"The Making of an Indian Fighter and a Canadian Premier"
A holy alliance
By Dr. ANTHONY HALL*
(February, 2000) -- The main episode that launched Ujjal Dosanjh towards the premiership of British Columbia may very well break him. In 1995 Mr. Dosanjh gained great political visibility and momentum from his handling as Attorney General of the standoff at Gustafsen Lake. This standoff involved the RCMP, the Canadian military and a small group of armed, self-declared defenders of a sacred sun dance camp and of Native sovereignty. When the standoff ended in mid-September without any loss of life, the media rushed to heap praise on the seemingly patient yet firm stance taken by Mr. Dosanjh and his NDP goverrnment. In The Vancouver Sun, for instance, Professor Norman Ruff declared that Mr. Dosanjh had won "a big ace."
Anticipating the importance of this sensationalized media event in raising the popularity of Dosanjh as the cool, triumphant General at Gustafsen Lake, Professor Ruff of the University of Victoria correctly anticipated, "You get the feeling the election train is ready to leave the station." The political analyst gushed that Mr. Dosanjh's unrelenting, get-tough attitude had successfully translated into political advantage the anxiety felt by many citizens, who tend to fear they may be hurt by the sweeping extent of Native land claims in BC. "One of the best things that has happened to the NDP," enthused Ruff at the end of the standoff, "is Ujjal Dosanjh." Columnist Vaughn Palmer added his voice to the chorus of congratulations, predicting "Ujjal Dosanjh may very well become the first non-White Premier of BC."
Now, almost five years later, what had been Mr. Dosanjh's greatest political asset may have become his most lethal political liability. A recently-released film written and produced by Mission BC videographer, Mervin Brown, is exploding myths with all the intensity of the Canadian Army's land mine which blew up the Natives' red truck during the height of the standoff. The tape, entitled Above The Law Part 2, removes any doubt that Attorney General Dosanjh played fast and loose with the rule of law in his oversight of what was essentially an undeclared war on the most miltant wing of BC's badly-divided Indian Country. The revelations in the film are supplemented by the release of a flood of previously-restricted documents clarifying the structure of the Chain of Command at Gustafsen Lake. The many-faceted image that emerges pictures Mr. Dosanjh as the whole operation's most aggressive hawk, who moved heaven and earth to involve David Collenette's Ministry of Defence through an intense internal lobby of the federal cabinet channeled through Solicitor General, Herb Gray. The Evidence
The notes of Sargeant Major S.M. Sawyer show that Mr. Dosanjh began his formal dealings with the Canadian military at least as early as August 19, fully two weeks before the army's Bison Armoured Personnel Carriers began rolling in and around the Crown's rather tellingly named Camp Zulu. Recalling August 19 in a communique he sent from the Edmonton Headquarters of Land Force Western Area, Sawyer wrote, "I divided up responsibilities for liason with the Attorney-General's department (Capt Worth) and Liason with the RCMP (Myself)."
While Mr. Dosanjh pressed hard to put the federal army rather than the provincial RCMP out in front of the drive to "take down" the armed Native sun dance camp, he faced resistance from a least one cautious soldier, namely Major General Paul Addy at the Department of National Defence. There is a mounting mass of evidence to suggest that two episodes were concocted by the Mounties under Mr. Dosanjh's command in order to overcome federal reluctance about engaging the army in another Oka-type confrontation. Both episodes involved subsequently unsubstantiated allegations that the protestors had shot at police vehicles. These alleged shootings at police officers were widely reported to have taken place on August 27th and September 4th. The video presentation, Above The Law Part 2, details the dubiousness of the RCMP's account of the August 27th incident, complete with Sargeant John Ward's jokes indicating the RCMP have on different occasions falsified evidence on alleged shooting incidents by sending bullet-proof vests to the police firing range.
The September 4th incident is more crucial, because it was the episode used to gain from the from Jean Chretien's federal Privy Council final authorization to bring in the military into the very heart of the conflict. That decision, one of the most momentous any government can make, is only the third time since World War II that the Canadian Army has been used in an internal conflict. The previous instances were during the FLQ Crisis in 1972 and the Oka crisis during the Indian Summer of 1990.
