a public meeting near Sherbrooke, N.S. (Dave Laughlin/CBC)

A Nova Scotia man says he's shaken and sore after he was arrested in a rough manner at a public meeting about gold mining in Sherbrooke, N.S., on Thursday evening.

John Perkins was among approximately 70 people at the fire hall who had gathered to learn about tailings management at Atlantic Gold.

The company wants to build an open-pit gold mine near Melrose, N.S., about 13 kilometres north of Sherbrooke. Atlantic Gold is in negotiations with Australian mining company St Barbara, which has struck a purchase deal to buy the company.

Perkins said the first of two information sessions had come to a close and he was chatting with other audience members and panellists when a security officer approached and told him he had to leave or police would be called.

Perkins told the CBC he replied, "Are you kidding me?" and the security guard answered, "Do I look like I'm kidding?"

At that point, Perkins says he replied, "No, you look like a doofus."

The security guard left and the second information session began, Perkins said.

In a video recorded by another audience member, Perkins is seen sitting down at the back of the room when the security officer returns with an RCMP officer.

Watch raw video of Perkins's arrest below. (Video by Scott Beaver)

A Nova Scotia man says he's shaken and sore after he was arrested in a rough manner at a public meeting about gold mining in Sherbrooke, N.S., on Thursday evening. (Video from Scott Beaver) 6:22

Perkins is seen standing up and questioning why he has to leave, telling the officers the meeting is public.

He steps away from the officers, and the RCMP officer takes hold of him and begins pushing him toward the exit.

When Perkins briefly holds onto the door frame, the RCMP officer says, "You're resisting arrest right now." 

The officer then picks him up, slams him down, bashes him into the doorway, and hauls him into another room. Perkins is then handcuffed on the floor and removed from the building.

In an interview on Friday, Perkins said he was released from police custody without charges two or three hours later. After he got out, he went to a hospital for treatment of minor hand injuries due to the handcuffing.

Perkins said he's angry about what happened because he maintains he wasn't causing a disturbance and the police response was unwarranted.

"I would like to know how that could happen, how that level of aggression and violence could happen," he said.

RCMP respond

The RCMP said in a news release they were called to the public meeting "due to several persons causing a disturbance."

RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Jennifer Clarke said the security officer at the meeting made the 911 call and reported that a man was being disruptive.

"Despite repeated warnings to leave, the man refused and then resisted the officer's attempt to arrest," the news release said.

Some residents and community groups have opposed Atlantic Gold's proposed open-pit gold mine, which would operate near Melrose, N.S., 13 kilometres north of Sherbrooke. (Submitted by Raymond Plourde )

Police said the man was handcuffed and later released after the company decided not to pursue further legal action.

Asked whether the police officer's handling of Perkins was appropriate, Clarke said: "It's not for me to offer up an opinion on the police officer's conduct. However, if that person wishes to make a complaint, they're welcome to do so."

Company claims 'belligerent' conduct

In a statement, the company said "the individual's conduct led Atlantic Gold's on-site security officer to have concerns."

The company said when the RCMP officer asked the man to leave the building, he refused and became confrontational.

Atlantic Gold's Touquoy mine site in Moose River. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

"We respect people's right to protest, however, they must be respectful, follow the law and avoid belligerent and disrespectful conduct," the statement said. "Nevertheless, the incident is unfortunate and regretful. Our company is committed to open, transparent and respectful dialogue with residents in and around our projects."

The company said it is reviewing the incident.

Other audience members told to leave

Perkins said he was one of four audience members initially told to leave, including freelance journalist Joan Baxter, Scott Beaver of the St. Mary's River Association and Madeline Conacher of the environmental group Sustainable Northern Nova Scotia, of which Perkins is also a member.

In an interview with the CBC's Mainstreet, Baxter said she was dumbfounded by the whole situation.

"There was no sign of any protest, no disruption. There was absolutely no grounds for this to happen. It was inexplicable."

Raymond Plourde, the wilderness co-ordinator at the Ecology Action Centre, was also in attendance at the meeting and said he was also baffled by the response.

"There was no protest. There was no one yelling. There was no rancour of any kind," he said. "It was completely uncalled for and what happened was absolutely shocking. It was like something out of a movie."

Perkins said he is exploring his legal options in relation to the incident.

with files from Mainstreet