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Charges stayed in case of burning traffic barricade
It was ‘politically motivated charge’ says lawyer

May 30, 2009
Thana Dharmarajah
Guelph Mercury Staff

GUELPH [Ontario]

A suspect arrested at a burning barricade that blocked rush-hour traffic in the south end last November has had his arson and mischief charge stayed.

Yehuda Nestel, 24, of Toronto appeared in court yesterday wearing a hooded sweatshirt, jeans and black-framed glasses.

His lawyer, Davin Charney, known for his history of activism, represented Nestel and three others accused in the same incident.

“The arson charge was absurd from the start,” Charney said, outside the courthouse yesterday. “It was a politically motivated charge.”

Two of his other clients, 20-year-old Shabina Lafleur-Gangji of Guelph, facing arson and mischief charges, and 21-year-old Devin Crawford of Hamilton charged with arson, mischief and resisting arrest, are to also have charges diverted. They will likely be expected to make a small monetary donation, Charney said.

“Usually on a serious charge, you are not eligible for diversion, so it’s almost as if they are admitting it’s not a valid charge,” he said.

Police can’t grab numerous individuals and charge them all with the same offence, Charney said.

“It’s clear they had nothing to do with it,” he said of his three clients.

A 34-year-old Guelph woman Amanda Hiscocks, charged with arson and mischief, was also in court yesterday representing herself in the same incident.

In a brown sweatshirt and shorts, she carried a Criminal Code with visible yellow sticky notes.

Hiscocks was part of the group arrested by Guelph Police on November 10.

Police arrived around 8:40 a.m. on Gordon Street South and Clair Road to find a barricade of wood and debris blocking the flow of traffic. At the time, police said the group came towards the police cruiser and one man began kicking at it.

The barricade was then lit on fire, and a flammable liquid was dumped on the barricade to keep it burning, police said.

Signs at the protest read “No cops in Tyendinga,” “No cops in Guelph” and “Dear Nestle I hate you.”

When more officers arrived, the group broke up and fled in different directions.

Assistant Crown attorney Pamela Borghesan said the charges were stayed given the individuals lack of criminal record and the extent of their involvement in the offence.

“The point of the diversion program is that it involves acceptance of responsibility,” she said.

Although, arson is a serious charge, there are different kinds and levels of arson, Borghesan said.

She declined to go into further detail as two individuals involved in the incident are before the courts.

Another one of Charney’s clients, 24-year-old Zachery O’Connor, still faces charges of arson, mischief, assaulting a police officer, resisting arrest and wearing a disguise.

O’Connor and Hiscocks have a preliminary hearing date set for January 25 and 26 to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to head to trial.

All of those facing charges in this incident received funding assistance from a legal fund set up by the human rights office of the University of Guelph’s Central Student Association.

“It’s not just an account set up for us,” said Lafleur-Gangji.

She said the funds are allocated to various human rights cases.

It was set up by a student association member last year; donations come from across the country, Lafleur-Gangji said.

The group declined to reveal how much they received from the fund.

No one affiliated with the university’s human rights office could be reached yesterday.


Guelph, On: Action & Arrests in Support of Mohawks

[Posted by naon on December 6, 2008, to]

On Monday, November 10, an action was carried out in Guelph, in solidarity with the members of the Mohawk Warrior Society of Tyendinaga. The intersection of Gordon Street and Clair road was blocked with debris and loose nails. An attempt was made to light the debris on fire. Protestors held signs and passed out flyers to the waiting motorists. Selections of statements from Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, and statements from the Tyendinaga Support Committee serve to explain the situation facing the people of Tyendinaga:
From Wednesday, November 5, 2008

At present, Tyendinaga Mohawk community members are being targeted for their opposition to an expensive new police station, paid for in part by the Federal Government of Canada, as well as their opposition to quarry operations where no adequate environmental assessments have taken place. (Tyendinaga Support Committee)

In the community of Tyendinaga, more than half the homes can’t drink their water, and the elementary school has had poisonous water for years. Right next to this school the Band Council and the Ministry of Public Safety and Security are building a $1.9 million cop shop.

On September 24th, 2008, the new police building was put on hold after community members blockaded the intended site of the building. Such demonstrations took place again on October 29, 2008. (Tyendinaga Support Committee)

Concern over the second quarry operation stems from alarm at the tremendous speed with which this particular quarry has been established and grown in size. These fears have increased in recent weeks as households in the direct vicinity of quarry operations have experienced water problems and collapsed wells for the first time ever. (Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory)

Build-All Contractors is a company owned by Belleville Police Chief Maracle’s brother, and has been awarded the contracts for both the police station and the quarry.

Currently, warriors in Tyendinaga have been targeted with arrest following these mounting criticisms over Band Council operations and spending. This amounts to an unprecedented attempt to criminalize and jail any effective opposition in the community. This is an attack on our families, our children, our culture and the way we think. This has moved beyond a simple community dispute. The federal government is making a final push to eradicate those people who believe in the strength and power of the Mohawk Nation and who will stand in its defense. (Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory)

At the November 10, 2008 action in Guelph a pamphlet was distributed to the public, explaining:

The location, the intersection of Clair Road and Gordon Street, was chosen, because it is a main economic artery on which trucks ship products and natural resources everyday. The day was chosen because it was the same day arrest warrants were being served in Tyendinaga.

In both Tyendinaga and Guelph (and virtually everywhere else) corporate interests threaten the safety of and access to clean water, a fundamental human right. Just down the road from the intersection where the action took place, Nestle Waters has a permit to extract 3.6 million liters of water per year, all for free. This permit was approved by the Ministry of Environment, despite a massive public outcry in Guelph. The Nestle Water bottling facility is the biggest in North America and poses a direct threat to the quality and quantity of water available in Guelph.

In both Tyendinaga and Guelph funding for police is prioritized over the actual needs of our communities. At the intersection where the action took place a new police station is scheduled to be built. This multi-million dollar endeavor comes at the expense of badly needed social services. In Guelph there is no public funding for safer crack kits, very limited addictions counseling services, and the waiting list for affordable housing includes over 2300 households.

As a result of this action Mandy Hiscocks, Yehuda Nestel, Shabina Lafleur-Gangi, Zach O’Connor, and Devin Crawford were arrested and charged with mischief, arson and a variety of other offences. As a result of the ridiculous bail conditions (including being required to live with a surety and obey a 9pm-6am curfew) some of those have been forced from their homes and communities. Some are now living in unhealthy situations. These charges come at a time of increased police harassment and surveillance of activists in our community, and they are a continuation of police attempts to disrupt political organizing in Guelph. The defendants are being represented by Davin Charney who can be contacted at 226-747-2317.

Ways you can help
Donations to the legal support fund for the defendants in Guelph will be split 50/50 between their defense and financial support of the Mohawk Warrior Society of Tyendinaga. Donations can be made by sending a cheque to:

The Central Students Association
Human Rights Office
Room 244, University Centre
University of Guelph
Guelph, Ontario
N1G 2W1

Include HRO – legal defense fund in the memo line

Take a moment to put pressure on the feds who are helping to make the police station happen. We need to tell the Canada state and their agents to:
(1) immediately stop their attacks, and police brutality;
(2) honour Indigenous rights and jurisdictions;
(3) support the Mohawks’ struggle for self-determination; and
(4) get Canada and Indian Affairs out of Haudenosaunee (Six Nations) Territory.

Peter Van Loan, Minister of Public Safety, House of Commons, Ottawa
phone: 613-944-4875 or 1-800-830-3118
fax: 613-954-5186
email: communications[at]

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