Hence the report of the September 4th incident, falsified or not, brought to fruition Ujjal Dosanjh's well-advanced plan to bring in the Canadian Army. The document, dated September 6th, carries the signatures of RCMP Inspectors R.E. Moulton and Superintendents R.D. Hall and Len Olfert. It states, "we have this a.m. recovered a .22 bullet from the headliner of the Victoria Early Response Team Surburban. That bullet narrowly missed the head of the Victoria Team Leader." Subsequent trial testimony by forensic expert, Brian McConaghy, indicated that neither bullet holes nor bullets were found in the Suburban in question. Nor did RCMP make good on their commitment to do a detailed ballistics investigation of the Suburban van involved in the August 27th incident. Of the mass of RCMP video tape submitted as trial evidence, all imagery of the August 27th and September 4th incidents was removed.
One of this most important facets of the whole operation on the government side was a very elaborate media relations campaign aimed at controlling the flow of information about what was happening in the RCMP black-out zone that was closed to journalists. The notes of RCMP Deputy Commissioner, J.D. Farrell, for instance, indicate the army intervened directly on August 31st with the editor of The Chilliwack Times to prevent that paper from running information they had obtained about the decision to deploy the military's Bisons in the operation. Mark Hume's September 18th report in the Vancouver Sun discussed how selected journalists were given tours of Camp Zulu, on the condition that they agreed to an RCMP "embargo" on the flow of information.
There is even an indication that at least one media outlet actually set the agenda for Mr. Dosanjh. RCMP Assistant Commissioner Dennis Brown's notes indicate that at 3:15 pm on August 27th "the Attorney General called and advised me that BCTV has just reported that three officers have been shot at Gustafsen Lake. He wants confirmation." That day was an especially busy one for BC's chief law enforcement officer. Brown's notes indicate that at 12:20 pm, in other words three hours before BCTV reported the alleged shooting of police officers, "Everyone is on side. The Attorney General and we would come to an agreement; when we have exhausted all avenues, then we would go in."
One of these "avenues" was the much publicized intervention of Ovide Mercredi, who was then National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations. In his note for 7:30 am of August 27th, Brown writes, "Olfert feels it is best to allow Mercredi to exhaust his process before we move." In his notes describing what transpired at approximately 5:30 during the fast-moving afternoon of August 27th, Farrell's notes indicate that he gave to Solicitor General Herb Gray Mr. Dosanjh's home telephone number. When Dosanjh asked Farrell what the call would be about, Farrell indicated "that it is to underscore -- I believe -- willingness of federal government to assist."
One of the most damning aspects of Mervin Brown's video, which is structured largely around the Mounties' own so-called "training tape" documenting their role in the standoff, is the light it throws on the police's very elaborate campaign of sytematically lying to the media. Incredibly, the RCMP taped many of their own private meetings, where they plotted how to turn public opinion drastically against the armed sun dancers, but especially their controversial lawyer, Dr. Bruce Clark. Some of the most incredible police commentary falls right from the lips of Sargeant Dennis Ryan. With Sargeant Peter Montague taking notes on the other side of table, Ryan says, "Did you find someone who can help us with the disinformation and smear campaign." After referring to the need to "profile these hoods," he indicates "they want to bring discredit out there on these fucking guys; show them what they are to the press. And the O.C. Is in line with that; they want to do it in a very co-ordinated way."
The training video included in Mervin Brown's video captures RCMP Chief Media Liason Officer Peter Montague referring privately to a document on human rights as "crap." This mild-mannered Mountie, nicknamed "Pinochio" by those in the protest camp for his seemingly endless lying, is also the same operative who was liason with Suharto's notorious police agents in the spayPEC fiasco currently under investigation. The present head of the RCMP's Fraud Division in BC who was reported to be considering running in the next provincial election with Gordon Campbell's Liberals, Sargeant Montague was involved in the infamous visit of BCTV and the Mounties to the home of former Premier Glen Clark. The utterer of the now legendary quote, "smear campaigns are our specialty," Sargeant Montague is pictured assuring the media during the briefing sessions at 100 Mile House in 1995 that, "there is nothing to this military rumour." Sargeant Montague then repeats the phrase several times that all Crown actions in the confrontation are "an RCMP operational plan."
