Congratulations Justin Brake for standing up for press freedoms! Pfffffft on all the dirty judges involved and the crown for pissing on the “rule of law,” yet again. edfromred: “Shame on the…In-Justice System that never misses a chance to oppress the little guy and rush to the defense of corporations.”

Justin Brake@JustinBrakeNews dad. husband. journalist. settler on unceded Algonquin territory. Mi’kmaq ancestry but not Indigenous. he/him. born @ 338 ppm. decolonize. email hidden; JavaScript is required

Justin Brake@JustinBrakeNews June 30, 2020

This morning the crown informed an NL Provincial Court Judge that it did not wish to submit evidence in my case, bringing an end to an almost four-year-long legal saga that arose from my coverage of the 2016 Indigenous-led occupation of #MuskratFalls in Labrador. 1

The outstanding charge was criminal mischief > $5,000. The charges brought against me represented a significant threat to #pressfreedom in Canada and were cited by @RSF_inter as a reason for Canada’s drop out of the top 20 countries in the 2017 World Press Freedom Index 2

The conclusion of this litigation vindicates my decision to follow land protectors and their supporters onto contested lands and report an event of national and historical significance. An event that was and is clearly in the public’s interest to be informed about. 3

A landmark court decision in March 2019 not only affirmed that my status as a journalist ought to have been considered when a provincial Supreme Court judge granted Nalcor Energy an injunction with my name on it in October 2016. https://thestar.com/news/canada/2019/03/29/landmark-newfoundland-ruling-defends-press-freedom-and-coverage-of-indigenous-issues.html… 4

Landmark Newfoundland ruling defends press freedom and coverage of Indigenous issuesJustice Derek Green vacated an injunction he found was improperly applied to journalist Justin Brake, overturning a provincial Supreme Court finding t…thestar.com

It also explicitly cited the critical role media play in reconciliation and specifically the need to have journalists present at Indigenous protests. This, thanks to @APTN‘s intervention and an affidavit by @karyn_pugliese that ought to be mandatory reading in J-schools. 5

That the crown’s decision comes in the midst of intersecting historical moments is not lost on me. Many journalists and media organizations are coming to terms with the fact that their historical coverage of Indigenous Peoples has harmfully reinforced the colonial status quo 6

Journalists must have access to spaces where Indigenous people defend their lands, waters & ways of life. For editors, police, corporations or governments to censor coverage of Indigenous protest and resistance to colonialism is neither objective, nor in the public interest. 7

Concurrently, an international movement has amplified the voices of Black and Indigenous people of colour, including journalists, who have long called for racial equality. In addition to hiring more racialized journalists in our newsrooms, it is also our duty… 8

as journalists to listen, learn and consistently improve the ways we think about and report on racialized communities and Indigenous rights. 9

This legal victory and vindication is important, but the larger battle for press freedom is far from over. Police continue to restrict journalists’ movement and access at Indigenous land protests, including in unceded Wet’suwet’en territory. 10/x Canadian Association of Journalists condemns RCMP crackdown on reporters in Wet’suwet’en territory…Preventing media from documenting arrests along Coastal GasLink pipeline route in northwest B.C. violates the country’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, according to B.C. Civil Liberties Association

Now, more than ever, we must strengthen our resolve to ensure that, in Canada, JOURNALISM IS NOT A CRIME. 11

A heartfelt thank you to my lawyers @GeoffBudden & @allison_conway & the rest of the @BuddenLaw team for representing me from the moment my name appeared on that injunction. And to my life partner @Smenbee for her love and support through challenging times. 12

To @APTNNews for making me part of its family and supporting me in ways no other news outlet in Canada would have. And to @IndependentNL for giving me the opportunity to cover an important part of the Muskrat Falls story that most media were not. 13

To those back home in Newfoundland who donated to the Indy’s legal defense fund. And to @CAJ, @CJFE, @RSF_en, @CDN_WPF, @PENCanada, @FahmyFoundation, and all of the other people & orgs who publicly supported me by speaking out against the charges: THANK YOU. 14

Ethan Cox@EthanCoxMtl Replying to @JustinBrakeNews

Congratulations, Justin. Long live the free press that reports without fear or favour.

Bonham’s Right Foot@FullMeasureFill

I’m sure @cafreeland is writing up a congratulatory message!

PVEA@SavePeaceValley Replying to @JustinBrakeNews and @Lidsville

Congratulations, @JustinBrakeNews. Vindication at last. #muskratFalls cc #sitec#keeyask#bchydro#nalcor

dave seglins@cbcdaveseglins Replying to @JustinBrakeNews

Finally. Thank you for standing up for press freedom. More important than ever.

Jorge Barrera@JorgeBarrera Replying to @JustinBrakeNews

Glad to hear this news! I am glad this ordeal is over for you and in the process struck one for press freedom.

