ABORIGINAL JUSTICE: Warrior Chief John Levi released from custody


8 July 2013
Levi released from custody

  John Levi
  Chief John Levi (photo by Greg Cook SJ)

Warrior Chief John
Levi is free on his own recognizance.  After a hearing held on the Crown’s request to have him
remain incarcerated, the presiding Judge ordered his immediate release with the
stipulation that he remain 100 meters away from SWN corporation equipment or
any of its subcontractors’ machinery and equipment. 

Many native and
non-native people packed the courtroom to show their support; court officials
permitted people to stand in the back as the seats filled up.  When Levi’s case was called, and as he entered
the courtroom, people stood in unison. 
His supporters had also done so on Friday, 5 July, at the initial
hearing.  A different judge heard
the matter today, and he ordered spectators to remain seated, saying he would
clear the courtroom if they did not follow proper court decorum.

The Crown prosecutor
attempted to show that should the court release Levi, a substantial likelihood
of future criminal conduct existed and that detention was necessary to maintain
“confidence and administering justice.” 
The Crown’s own witness, Levi’s supervising probation officer, testified
to the contrary.

The judge emphasized
in his decision that Levi’s probation officer called him an “ideal client,”  noting, “we don’t hear that very often.”  Levi was subject to fifteen conditions
when convicted for a 2011 violation when he was trying to exercise his treaty
fishing rights.  He received an
eighteen-month conditional discharge sentence. Levi has met fourteen of the
fifteen conditions  and completed thirteen
months of the eighteen month sentence, with “no problems.” 

As for the condition
that the Crown alleges Levi has breached (to keep peace and be of good
behavior), the judge noted that Levi has not been convicted of any wrongdoing and
the testifying RCMP officer had no first-hand knowledge of the facts leading to
the arrest.  The Crown had called
the ‘duty officer’ and not the arresting officer, which apparently, is
standard.  Levi’s probation officer
also testified that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) called him
Thursday, 4 July advising him that they were filing charges and asked “what he
needed from them” to “lay a breach” petition. 

As for the charges of
mischief and obstruction, the Crown is clearly attempting to criminalize and
penalize Levi’s supposed standing in the community.  The Crown alleges that Levi incited and encouraged people to
be arrested on 21 June (those arrests form the basis for the obstruction
charge).  The Crown attorney noted
that Levi bears the title “Warrior Chief,” that people stood up in court today
to support him when he walked in and that the courtroom was packed with
supporters, which means people look to him to guide their actions.  The Crown even asked that the judge
order Levi not give advice to anyone in the community.  The judge was not amused with this

The Crown’s entire
presentation demonstrated a fundamental lack of awareness
and knowledge pertaining to traditional Mi’kmaq practices, especially as it
relates to the title “Warrior Chief,” the nature of leadership within the
community, the ceremonial practice of smudging, and the forthcoming Sundance

The next hearing will
occur on 31 July at 9:30 a.m.

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