Sargeant Montague's dismissal of "the military rumour" as fiction rather than fact is consistent with the federal rules of engagement, which specifically referred to the need "to focus media attention back onto the lead agency in this operation." Many tactics were used to divert attention away from the reality that by early September, the operations in and around Camp Zulu involved significant input from the Canadian Army as well as the RCMP's Emergency Response Team. For instance the Army' Bisons were decked out with bold signs proclaiming, "POLICE". One might as well imagine putting the sign, "water gun," on an AK 47 to disguise its true nature. An Army assault vehicle by any other name would kill as foul.
The truth of what was really happening was indeed one of the first casualties in this undeclared little Indian war that would so quickly and dramatically inflate Mr. Dosanjh's political currency. In hundreds and hundreds of news reports, journalists simply stopped attributing the RCMP's version of events to their source and uncritically reproduced the Crown's version of events as unadulterated fact. Ovide Mercredi repeated the pattern when he spoke of the alleged shooting incident on August 27th as if there was no doubt whatsoever that the Mounties' account was correct.
The Attorney General established the pattern repeated by most media outlets, whose managers were inclined to abandon all journalistic caution and scepticism in order to jump on the vigilante band wagon aimed at smearing the Gustafsen "hoods" and their unorthodox lawyer. At the beginning of the conflict Mr. Dosanjh had himself recorded on radio and television, essentially indicting the armed sun dancers without any respect whatsoever for the niceties of due process, a trial or the assumption of innocence until guilt is specifically proven. In this story, Dosonjh boldly proclaimed, "there is only one side of the story," a statement from the province's chief law enforcement officer that makes a sad mockery of the adversarial system on which our judicial and legislative institutions are based.
The AG referred to the self-declared Defenders as "those who occupy illegally private land and then shoot at police officers at sight and hunt them and actually aggressively pursue them to kill." Mr. Dosanjh opportunistically threw yet more gas onto the fire of anti-Indian hysteria he helped ignite, by declaring on camera, "Its not part of the Aboriginal rights to pick up AK 47s and start shooting at police officers."
The lynch-mob mentality of this trial by media was picked up by RCMP Sargeant Martin Sarich, the recipient of a rich and detailed legal argument crafted by Dr. Clark before he arrived on the scene. Sargeant Sarich simply ignored Clark's case that his clients were poised in an entirely defensive posture, whose legitimacy was grounded in the substance of imperial, international and constitutional law. Sargeant Sarich instead repeated the Attorney General's accusatory script, branding the sun dancers as "terrorists" and "criminals." "There's nothing to negotiate with them," declared the Mountie, ignoring the legal complexities of the sun dancers' stand. Rightly or wrongly the people inside the besieged camp were absolutely convinced that their stand had significance in international law; that this armed incursion of Crown officials on a site sacred to them violated the government's own legal affirmation of Aboriginal rights in a province where Indian title to most of the land, including Lyle James' cattle ranch, remained absolutely uncompromised by ceding treaties.
The harsh fate since 1995 of Dr. Clark and his long-incarcerated client, Wolverine, clarifies the draconian inequities that continue to permeate a criminal justice system in BC and Canada which has has never criminalized any violation of our constitutional affirmation of existing Aboriginal and treaty rights. At the same time, the ethnic mix in our jails bears witness to a gross double standard when it comes to enforcing the criminal code on Indian people. In Above The Law Part 2, Mervin Brown documents a very significant response to the decision of a provincial judge in 1995 to send Dr. Clark for a psychological examination as a result of his frustrated efforts to represent his clients. Ramsay Clark, an Attorney General of the United States, characterized this judicial decision as a very deliberate attempt falsely to brand as potentially "crazy" an erudite, if slightly eccentric formulator and messenger of a very important legal argument. " What a despicable act!" declared this close observer of Canada's maltreatment maltreatment Indigenous peoples.
