8 July 2013
ABORIGINAL JUSTICE: Warrior Chief John Levi released from custody
|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 request.
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 ceremony.
The next hearing will occur on 31 July at 9:30 a.m.