• Protecting Water and Farmland in Simcoe County

Charges stayed against Site 41 protesters

In Simcoe County
Dec 3rd, 2009

By Douglas Glynns Barrie Examiner
MIDLAND — The Crown has stayed the charges against 16 of the 18 people arrested in connection with the protest against dump Site 41 last summer.
Michael Cantlon, acting crown attorney for Simcoe County, told Justice Robert Main yesterday that the charges against the other two protesters – Keith Wood, 82, and his wife,  Ina, 75 – were being withdrawn “on compassionate grounds.”  Mrs. Wood suffered a stroke two weeks ago.
The members of the group were charged towards the end of a 137-day protest that was launched by a small group of women and men from the Beausoliel First Nation to protect the waters of the Alliston aquifer.
The protest gained support from local farmers and citizens and, eventually, widespread national and international support.  In September Simcoe County Council voted to halt development of the dump.   However, the county has declined to revoke the certificate of approval for the dump and many of those who appeared in court yesterday say they will not be satisfied until that happens.
Lawyer Peter Rosenthal, who represented a number of the accused, said afterward that the staying of the charges means they are on the shelf for year.
He said the Crown had indicated it could reinstitute the charges against any of the 16 accused within a year if they were involved in significant civil unrest linked to the site.  While reinstituting the charges remains a discretion of the Crown, he added, the chances of that are remote.  “In effect, the matter is ended and a year from the charges are officially ended. 
Because the charges against the Woods were withdrawn, he said, there is no one-year constraint affecting them.  “They could, if they wanted, go back to Site 41 tomorrow to protest and the charges against them could not be reinstituted.”     
The 16 whose charges were stayed included: Vicki Monague, John Hawk, Elizabeth Brass Elson, Barb Hunt, Bob Ritchie, Anne Ritchie Nahuis, Gavin Jamieson, Danny Beaton, Jen Meunier,  Rick McCrea, Michael Schmidt, David Milne, Bruce Wilkes, Patricia Watts, Andrea Barbuto and  John McNeil.
Asked if he knew why the Crown had decided not to proceed to trial, Rosenthal said, “they don’t tell us what happens internally.
“But, by conjecture, the powerful support the community gave to these people and the fact these people actually did something that turned out to be the right thing to do –  to stop dump Site 41– may, I think, have played a part in the decision. The petition to the government with more than 1,200 names evidence of that support.  What the Crown did today was the right thing to do.”      
Elizabeth Brass Elson – one of the women who launched to protest to protect the water said it had been “a good experience.  I knew everyone was leery, but we kept up a steady push to protect our resources.  After, all protecting the water is not something people did just for themselves; they did it for their children and their children’s children.”
Anne Ritchie Nahuis said she was “very pleased that the charges were dropped against Keith and Ina Wood.  We have a year, so to speak, on probation, but are happy they stayed the charges.
“However,” she added, “as long as the certificate of approval is exists we have to continue working to make sure it is revoked.”

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