One reason Ramsay Clark has taken such a major interest in the Gustafsen fiasco is because one of his most legendary clients was the principle strategist on the Indian side. A Mohawk man whose family roots are in the Six Nations reserve near Brantford Ontario, it was Splitting The Sky, sometimes also known as John Hill, who was the Gustafsen Lake sun dance chief in 1995. It was therefore largely on his responsibility that this weathered veteran of the American Indian Movement made the decision to "draw a line in the sand."
A proud disciple of the Mohawk Warriors" now deceased elder, Louis Hall, Splitting The Sky first worked closely with Ramsay Clark when this Mohawk activist was charged with killing a guard during the Attica prison riot in 1971. In that maelstrom 43 prisoners were also killed. Splitting The Sky presently lives with his wife and four children near Wolverine's family in Chase BC. For five years he has worked tirelessly on a major narrative describing his life experiences. The text devotes literally thousands of pages to documenting the vast discrepencies between the official version of events and what really happened at Gustafsen Lake in 1995. His experiences as the target of many police-state tactics began early, with his being moved from orphanages to training schools to penetentiaries along a projectory of different forms of incarceration that unfortunately constitute a major mark of the continuing colonization of Indian Country in Canada and the United States.
While Splitting The Sky must deal with constant phone tapping and periodic harassment from secret police in Canada, he acknowledges that the level of dirty tricks he has lived through in this country since 1995 has been somewhat less severe than the police abuses he barely survived as a man targeted for destruction by the FBI's now-infamous COINTELPRO operations.
In Splitting The Sky's estimation, the response of federal and provincial authorities to his group's defence of their sacred sun dance site will in the long run advance the case that Crown officials worked so aggressively to crush. He argues that by virtue of the fact that the federal government, as in 1990, commited the federal Army to enforce military rule on freedom fighters in the First Nations sovereignty movement, the effect has been to demonstrate that Indian title and treaty issues do indeed spill over into the forum of international law. In other words, Dr. Clark will eventually be vindicated in many of those key arguments he insisted on asserting, even in the face of enormous persecution based on a systematic media disinformation and smear campaign that Above The Law Part 2 now clearly proves was operative in 1995 beyond any shadow of a doubt.
The international dimension of Indigenous peoples' issues, Splitting The Sky maintains, will eventually pull the United Nations into Aboriginal title and jurisdiction issues in Canada. So too does he see the British monarchy as being deeply implicated, despite all protests to the contrary, in Aboriginal matters by virtue of the long history of Crown-Indian alliances whose major symbolic links include the Covenant Chain of treaty diplomacy.
The Covenant Chain is an institution that directly connects the Indian land issue in colonial New York and Connecticut to the making of the numbered treaties in the Canadian prairies and to the most recent round of Crown treaty making with Indigenous peoples in both Nunavut, the western arctic and British Columbia. This Covenant Chain tradition, which proved to be the diplomatic instrument that enabled the British Crown first to infuse its influence into the Indian Country of Canada during the mid-1700s, is integral to Splitting The Sky's own Longhouse history. The Longhouse formed the officially-recognized government of the Six Nations community near Brantford until it was criminalized by the Liberal government of Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie and then coercively shut down by the RCMP in 1924.
The Longhouse was the source of North America's most celebrated indigenous constitution, known in English as the Great Law. The Great Law includes a protocol of human relations in peace and war. This protocol was integral to the mix of spirituality, patriotism and militant resistance that animated those in the sun dance camp in 1995 to hold their ground so long against those modern-day Indian fighters who operated out of Camp Zulu.