Marc Lajoie@lajoiemedia Replying to @JustinBrakeNews and @ricochet_en

As a journalist, thank you for defending my right to do my job

edfromred@edfromred Replying to @JustinBrakeNews

Congratulations

and Shame on the NL In-Justice System that never misses a chance to oppress the little guy and rush to the defense of corporations.

Kelly Norman@hoodlumknit Replying to @JustinBrakeNews

So happy to hear this!! Hopefully all charges are dropped and legal fees are paid for. Corporations like Nalcor do this on purpose. Keep land protectors tied up in court concerned about legal fees. No energy left to protest what matters.

Carolbelanger@belanger_gm Replying to @JustinBrakeNews

I am very happy for you Justin. Im sorry you had to endure such an ordeal. It was never fair.

Assin’skowitiniwak oma nitha!@NiyithowNapew Replying to @JustinBrakeNews

RCMP still remove defenders and journalists from areas they deem off limits not caring about anyone’s rights. Is there a lawsuit pending because I would chip in a Gofundme for that but that would just eat up more tax dollars because they are a Federal entity.

Shawn McCarthy@smccarthy55 Replying to @JustinBrakeNews

Good news. Congratulations.

kevin Walker@KwalkerAD Replying to @JustinBrakeNews and @jessewente

Conrgats and sorry that you had to go through that

Marnie Dunsmore@DunsmoreMarnie Replying to @JustinBrakeNews

Congratulations!

Anne Henderson@AnneHen61079771 Replying to @JustinBrakeNews

I read your entire thread. I now want to read everything about this/your case as it certainly alarms from many perspectives. Thank you.

why cant names be blank@justice67135 Relying to @JustinBrakeNews

Glad to hear some common sense finally prevailed

Andrew Barss@andrewbarss Replying to @JustinBrakeNews

Thank you for your work covering #MuskratFalls and for standing up for rights/responsibilities of journalists. Glad this is over, but still find it reprehensible, bordering on obscene that it happened in the first place. Telling that the Crown simply backed out.

Falcon@BobAloneissi Replying to @JustinBrakeNews

Congrats Justin! Congrats to u and to press freedoms and to indigenous rights : when is the book coming out?

Protect Nature@NOtoGMOs Replying to @JustinBrakeNews

Justice was long in coming.

Tony Patterson@scansite Replying to @JustinBrakeNews

Congratulations Justin. A long hard fight won, for yourself and your profession.

Huck Foley@foley_huck Replying to @JustinBrakeNews and @MikeConnors

This could have been avoided by a clause in the injunction exempting the media from the prohibition. The public has a right to know what people are doing.

Retired@Tlee1964 Replying to @JustinBrakeNews and @CBCMarkQuinn

Typical waste of tax dollar to begin with..should never have been charged

david marshall@borocanuck

Will there be any consequences for the faceless decision makers is the next question?

Jan Slakov@jan4shalom Replying to @JustinBrakeNews

Clearly, we need way more fearless reporting, as this idiotic dam went ahead, leaving a legacy of crippling debt, violated indigenous rights & contamination for NL. BC doing the same thing w #SiteC

Robert Lazore@LazoreRobert Replying to @JustinBrakeNews

Sounds like the evidence would have proved their charges were bullshit

kevin russell@kevinrns Replying to @JustinBrakeNews

This isnt law enforcement, this is political assault. Defund the Police.

WePivot.net @WePivot Replying to @JustinBrakeNews

Governments & #RCMP now routinely remove protesters and journalists. They either charge them, or not. Often the charges are dropped.

The effect seems to be kidnapping them from protest sites without grounds. That is a de facto criminalization of protest, like Alberta’s Bill 1.

J Ojibwe@Jay_Moovee

By allowing an Officer to trespass on your rights & take your liberty without consequence, it will continue to happen. These Officers need to be charged and liability taken (paid out) from their bond. That Officer will not work again after his bond is revoked.

Last remaining charge against reporter Justin Brake’s Muskrat Falls-related coverage dismissed by Tara Bradburyemail hidden; JavaScript is required, Jun 30, 2020, The Telegram

Reporter Justin Brake’s last remaining charge before the courts related to his coverage of a protest at the Muskrat Falls site in 2016 has been dismissed.

Brake was scheduled to go to trial in two weeks on a criminal charge of mischief over $5,000, laid by police after he entered the hydroelectric project site in October 2016 while covering an Indigenous-led occupation. Brake was reporting for online outlet The Independent at the time.

The matter was called unexpectedly by phone in Provincial Court in Happy Valley-Goose Bay Tuesday morning, where prosecutor Paul Thistle said he would be calling no evidence and recommended the charge be dismissed. That’s what Judge Rolf Pritchard did.

