Three men charged with participating in a protest blockade at the Canada-United States border crossing at Coutts, Alta., appeared in court Monday as a judge heard about frustrations in getting their case to trial.
Marco Van Huigenbos, 32, and Alex Van Herk, 53, who are both from Fort Macleod, Alta., are charged with mischief over $5,000, along with George Janzen, 43, of Taber, Alta.
RCMP allege the men were key participants at the blockade, which began in late January and lasted almost three weeks.
The accused were scheduled to be formally arraigned and have trial dates set. Delays in finalizing lawyers and getting evidence saw the matter put over to Jan. 9.
“Absolute disappointment in the justice system that likes essentially to play games is the way I see it. It’s broken, but this was expected,” Van Huigenbos, a town councillor in Fort Macleod, told reporters outside court after the appearance.
“It’s hanging over our heads. I have a family. I have a business and it affects others who are not involved in this. The frustration is obviously the bigger picture here.”
Van Huigenbos and Van Herk said they want to know why they are charged with mischief and not with an offence under Alberta’s Critical Infrastructure Defence Act.
Van Herk tried to address Court of King’s Bench Justice Johnna Kubik.
“You’re represented by counsel so you can’t make any speeches in front of me. You’ll talk to your counsel about those things,” she said.
Van Herk said outside court thathe wanted an explanation on why the group was being charged with mischief.
“I did it politely I felt and I had asked the judge for an explanation. I’m just, I guess, a naive farmer. I’m not in the judicial system every day and I don’t know everything about it,” he said.
“I’m trying to understand why they’re charging us the way they are. I felt, why couldn’t we have an opportunity to just speak directly to the judge, explain the situation and said why are we wasting our time here?”
The three men have elected to be tried before a judge and jury.
A trial before a judge and jury has been scheduled for June of next year for four other men charged with conspiracy to commit murder at the blockade.
Chris Carbert, Chris Lysak, Anthony Olienick and Jerry Morin were charged in February after RCMP found a cache of guns, body armour and ammunition in trailers at the protest near Coutts.