Sinixt woman gets 14 days for criminal contempt

Marilyn James is seen at a rally in March. She received a 14-day conditional sentence today for criminal contempt of court. - Kevin Mills photo
Marilyn James is seen at a rally in March. She received a 14-day conditional sentence today for criminal contempt of court.
— image credit: Kevin Mills photo

Marilyn James, a Slocan Valley resident and local Sinixt leader, was sentenced to 14 days house arrest this morning after a BC Supreme Court judge found her in criminal contempt, but she immediately signalled she would not comply with the terms.

“Take me [to jail] now,” James told Justice Mark McEwan moments after he finished reading his judgement. “I will not stay in my home for two weeks.”

James and Dennis Zarelli were arrested on Perry Ridge on March 4 after McEwan continued an injunction application brought by Galena Contracting, a company hired by BC Timber Sales to extend a logging road. Zarelli earlier pled guilty and received the same sentence.

During her trial, in which she represented herself, the Slocan Valley woman argued she did not impede the company, because its crews were already working beyond a locked gate where she was standing when she spoke to owner Ray Hascarl.

However, McEwan said there was “no question” in his view that she defied the injunction by encouraging people to attend the site. He also said that while standing by the side of the road would not have violated the order, James impeded Hascarl's free passage. He also believed police had reasonable grounds to arrest her.

James said she opposed the work on Perry Ridge because it threatened cultural sites in the area. She and supporters maintained a camp just beyond the gate.

The Crown took no position on sentencing.

When asked if she had anything to say, James replied in part: “I perceive this court to be skewed. I think what this court does is highly unjust to Indian people. I don’t believe I broke any law. I believe you are causing me harm and I say because of what I believe, you should punish me to the full extent of the law … Gandhi got 40 years breaking rocks. I would expect no less.”

“I’m going to disappoint you again,” McEwan said. “I see no reason to impose a different penalty than on [Zarelli].”

James will not go to jail if she abides by the sentence’s conditions, but said she had “no plan whatsoever” to do so. She also said she had “no qualms” fulfilling her “cultural obligations.”

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