“Assessing the file, which was set for a lengthy trial against the backdrop of the very busy docket in Goose Bay, which includes a number of serious, violent crimes, I determined that it was not in the public interest to proceed,” Thistle, who had only recently taken over Brake’s file, later told The Telegram. I don’t believe Mr. Thistle for one second. I think he knew the crown would lose, and look like a mighty nasty idiotic bully.

Brake’s is one of a few court matters that have been dismissed in recent weeks in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, which closed Provincial Court to all but urgent matters for three months. Given the significant backlog of cases – more than 1,000 – prosecutors have been instructed to review outstanding court matters in terms of public interest and likelihood of conviction.

Brake’s lawyer, Geoff Budden, argued last fall for the mischief charge to be stayed, saying it was a breach of his client’s constitutional rights. Judge Phyllis Harris dismisses that application.

“Mr. Brake has not demonstrated that his Charter rights are being violated as a result of continued prosecution,” she said.

Budden said he and co-counsel Allison Conway still felt they had a good case at trial, which had been expected to take a minimum of two weeks. Evidence given at the Muskrat Falls Inquiry last year supported their case, he said.

“I think the Crown was arguing that many millions of dollars of damages resulted from this alleged interference by Mr. Brake and many others and I think they would have had a very difficult job proving that the losses were a consequence of this as opposed to many other problems that were happening on site,” Budden said.

Brake was arrested after he entered the Muskrat Falls site along with people who were protesting possible methylmercury contamination in the food chain once the land was flooded for a reservoir. The occupation lasted several days and work at the site was halted.

Brake was charged with criminal and civil contempt of a court injunction as well as criminal mischief over $5,000 for allegedly causing a disruption that had resulted in financial loss.

Last year, Justice Derek Green of the province’s Court of Appeal dismissed the civil charge, ruling Brake had been acting as a journalist and not a protester. The Crown dropped the criminal contempt charge after that but proceeded, until now, with the mischief charge.

Budden, who says Brake intends to release his own statement regarding the dismissal of the charge, believe the case will have a varied and important impact.

“Firstly, Mr. Brake will be able to go on with his life and his career without this hanging over his head,” he said. “I think there is, mostly coming out of Justice Green’s decision, better guidance for journalists, for the police and the courts to determine how to approach these difficult situations, particularly where there are issues around Indigenous-led protests and other social action protests.”

All charges dismissed against reporter who covered 2016 Muskrat Falls protests, Crown says it will not be submitting any evidence in Justin Brake’s case by CBC News, Jun 30, 2020

Justin Brake enters the courtroom after a brief break between arguments in 2017. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

All of the charges against Justin Brake, a reporter who entered the Muskrat Falls site to cover a protest in the fall of 2016, have been dismissed.

On Tuesday morning in provincial court, the Crown said it would not be submitting any evidence in Brake’s case, bringing the almost four-year legal battle to an end.

He took a principled stand and he has had to endure a lot of worry over the years and I am glad that is over for him,” said Geoff Budden, one of Brake’s lawyers.

Brake initially faced proceedings in civil and criminal courts after spending several days inside the Muskrat Falls site covering a protest that shut work down at the project in 2016. The civil charges were dismissed in 2019 by Supreme Court Justice Derek Green. 

Green said in a March 2019 court of appeal decision that “to achieve the goal of reconciliation, better understanding of Aboriginal peoples and Aboriginal issues is needed.”

“This places a heightened importance on ensuring that independently reported information about aboriginal issues, including aboriginal protests, is available to the extent possible,” he said.

Justin Brake listens to court arguments in 2017. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

While the Crown decided to drop one criminal charge against Brake of unlawfully disobeying an order of the court, it had been pursuing a charge of mischief over $5,000, which has now been dismissed. 

“Journalists must be allowed considerable latitude to cover important stories of the day, particularly stories having to do with Indigenous issues,” said Budden.

Brake, a former reporter and editor of the Independent, went with about 50 protesters into the Muskrat Falls camp. He left about three days later when he learned he was named in a court order accusing him of trespassing. At the time, Brake said he had the right to be there.

The case sparked public debate in the province with about 60 people showing up to a protest in downtown St. John’s in 2017 to demand the charges be dropped.

Brake tweeted on Tuesday that journalism is not a crime, and called for stronger efforts to ensure it doesn’t become one.

“This legal victory and vindication is important, but the larger battle for press freedom is far from over,” he wrote.

Reporter Justin Brake mounting charter challenge against Muskrat Falls charges, Supreme Court judge dismissed civil proceedings against Brake earlier this year by Jacob Barker, CBC News, Sep 09, 2019

Justin Brake, seen here in Supreme Court in Happy Valley-Goose Bay in 2017, has filed a charter challenge against criminal charges against him. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

Justin Brake, a reporter charged with mischief after covering a protest inside the Muskrat Falls work site, has filed a charter challenge to ask for a stay of proceedings. 

