Labor In Canada Backs Framed-Up Unionist

By Ned Dmytryshyn, The Militant, Vol.59 no.20, 22 May 1995

VANCOUVER—Delegates attending the Northwest Territories Federation of Labor (NWTFL) convention in Yellowknife April 29 adopted a resolution in support of framed-up unionist Roger Warren. The NWTFL represents 10,000 workers in Canada's north. The union movement can't abandon its own, NWTFL president Jim Evoy said.

Warren is currently serving a life sentence at the Stoney Mountain Institution in Manitoba on trumped-up charges of second degree murder. He is appealing the verdict.

The resolution was submitted by Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) Local 2304, which represents the gold miners at the Royal Oak Giant Mine in Yellowknife and is Warren's union. The resolution stated in part that Whereas the Warren family is a strong union family-and whereas the trade union movement supports fair play and justice-be it resolved that the NWTFL and its affiliated unions conduct an immediate appeal to raise funds for the Warren family fund and that the NWTFL take this campaign to the national level.

The resolution will be presented to the Canadian Labor Congress for support.

Frame-up case

Warren was convicted of the murder of nine replacement workers killed in an explosion at Royal Oak's Giant mine in Yellowknife in September 1992. The blast occurred during a bitter 18-month strike against company union busting.

For 13 months after the explosion, hundreds of strikers, family members, and supporters were interrogated and harassed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). Their phones were wiretapped. Some had their houses searched. Warren was interrogated 12 times.

The company used this cop investigation to wear down strikers and undercut community support for their fight. One year after the blast, Royal Oak owner Margaret Witte announced she refused to negotiate with the union until an arrest was made.

The RCMP was not able to come up with one shred of evidence linking Warren to the blast. In the trial, presiding judge Mark de Weerdt admitted that all evidence in the case was circumstantial.

The centerpiece of the government's case was a false confession given by Warren one year after the blast. Despite the gaping irregularities in the false confession, the judge basically instructed the jury to convict the miner.

Warren's appeal

Warren's attorney, Glenn Orris, has submitted an 18-point appeal of the conviction. It states that Warren's rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms were violated with police searches of his apartment; that the defense was refused the right to refer to certain statements elicited from Warren by the cops; that the refusal of the judge to allow testimony on the psychology of false confessions was an error; and that the judge erred in challenging Warren's credibility and instructing the jury that his false confession was a true statement of incrimination.

In mid-February officials transferred Roger Warren to Edmonton Institution from the Yellowknife Correctional Institute where he had been since Oct. 18, 1993. In a letter to this Militant correspondent, Warren explains, I was in Edmonton for two months. The first 10 days I was in what they call the hole. It's a 23-hour-a-day lockdown with one-hour yard exercise and a shower every two days. Meals are passed through the door. The cell was about 7' by 9' and I had an Inuit cell mate from Iqualauit.

Then they put us in reception.-In this reception area the cell wasn't bad. We had TV and it was a ‘disabled’ cell so it was a little bigger, maybe 8' by 10', and double-bunked. We were allowed to pick up our trays and get coffee or juice and return to our cells to eat locked down. Then at 6:00 we had gym. I used to walk the track in the yard for two and a half to three miles. Nice to be outside, I can tell you. Then in the evenings we were allowed out for one hour and 15 minutes to shower, do laundry, and make phone calls. One phone call for 10 guys so you have to be fast (6-7 minutes max).

Hands, feet, waist in chains

On the 12th of April they put us on a bus in chains, hands and feet and waist; and on the bus you're locked in a cage around each seat. It took 16 hours to get to Prince Albert [PA], Saskatchewan.—The PA pen is something else. Real old with barred cells and individual locks, 1911 style. We were on 23-hour lockdown and a shower every two days with a closed yard walk for an hour, but it rained lots.

We left there the 19th [April] and got here [Stoney Mountain] around 7:00 the same day, about 12 hours but better than the first leg.-This place has been here since 1873.

It's about 60 percent to 65 percent Native here and I was invited to view their offices (Native Brotherhood Association) with a young guy serving life. I've been invited to join the Pegasus lifer's club but haven't went yet. Apparently they have pool table, TVs, etc. and no one is allowed in except lifers. Quite the club, eh?

So far I've been doing a lot of reading and now I just started reading Ivanhoe. I'm going to lightly delve into the classics as they have quite a good library here. Of course I've read a lot of classics already, but now I'll read the ones I've missed.

Letters and messages of support can be sent to Roger Warren, Stoney Mountain Institution, P.O. Box 9250, Winnipeg, Manitoba, R3C 3W9.