‘A disgrace’: First Nation Pipeline opponent gets 90 days in jail after ceremony along Trans Mountain route

"So, is there a degree of (anti-Indigenous) targeting happening? That, to me, is a fair question to ask."

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SOURCECommon Dreams
Image Credit: Rita Wong

“A disgrace.” 

That’s how Canadian author and activist Naomi Klein reacted Tuesday to the news that Stacy Gallagher, an Indigenous land defender, had been sentenced to 90 days in jail after being arrested in 2019 for performing a ceremony along the Trans Mountain pipeline route in British Columbia. 

First reported by VICE, which was informed of Gallagher’s plight by a source close to him, the three-month prison sentence handed down by judge Shelley Fitzpatrick comes “despite a new policy that urges prosecutors to avoid jail time for Indigenous peoples if it’s under two years,” an initiative “geared towards protecting Indigenous peoples from a biased justice system.”

According to VICE:

On Tuesday, Stacy Gallagher, 58, appeared in court after being convicted last year with criminal contempt. Gallagher, along with Indigenous elder Jim Leyden, was charged after spending time along the Trans Mountain pipeline route on three separate occasions between November and December of 2019—at times performing ceremonies and always peaceful, two fellow land defenders said.

Gallagher is one of more than 200 people, many Indigenous, who have been arrested for mobilizing against the $12.6 billion pipeline. Since 2018, Trans Mountain has had an injunction that makes it illegal for people to obstruct construction along the pipeline’s route. It’s up to the company to report activities in breach of the injunction, and police to enforce it. Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart and former federal Green Party Leader Elizabeth May have been arrested for protesting it as well.

According to Trans Mountain’s injunction, RCMP officers have to follow five steps when enforcing the injunction, including notifying people on site they are in breach of the law and giving them time to leave without arrest. But Gallagher and Leyden were charged weeks after they were on site.  

Eugene Kung, a staff attorney with West Coast Environmental Law who is not part of Gallagher’s legal team, told VICE: “From what I understand…the arrest and charges were based solely on video evidence, meaning there was never a notice of warning given.”

“There were other non-Indigenous folks there, also presumably caught on camera but now not caught up in the contempt proceedings,” Kung added. “So, is there a degree of (anti-Indigenous) targeting happening? That, to me, is a fair question to ask.”

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