The application of the word, "despicable," to the Gustafsen fiasco by a former chief law enforcement officer of the United States rings true for me in a number of ways. Without a doubt, what I find most subversive about the government's handling of their media-friendly Indian war was the means of invoking the power of the Canadian Army. I learned of this outrageous carelessness with the rule of law from the notes of RCMP Assistant Commissioner Brown. In his entry on developments on August 25th at 11:55 pm, Brown wrote, "Received a call from Deputy Commissioner Beaulac. He is meeting with Justice Department, Solicitor General, PCO, etc., and it was decided an Order in Council is not needed only an MOU between us and the military. He requested the Attorney General deal with the Solicitor General as he is currently going to the Minister of Defence and this is causing difficulties."
An MOU is short form for a Memorandum of Understanding. The purpose of MOUs is to facilitate very rudenmentary forms of administrative interaction largely within the bureaucratic branches of government. The instrument is designed to move along agendas where there is little or no reason for elected officials to have to take political responsibility for what is being done.
In my estimation the commitment of the country's machinery of foreign defence into a conflict within Canada's borders constitutes the very high end of the kind of decision that requires very definite and clear lines of political accountability. I find it absolutely unconscionable, not to mention arguably illegal, for the federal government to hand over its instruments of war to Mr. Dosanjh in this way. This issue alone, I believe, is more than enough to justify the need for an independent judicial inquiry.
Of course Canada's capacity to ever again create the conditions for such an independent inquiry is dubious given the role of the Chretien Liberals in closing down the Somalia Inquiry just as its officials started looking at the cover-up at the higher levels of government. It bears noting and remembering how close the Somalia scandal was in time to the Gustafsen affair. Similarly, it was largely the same cast of characters, from David Collenette, to General de Chastelain to Louise Frechette, who were were involved in the federal authorization and oversight of operations in both Somalia and Camp Zulu.
It would be wrong to underestimate the deep involvement of the Canadian military in this operation. I have seen several references in the documents suggesting the presence of Joint Task Force II, that is the Army's most secret unit who are rumoured to have played a role in NATO's undeclared war on Yugoslavia through their deployment of lasers on the ground to help attract so-called "smart bombs" to their targets. For instance the Army's operation plan, code named Wallaby, referred to a "JTFHQ" -- a Joint Task Force Headquarters? -- at 100 Mile House. Moreover there is speculation that the JTFII, whose specialties apparently include night operations, may have been protagonists in the alleged Suburban van shooting incident of September 4th. Recall that it was the report of this episode that provided the rationale for the final federal approval to commit the Bisons for combat work. One such suggestion, for instance, comes from an RCMP activity report dated September 4th, where ERT Victoria unit reported seeing "red light (laser or filtered flashlight).... Green glow (night vision gear in use?)"
In Deputy Commissioner Farrell's notes he explained that by September 13th, the plan for the final take down was well advanced. He wrote, "Consensus is that we cannot indefinitely control the situation and that any overt attempt must be accompanied by authorization by government accompanied by immunity should anyone be killed." There are hauting echoes in this comment about the need to stretch the law in order to give Crown officials a green light to murder Indians and their allies without criminal consequences. What are the legal principles involved in the granting of "immunity" to Crown officials if they should kill in a domestic conflict. Where is the legal opinion justifying legal murder with no presumption of innocence for the victim and total presumption of innocence for the killer? Was the Indian identity of the majority of the possible victims a factor in this contemplated request for a license to kill without legal accountability?
Two days earlier Farrell noted that "I am not prepared to order an assault by our people." This assertion seemingly put him at odds with Ujjal Dosanjh. Farrell wrote, "AG looking for advice on military... AG's view that police are not trained to deal with these incidents." I connect this comment directly with startling observations I have heard from a high level source in the government of BC. That source tells of his frustrated efforts to gain specific information on a special unit of the RCMP, allegedly engaged in training for more operations the next time contested visions of law clash on the moving frontiers between Indian Country and the forceful assertion of Crown authority.
This obsession with the need to be prepared for the next standoff also seems to illuminate how it was that the RCMP actually taped themselves as they discussed their most secret disinformation strategies. Clearly some one was thinking about the neeed to create teaching materials to "train" the next generation of Indian fighters, especially in the strange logistics of psychological warfare and media spin doctoring. Presumably the RCMP in BC like the Surete de Quebec have long since moved to purchase their own APC's in order to avoid the difficult constitutional and political questions that arise when the federal Crown renders "military assistance" to police or civil authorities.
