HALIFAX – John Perkins has filed a lawsuit against Atlantic Gold Corporation and the RCMP stemming from his arrest at a public information session organized by the gold mining corporation at the Sherbrooke Fire Hall on May 23, 2019.
Atlantic Gold plans to develop three new gold mines in the province, and it organized the public meeting to provide an opportunity for members of the public to learn more about the company’s plans to avoid environmental contamination in the management and storage of toxic tailings that will be generated in the proposed mining operations. Perkins attended the meeting.
Perkins alleges that Atlantic Gold’s Chief Operating Officer and company director, Maryse Belanger, instructed Atlantic Gold security manager, Terry Moser, to report to the RCMP that Perkins and others were causing a disturbance at the meeting. He alleges that the security manager did as he was told and called 911.
Perkins denies that he or anyone else was causing a disturbance at the meeting and says that those allegations were false and malicious and were in response to some challenging questions he had asked at an earlier session in a polite and courteous manner.
“The only reason I can think of for the corporation to falsely accuse me of causing a disturbance is that they did not like the questions I had asked at an earlier meeting that afternoon,” Perkins says. “They called the RCMP to silence me—to prevent me from asking any critical questions that would be heard by fellow Nova Scotians attending the meeting.”
Perkins also alleges that RCMP officer Justin Greene arrived at the Fire Hall shortly after the false 911 call and was negligent in arresting Perkins without conducting any independent investigation whatsoever.
“Videos of the arrest show Greene lifting the 68-year-old Perkins and shoving him through the doorway, slamming him against a wall, dragging him to the ground, and handcuffing his hands behind his back,” says a news release about the lawsuit issued Tuesday morning. “Perkins was taken to a nearby police station and kept in lock up for two hours before finally being released without charges.
Perkins alleges he suffered, “injury, loss, and damage as a result of the incident, including nerve damage to his wrist, shock, and mental anguish.”
Perkins says that he is taking legal action to counter the “chilling affect” the arrest could have on public discourse about the environment: “I feel strongly that it is my duty to hold them accountable for the injuries and harm they have done to me and to do what I can to stop this from happening again,” he says in the release. “I have done this because I do not want people to think that corporations are legally permitted to make false accusations against members of the public in order to have them arrested and removed from public meetings. I have done this because I do not want people to think that the RCMP can act on such false accusations and remove people from public meetings without any investigation whatsoever.”
Local organizations and individuals supporting Perkins echo his concerns.
“It is critical that any person who wishes to participate in public engagement is able to do so in an atmosphere that is open, accessible, and safe,” states Lisa Mitchell, executive director of the East Coast Environmental Law Association. “John Perkins was not given that opportunity.”
SuNNS, the Sustainable Northern Nova Scotia Society, says it views Atlantic Gold’s conduct as “an attempt to suppress open civil discourse and engagement by members of the public in a public process, an action which is unacceptable in a democratic society.”
Perkins is represented by lawyer Brian Hebert, of McKiggan Hebert Lawyers.
Friends of Perkins have created a GoFundMe campaign to assist with the costs of the lawsuit.