CN secures right to prosecute railway blockers – Williams Lake Tribune
CN Rail will be able to privately pursue criminal charges against three anonymous people involved in a February 2020 blockade of company tracks in New Hazelton.
In a British Columbia Supreme Court (BCSC) ruling earlier this month, Justice Ward Branch ruled that “failure to uphold the possibility of a verdict of criminal contempt may harm the administration of Justice “.
In the legal process, CN sought the right to sue for criminal contempt of an injunction against train blockades for the 12 of those originally arrested, who blocked the tracks in solidarity with those arrested who blocked Coastal GasLink (CGL) access to its Houston site from January 2020.
The BC Prosecution Service (BCPS) refused to prosecute any criminal charges against the New Hazelton blockers in April 2021. For the first nine people, prosecutors said they could not establish that the protesters had prior knowledge of the terms. of the injunction.
For the other three, while there was sufficient evidence that they had prior knowledge, the BCPS concluded that it was “not in the public interest” to prosecute on the basis that it did not. there had been no violence or material damage; that they were otherwise cooperative; that the injunction had been executed successfully and had not been violated since; and that prosecution amid a COVID-19 outbreak would present health concerns.
In its arguments, CN cited the precedent of an earlier BCSC ruling which granted the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority the right to bring private criminal charges against port blockers associated with the same movement in solidarity with the opponents of CGL.
The prosecution and the defendants argued that the court should allow civil contempt proceedings to continue rather than criminal proceedings.
The Directorate General of Justice disagreed, citing respect for the court and the administration of justice as paramount and referring to the decision of the port authority.
“I find that the possibility of a criminal contempt conviction cannot and should not be overturned simply because the civil contempt remains available,” Justice Branch wrote. “As Justice Tammen pointed out in VFPA, criminal contempt is a separate tool available to the Court to ensure that its orders are not flagrantly violated. “
That being said, Branch did not clear the way for a criminal prosecution of the 12 defendants.
For the first nine people arrested, Branch concluded that the initial BCPS assessment did not contain sufficient evidence that the defendants had prior knowledge of the injunction was sound and decided that the criminal contempt should not be on. Table.
For the latter three, however, the judge ruled that the criminal prosecution was reasonable, saying that the BCPS’s reasoning about the absence of violence or property damage, the cooperation of individuals and the lack of a subsequent blockade did not fail. mitigated the illegality of the initial actions.
The prosecution did not name those arrested in which category, prompting the judge to say that he expects the BCPS to voluntarily pass the information on to the court and that the parties (CN) or parties “may appear before me for further instructions.”
CN has yet to say whether it will lay criminal charges.