When all is said and done the big question that still hangs over the episode is why it was that the authorities acted so aggressively in such a remote and strategically unimportant part of the country. The self-declared defenders of the Shuswap Nation were not standing on an airport run way, nor at the entrance to a nuclear power plant, nor on a major thoroughfare of rail or highway communications. Nor did the charges against them in any way conform to the claims the police were making as the standoff unfolded.
The self-declared Shuswap Defenders were most immediately intent on asserting control of, at most, a 20 acre piece of the vast Canadian wilderness. So what if they stood on this tiny plot and declared their sovereignty, title and jurisdiction? What significant interest would have been in any way affected if they had just been left alone to say and think whatever they wanted about the status of Indigenous peoples in BC, Canada, North America or the world for that matter?
In Above The Law Part 2, retired RCMP Constable Bob Woods, an Oneida Indian, speaks directly and plainly to this basic issue. He was one of three Native Mounties who routinely patrolled the Gustafsen Lake area for two months before the big escalation of state force in mid-August. According to Woods, by early August he reported that the sun dance had ended. "It's over, they're going to leave," he signalled to his superiors. "It was down to five individuals," Woods concluded.
Then something significantly changed, Constable Woods observed, in the higher echelons of government. He said, "The RCMP made up their minds. They were going to use force. It didn't matter what I said. They no longer wanted the Native police officers involved [as peace makers]." Woods then changed his gaze from the interviewer and looked right into the camera. He declared, "They were going to make a show of force and set an example. Somebody above the level of Constable made a decision that the Emergency Response Team was going to go in. And nothing was going to change their mind."
Then Constable Woods spoke with ironic contempt for Sargeant Montague's abrupt decision to pull him and the two other Native police officers out of the situation, allegedly "for our safety." My God," Woods said, "We were there for two months, daily, so I don't know what his reasoning was."
Constable Woods frustration with the apparent lawlessness as well as the bullying and deceit of his former employer is indicative of the dismay felt by a growing array of decent men and women who have been hurt for daring even to question the state thuggery that still characterizes officialdom's handling of the Gustafsen affair. Bruce Clark and his client, Wolverine, have faced particularly severe punishment as primary targets of the smear and disinformation campaign that Sargeant Montague described as an RCMP specialty. Very clearly they have been severely persecuted not so much for their actions, but rather for their convictions.
The maker of Above The Law Part 2 faced break ins and vandalism even as he found illegal listening devices in his home during the course of his work on the production. For advocating the need for a public inquiry into the Gustafsen fiasco in his showdown with Ujjal Dosanjh for the job of premier and NDP leader, Gordon Wilson faced riducule from the press. Many of those in the media who questioned or ignored this unorthodox BC politician's call for a public inquiry had their own good reasons not to want a spotlight on their own role delivering police disinformation to a Canadian public, many of whom have lamentably have been socialized to sieze on defamatory and racist slurs when this kind of state propaganda is directed against so-called "renegade Indians."
Another victim of Canada's covert little Indian war was retired soldier Sargeant Mike Schleuter, who lost part of his hand while setting up explosive devices around the Native camp at Gustafsen Lake. He is suing the Canadian government for $3 million dollars for an accident that gives the lie to the federal government's claims that the Army was there exclusivively in an advisory capacity and as drivers of the Armoured Personnel Carriers. The loss of faith of Sargeant Sleuter in the military is reflected in the demoralization of many of the rank and file soldiers and police officers in the operation. It is said that some of them broke down in tears once they saw the distance between the information they were given by their superiors about who they were dealing with, and what they actually found when the saw the eighteen women, children, elders and young man in the protest camp.
