Two people arrested Tuesday morning for blocking a Slocan Valley logging road have been released from jail.
Marilyn James, who has been an appointed spokeswoman for the Sinixt in the area, and Dennis Zarelli, lately the communications liaison, were released between 6 and 7 p.m. last night after signing undertakings not to return to the site, according to RCMP Sgt. Darryl Little. They will return to court March 17 for a contempt hearing.
Both taken into custody around 8:30 a.m. Tuesday on the Perry Ridge forest service road, less than a day after BC Supreme Court Justice Mark McEwan continued an injunction sought by Galena Contracting of Nakusp, which has a contract with BC Timber Sales to extend the road by eight kilometers.
McEwan initially remanded them in custody when they appeared in court shortly before 6 p.m., where about two dozen supporters packed the room. McEwan appeared via video link and James and Zarelli appeared side-by-side in the prisoner’s dock. Neither they nor Crown counsel were represented by lawyers.
The hearing began with Christopher Wiebe, lawyer for Galena, relating by phone the circumstances of the arrests. He said owner Ray Hascarl went to the site this morning and was attaching the court order to a gate when he was approached by a group that included James and Zarelli, who would not permit crews to move forward. Hascarl retreated and returned with RCMP members, who arrested the pair. Wiebe said he was not aware of the exact charges they face.
McEwan first addressed Zarelli, who said he preferred to be called Dennis, but the judge demurred and said the hearing’s purpose was to determine whether they would be released before another hearing to decide if they should be found in contempt of court. McEwan said he would release them if they signed an undertaking not to return to the site.
“I have cultural responsibilities,” Zarelli began before the judge cut him off.
“Stop it. You’ll talk yourself into staying in jail. Will you sign an undertaking?”
“Is this man-to-man?” Zarelli asked. “I request that you put this before a court of record. I request leave of the court to respond to the claim properly.”
McEwan asked again if he would agree to stay away from the logging road.
“No. I ask you to recuse yourself from the matter,” Zarelli said.
McEwan refused. “One more chance: are you prepared to sign an undertaking?”
When Zarelli didn’t answer directly, McEwan remanded him for two weeks, although the two continued to argue afterward.
When he put the same question to James, she replied: “I am a woman. A Sinixt woman. I hold authority. I have a right to self-determination and self-governance.”
“Ma’am, you stop,” McEwan said, asking her if she would sign the promise.
She continued: “I require leave of the court to pursue the claim properly. This is not a common law court of record. You are in violation of my body, my property, the Slhu7kin [Slocan]. Until you recuse yourself from this case, as you will be a party to the remedies that I will hold …”
“Will you sign an undertaking?” McEwan asked again.
“I have cultural responsibilities. I am the matriarch,” James said before McEwan cut her off and announced he would also keep her in jail until March 17.
“What evidence do you have that she’s a person?” someone in the gallery yelled, while others stood and the courtroom erupted. “By what authority are you making this judgment?” someone else said.
As she was led away, James held her fist in the air and made a whooping sound. Two police officers entered the room.
McEwan said the pair would be released “the minute” they signed an undertaking not to go near the site. “This session is over,” he said. A sheriff asked the gallery to rise, but most people remained seated.