Protester Andrea Polchies hugs a supporter outside the Burton Courthouse, as her son, Nicholas Polchies, gets ready to leave for an encampment near the proposed Sisson Mine.John Chilibeck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

A judge has extended an injunction that forbids a mother and son – and any of their supporters – from interfering with the construction work in preparation for a controversial mine in New Brunswick.

Justice Thomas Christie issued the order Tuesday at the Court of King’s Bench in Burton in a case that has pitted the mining firm Northcliff Resources against Indigenous and other environmental protesters.

He said the defendants, Andrea and Nicholas Polchies, both of Wotstak (Woodstock First Nation), “don’t get to make up the rules in which we govern ourselves.”

Northcliff sought the injunction last week, arguing before Christie that the mother, son and other demonstrators had been hampering operations at the proposed Sisson Mine for upwards of seven years. They’ve built an Indigenous encampment near the headwaters of the Nashwaak River, where the open-pit tungsten and molybdenum mine and tailings pond are planned about 100 kilometres northwest of Fredericton.

In the latest incident on Aug. 3, evidence filed by the company states that an unnamed woman blocked the path of heavy construction equipment, and Nicholas Polchies swore at and threatened the head of a security firm hired by Northcliff.

The threats, captured on video and provided as evidence, convinced the security firm and construction workers to leave.

“Every inch of progress is work towards the destruction of my home,” Nicholas Polchies had shouted. “Get the (expletive) outta here you gap-toothed whore!” 

The defendants weren’t at the original hearing Aug. 24 and weren’t served notice of the injunction until the following day.

Their lawyer, Charles Bryant, explained to the judge that Polchies had been emotional because he believed his wife could have been hurt by the equipment operators. He insisted Polchies and his mother had no interest in breaking the law and only wanted to peacefully obstruct the work.

But the lawyer added that given how quickly the events had happened and the little time they had to mount a defence, he had only just obtained their affidavits with their version of events, acknowledging that they didn’t differ greatly from what the company had submitted in terms of facts.

The judge agreed to adjourn the matter until a later date, but in the meantime, Christie ordered the injunction to stay in effect. By doing so, it means the company should be able to complete its work, barring any further demonstrations. The next hearing isn’t expected to be held for several months.

In an affidavit filed by Northcliff President and CEO Andrew Ing, he said the firm was under strict timelines, according to its environmental approvals, to get the site cleared and preliminary drilling done.

He also said his company had spent $65 million on the project. The province and Ottawa have already given Northcliff the green light to get started on the mine, pending further regulatory approvals. The Wolastoqey First Nations have also signed agreements that would see them financially benefit from the mine.

In the public gallery of the courtroom, more than 30 supporters had filled all the benches, and afterwards members of the crowd hugged Andrea Polchies and shook Nicholas Polchies’ hand, commending them for their stance.

The two declined interview requests, although the son did answer one question about how he felt about the ruling.

“You expect a turd and you get a turd,” he said.

His mother said they were in a hurry to go.

“We gotta get this man back to the camp,” she said, motioning to her son. “And protect the land.”

By John Chilibeck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Aug 30, 2023 at 06:00

This item reprinted with permission from   The Daily Gleaner   Fredericton, New Brunswick

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