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NEWS: Charges against anti-fracking activist Lois Frank are stayed


Lois Frank at the blockade

The Lethbridge Herald reports, “Criminal charges (against Lois Frank) were stayed in court Wednesday morning, so they will not proceed. With new evidence, the intimidation charge against Frank could be brought back within a year, but as Judge Derek Redman told the court, that is rare. …Frank and two other women, all members of activist organization Kainai Lethbridge Earth Watch, were charged with criminal intimidation on Sept. 9, 2011 for protesting oil extraction on the reserve involving a process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The other women, Elle-Maija Tailfeathers and Jill Crop Eared Wolf, had their charges dropped earlier this year after they agreed to complete the alternative measures program, which often involves community service or counselling. But Frank, a Lethbridge professor, pleaded not guilty and maintained she had committed no crime by challenging the Blood Tribe’s decision to allow fracking on the reserve – a decision she alleges was made without proper consultation.”

“Frank said she hopes her legal struggle will inspire others to get informed and question their leadership. ‘I don’t want people to have to be arrested and I don’t want them to have to go through what I’ve gone through. It’s not pleasant. It takes a really strong person and you know, it’s been hard on me… But I hope it inspires people to know that we have rights and just because we’re aboriginal people, that the government does have a responsibility not just to our people but to the land under the constitution.'”

The newspaper report also notes that, “A handful of Frank’s supporters and environmental group representatives gathered outside the courthouse, some holding anti-fracking signs, some calling a victory in the case of ‘Lois and Goliath’. But they recognize there’s a lot more work to do, according to Sheila Rogers, chair of the Lethbridge chapter of the Council of Canadians. ‘The fact is that we haven’t stopped fracking in southern Alberta, so we still have a lot of work to do,’ Rogers said. ‘I hope that this will inspire people to get involved to see that they can do things and they can even be in the court system and it doesn’t necessarily have to be a terrible outcome for them. Things can be positive.'”

The Council of Canadians has been working in solidarity with Frank and others against fracking on the Blood Reserve for well over a year.

In March 2011, we noted that the Council of Canadians Lethbridge chapter has been supportive of the effort by Blood Tribe members to stop fracking on Kainai Nation lands and on the Oldman River Watershed. By June 1, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow and Rogers (noted in the Lethbridge Herald news report above) went to the Blood Reserve to hear from Harley Frank about how the Blood Tribe leadership, without prior consultation, had signed a deal with Calgary-based Bowood Energy and US-based Murphy Oil to lease almost half of the reserve’s territory for hydro fracking. Reflecting on that visit, Barlow stated, “I want to declare my strong support for those members of the Blood community who are resisting a massive new fracking operation planned for the reserve. …Fracking on the Blood Reserve will poison the community’s water supplies and endanger the Oldman River, the water supply for the City of Lethbridge.”

Just three months later, on September 9, Council of Canadians Prairies organizer Scott Harris wrote, “Since early last night, a group of Indigenous women who are members of the Blood Nation (also known as the Kainai), located just west of Lethbridge, Alberta, have been blocking the road leading to one of the hydraulic fracturing (fracking) sites of Murphy Oil — one of two companies which have signed leases to frack on the reserve that is home to some 10,000 members. The women have vowed not to move until plans for fracking are stopped.” Rogers was at the blockade site offering support to the women and updating Harris throughout the blockade.

During the blockade, Barlow issued this statement, “In June, I had the honour of being invited by members of the Blood Nation to visit their beautiful land, and I was incredibly moved to witness firsthand the unswerving commitment of the people there to stop fracking from poisoning their water, land and people. I declared then that they had my complete support in their struggle, and today I once again offer my absolute solidarity to the Kainai people who are putting their bodies on the line to stop this destructive process. I’ve just returned from Guatemala, where I witnessed the incredible fight of indigenous people there to stop the destruction caused by the Canadian mining company Goldcorp, and I praise the courage and leadership of First Nations peoples from the highlands of Guatemala to the foothills of the Rockies and around the world who are leading the struggle to protect the Earth and future generations with their bodies and their courage.”

On the evening of September 9, around 10 pm, Lois Frank, Elle-Maija Apiniskim Tailfeathers and Jill Crop Eared were arrested. On September 13, Harris wrote, “The three have been charged with ‘intimidation’ will appear in court on September 19 at 10:00 am at the Provincial Court Building in Cardston, Alberta. The three have legal counsel, but are asking that anyone in a position to help assist them with funds for legal fees. For donations, please contact Ingrid Hess, Barrister at ingrid.hess@shaw.ca.”

On October 18, the Canadian Press reported that, “Three women facing a charge of intimidation for blocking a road used by an oil company on an Alberta First Nation (were in court in Cardston yesterday). …The women’s next court date is Dec. 21.” APTN reported on that December court appearance, noting, “The three women have some high profile supporters. Maude Barlow of the Council of Canadians has visited the community and given the women her organization’s full support, including a contribution to their legal defense. Climate change advocate Bill McKibben and film director Josh Fox have also made statements in support of the women.”

The Council of Canadians honours Lois Frank, Elle-Maija Apiniskim Tailfeathers and Jill Crop Eared for their courage and actions in defence of their land and water against fracking.

This story is told through these blogs:
UPDATE: Lethbridge chapter supports Blood Tribe members call for fracking moratorium
NEWS: Maude Barlow visits Saskatchewan, Alberta
Women of the Kanai Nation blockade Murphy Oil fracking site
NEWS: Kainai women arrested blocking road to prevent fracking on Alberta reserve
Official statement on Kainai fracking blockade
NEWS: Blood Reserve fracking opponents back in court, Dec. 21
NEWS: Kainai anti-fracking activists make their legal arguments
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