The week-long trial of three members of an outspoken First Nations protest group opposed to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project was delayed on Monday (Nov. 16) after a lawyer representing one of the accused said he could no longer represent her.
Nicole Manuel, Chantel Manuel and Isha Jules, members of the Tiny House Warriors (THW), are facing charges of mischief, causing a disturbance and assault stemming from a conflict with security and police outside a December 2018 meeting on the campus of Thompson Rivers University.
The meeting, helmed by former Supreme Court of Canada Justice Frank Iacobucci, involved government officials, Trans Mountain personnel and First Nations leadership.
Court has heard members of the THW spilled red paint on the ground and stormed the meeting, breaking a microphone and throwing a paint-soaked scarf at a First Nations chief. They are also alleged to have engaged in physical altercations with security.
Their trial was slated to begin on Monday with extra COVID-19 precautions in place in Kamloops provincial court to accommodate for the three accused and the five lawyers involved in the case.
Defence lawyer Michael Klein, representing Chantel Manuel, told court he had no choice but to withdraw, but he did not divulge what led to the misunderstanding between him and his client. He did say it had nothing to do with non-payment.
Chantel Manuel then asked for an adjournment, which Kamloops provincial court Judge Stella Frame reluctantly granted.
Monday marked the second time a trial date for the trio was scuttled due to retention of counsel. The three were initially slated to stand trial last January, but that hearing was adjourned before it began after two of the accused fired the lawyer who had been representing them.
“You have to know that it is difficult to get trial time right now because of all the other matters that were adjourned due to COVID, so this isn’t a simple adjournment,” Frame said. “I am very troubled that this is the second time there has been an adjournment due to the termination of counsel.”
Lawyers are scheduled to return to court on Dec. 7 to set new trial dates.