Frack Protester Lois Frank has charges stayed by Katie May, June 21, 2012, Lethbridge Herald
Lois Frank stood stubborn behind a rope barrier, head high, as a swell of oil tankers pulled up behind her, unable to get through the access road to the Murphy Oil well site on the Blood Reserve. Her fellow protesters dwindled as she waited for the police to arrive on that Friday afternoon last September. And then there were three. Police told Frank and two other women to disband their protest, not to take another step. “As soon as I took that step, it felt like an eternity because then I understood what leadership was about,” she said. “As soon as I took that step, I knew what it meant for some of these people who give up a lot to stand up for what they believe,” Frank recalled nine months later in front of the Cardston Provincial Courthouse, prepared to go to trial on charges stemming from the protest. It never came to that; her criminal charges were stayed in court Wednesday morning, so they will not proceed. With new evidence, the intimidation charge against Frank could be brought back within a year, but as Judge Derek Redman told the court, that is rare. Crown prosecutor Bruce Ainscough declined to comment on his motion to stay the proceedings.
Frank and two other women, all members of activist organization Kainai Lethbridge Earth Watch, were charged with criminal intimidation on Sept. 9, 2011 for protesting oil extraction on the reserve involving a process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The other women, Elle-Maija Tailfeathers and Jill Crop Eared Wolf, had their charges dropped earlier this year after they agreed to complete the alternative measures program, which often involves community service or counselling. But Frank, a Lethbridge professor, pleaded not guilty and maintained she had committed no crime by challenging the Blood Tribe’s decision to allow fracking on the reserve – a decision she alleges was made without proper consultation. “I wasn’t prepared to make a deal. I didn’t do anything wrong,” she said. “I have a right to ask, ‘what’s all this oil spilled on the ground?'” For her, the legal outcome of her case was bittersweet.
“It doesn’t answer the bigger questions, but maybe this isn’t the place. I think this is a legal system; it’s not a justice system. If you want justice, you have to go inward, you have to go to your people,”…. “The onus is on the Blood Tribe chief and council to be careful what they sign, the deals they get into, and the fact that they should be consulting with the people.” … “I don’t want people to have to be arrested and I don’t want them to have to go through what I’ve gone through. It’s not pleasant. It takes a really strong person and you know, it’s been hard on me,” she said. “But I hope it inspires people to know that we have rights and just because we’re aboriginal people, that the government does have a responsibility not just to our people but to the land under the constitution.” … “The fact is that we haven’t stopped fracking in southern Alberta, so we still have a lot of work to do,” Rogers said. “I hope that this will inspire people to get involved to see that they can do things and they can even be in the court system and it doesn’t necessarily have to be a terrible outcome for them. Things can be positive.” [Emphasis added]