Two Row Times reporter arrested in Elsipogtog

miles howe

The circumstances of my arrest on November 26th while covering the Elsipogtog story for the Two Row Times and the Halifax Media Coop is in my opinion, a wrongful enforcement of an injunction that I do not believe the RCMP of New Brunswick understand.

The injunction, as it reads, is broken if one is: “Interfering or attempting to interfere by force, threat of force, intimidation, coercion, blocking, standing, or any other unlawful means…specifically within 250 meters from the front or back of any of the Applicant’s vehicles and within 20 meters of the sides of any of the Applicant’s vehicles.”

At the moment of my arrest, I was asking, for the third time, what law, or portion of Justice Clendening’s November 22nd injunction, I was breaking. At the time of my arrest I had parked my car beyond the shoulder of highway 11, and was simply standing on the side of the highway. I was, as I had done the day before, simply snapping photographs of a stationary line of seismic testing equipment.

I was not interfering or attempting to interfere by any unlawful means with the work of SWN Resources Canada. I was simply standing.

Two RCMP officers, including second in command of New Brunswick’s ‘J’ Division, Sergeant Harry Brown, arrested me. This was not my first interaction with Sergeant Brown.

Earlier in the summer Brown used treachery on my recently deceased spouse, contacting her in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in order to obtain my contact information in New Brunswick. He claimed to be a man named ‘Billy’ from Elsipogtog, who I knew. He did not at that point identify himself as an RCMP officer.

Upon my third and most recent arrest, I was taken to the RCMP station in Shediac, New Brunswick. I was provided a solitary cell.

After the initial RCMP attempt at a statement, I spent several hours alone. At some point, at what I imagine was the late evening, an individual who did not identify himself entered my cell. Dressed in a shirt and tie, he noted that he was the new investigator on the case of the shot hole driller that had burned to the ground earlier in the summer.

I was the first respondent to the equipment fire, estimated at $380,000, and called 911 after the flames from the vehicle, parked down a dirt road near the community of Bass River, New Brunswick, began to catch trees aflame. After they had members of the Halifax Regional Police come to my house and knock on my neighbour’s door attempting to locate me, on June 30th I provided a statement to the New Brunswick RCMP as a witness to the fire.

The new investigator, now in the cell, informed me that he would like me to come with him to update my witness statement. I refused. Strangely, about two hours later, he re-entered the cell asking me if I “was dating Suzanne Patles,” a well-known Mi’kmaq activist and treaty scholar.

The next day, now about 24 hours since being arrested, the RCMP presented me a list of conditions that I would have to sign in order to be released. My conditions were to stay one kilometre away from all workers, sub-contractors, work sites and protest sites.

I contacted a lawyer and asked her opinion. She recommended that I sign, as a judge would most likely enforce the conditions anyway.

In hindsight, I probably should not have signed the release form. But this was my third arrest attempting to report from the front lines, and at the moment all I could think about was release and my own personal fatigue with being now almost half a year covering from the front lines.

After signing the conditions, the RCMP brought me my belongings. Unbeknownst to me at the time I signed my release, the RCMP had decided to seize my cell phone and camera as evidence in an unknown, but as yet open, case. I have contacted them several times in an attempt to retrieve my equipment, but they refuse to release it. They have also provided no timeline as to when it will be released. This was a business phone for the Halifax Media Co-op.

With the legal conditions imposed on me, and still without a camera or phone, I no longer have the ability to cover the situation in Elsipogtog from the ground. I will now concentrate my efforts on continuing to explore the ties that exist between various levels of government and industry, and I think the results should be illuminating. I’m excited to be able to contribute two pieces a week to Two Row Times in this endeavor.

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