“We’re rather baffled that [the Crown] would feel it’s in the public interest to proceed with this charge,” Brake’s lawyer Geoff Budden said Monday morning in provincial court in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

Brake, who worked for online news site the Independent in October 2016, entered the work site alongside a large group voicing concerns about the project. They occupied the site for several days, work was stopped and workers were sent home. 

Brake, along with several others, was charged with mischief as well as disobeying an order of the court. 

Civil proceedings that were based on the same set of circumstances were also brought against him, but dismissed in March by Supreme Court Justice Derek Green. 

In that decision Green said there was a “significant difference” between Brake’s situation in the protest and the situation of the protesters and that there was nothing to suggest that Brake was actively engaging in the protest.

“[Judge Green’s decision has] been viewed as a decision which confirms the rights of not just journalists so much but the rights of all of us as citizens to have journalists being able to cover important stories such as Muskrat Falls,” Budden said. 

Higher burden for criminal conviction

Budden also said he would be arguing the charges are an “abuse of process” because the Crown is “trying to re-litigate the same facts and just hoping to come to a different result.” 

The application, which the court is scheduled to hear Nov. 7, cites two sections of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, including the section that lays out freedom of the press and other media of communication, but Budden noted the burden of proof for a criminal conviction is much higher than the civil standard, which in this case has already established in Green’s decision.

“The Crown has to go well beyond a civil standard here,” Budden said. “They have to establish, really, the counterpoints on a criminal standard of beyond a reasonable doubt.” 

COURT VICTORY FOR JUSTIN BRAKE, JOURNALISM by email hidden; JavaScript is required, Mar. 28, 2019, The Canadian Association of Journalists

Today’s decision by the Court of Appeal of Newfoundland and Labrador is a victory for Justin Brake, and offers protection for journalists from broad injunctions. 

Mr. Brake faces criminal charges of mischief and disobeying a court order after he followed a group of mostly Indigenous demonstrators onto the site of the Muskrat Falls hydro project site, following demonstrators for the purpose of reporting in October 2016. He also faced civil contempt proceedings in Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court, based on the same set of facts.

“Justin Brake should never have been named in the injunction,” says Canadian Association of Journalists vice president Evan Balgord.

“This was a naked attempt by a crown corporation to avoid accountability by preventing a journalist from doing their job. While we celebrate the verdict in the civil case, these charges have cost Brake time and money and are an attack on our shared Charter right to freedom of the press. The criminal charges he still faces based on the same set of facts should be dismissed immediately.”

In today’s decision regarding the civil proceedings, the Court stated that Mr. Brake’s role as a journalist reporting on issues impacting Indigenous people was a factor of significance and as a result his status as a reporter should have been included on the court injunction and considered by the judge. The decision also recognized the key role media should play in fulfilling the goals of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. 

The Court agreed with APTN, who intervened in the case, that failing to recognize journalists as independent observers risks impeding the media function, and accepted that the chilling effects are real, significant and should be avoided.

In addition, the Court was concerned about broad injunctions and gave some guidance for the future regarding “John Doe” orders, while stating the real purpose of the injunction was to protect specific property rights by restraining protest activities that impeded or prevented access to the construction site. It concluded that the injunction prohibited “trespass”, but the order shouldn’t have been interpreted so broadly to prevent technical trespass unconnected to the protests. As a result they found Brake was not the object of or caught by the injunction.

Working for The Independent in the fall of 2016, Mr. Brake was reporting on concerns raised by local residents, many of whom were Indigenous, about the impact of the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric dam project on their land, health and rights.

On Oct. 22, demonstrators cut the lock on the gate to the construction site and entered. Mr. Brake followed the demonstrators and embedded with them until Oct. 25, after Nalcor named Mr. Brake on a court injunction with demonstrators but failed to identify him as a working journalist.

Mr. Brake now works for APTN.

The Canadian Association of Journalists is a professional organization with more than 700 members across Canada. The CAJ’s primary roles are public-interest advocacy work and professional development for its members.

For further information:

Evan Balgord, CAJ vice president 

Email: email hidden; JavaScript is required

Refer also to:

2018: Rule of law in Canada? Most unlikely, except to enable corporate abuse, greed & pollution; protect the rich, lying judges & lawyers, corrupt politicians & law violating regulators. Newfoundland and Labrador trying to jail journalist Justin Brake for doing his job, judge pathetically enables the abuse of process; Maureen Killoran, Encana lawyer in Ernst vs Encana, seeks outrageous injunction for Kinder Morgan, judge shows obvious bias for the company

2018: Newfoundland and Labrador is trying to jail a journalist for doing his job, Justin Brake faces prison time for reporting from an Indigenous occupation by Ethan Cox, ricochet 

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