The credibility and integrity of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation was also seriously undermined as a result of their sorry role in the litany of wrongdong on the Crown's side of the conflict. Some of the damage done to the CBC was acknowledged in an 11 page report addressed to me by the CBC Ombudsman, David Bazay, who was Executive Director of the TV division's The National in 1995. Much of Mr. Bazay's report details the allegations of Jeffrey Dvorkin, who was head of CBC Radio News when the Gustafsen standoff was underway. Mr. Dvorkin is now employed in Washington DC as head of radio news in the USA's Public Broadcasting Corporation.
In 1995 Mr. Dvorkin was contacted by Sargeant Peter Montague and given an ultimatum. Montague wanted to commandeer for the RCMP umediated access to the CBC radio air waves in BC. He claimed that the Gustafsen group had hostages and that people would be killed if the Director of Radio News did not give in to the RCMP's demand immediately. Mr. Dvorkin agreed, and as a result the RCMP took direct unedited control of the public broadcaster's airwaves. Mr. Dvorkin subsequently learned he had been lied to by the RCMP. As reported in the Bazay report, Mr. Dvorkin then complained to the RCMP's Commissioner. According to Mr. Dvorkin, he received no response from the Mounties. Nor did the RCMP make Mr. Dvorkin's letter available in their disclosures at the trial of the Gustafsen sun dancers,an oversight that in itself represents a criminal withholding of pertinent evidence. If that letter had been made available, and Phil Murray, the Commissioner of the RCMP then and now had been made to testify, the course of the underreported trial might have gone quite differently.
The outcome for our public broadcaster was that, in Mr. Dvorkin's words, "CBC's Radio's independence had been breeched." And the question remains, if the RCMP could so ruthlessly and flagrantly breech the independence of the Crown's public broadcaster without repercussions, why should Canadians have any confidence in the ability of the CBC to hold at bay other sorts of blackmail and coercion, especially when emanating from those agencies of the federal Crown who fund our public broadcaster.
Especially in light of the CBC's dubious treatment of its reporter, Terry Milewski, in the spayPEC fiasco, these questions point back to growing concerns about the true nature of the relationship between the CBC and the Prime Minister's Office. The PMO's boss, Prime Minister Jean Chretien, must ultimately be held accountable for the decision to hand over elements of the Canadian Army for deployment in crushing a defensive stance of an Indian group. As I see it, the real threat this tiny Native protest posed to the Liberal government's sense of "national security," was that their leaders steadfastly insisted that the BC land dispute should involve international law and the global community; that this old dispute over lands and resources could not be solved exclusively within the framework of Canadian and British Columbian law.
Ironically, by invoking force of Canada's military to overwhelm a defensive posture undertaken by a small group of Native and non-Native people who invoked the old imperial constitution of British North America to justify their stance, the provincial and federal governments unwittingly confirmed that the conflict with Indigenous peoples in BC has an international dimension. The fact that Canada has in two instances now used the instruments of foreign defence to deal with assertions of self-determination made by Native sovereigntists, illustrates for the observant that Canada has crossed into the threshhold of international affairs when it comes to using the instruments of foreign wars on those who do not accept the legitimacy of the Indian Act and its attending institutions as a viable or even legal instrument of Crown relations with the First Nations.
The paralysis of the CBC in not wanting to deal with the legacies of this serious "breech" in the public broadcaster's "independence" was revealed in the Crown Corporation's failure even to cover the contents of the Bazay report, yet alone to follow up with interviews with either Mr. Dvorkin, or the RCMP. Meanwhile on January 21st the Vancouver Sun published an article of mine entitled, "Don't Bury the Tragedy at Gustafsen." This piece included mention of how the CBC had lied to Mr. Dvorkin to sieze unmediated control of the Crown corporations's airwaves. In this article I also emphasized how Sargeant Schleuter's missing hand constituted quite convincing evidence that the Canadian military had deployed land mines at Gustafsen Lake in 1995.
I believe that these particular aspects of this complex and many-layered story constitute in themselves huge leads that by any sound journalistic standards, merit major attention from the media. The fact that the Chretien government in general and Lloyd Axworthy in particular has taken so many bows internationally for Canada's role in bringing about the global treaty banning the use of land mines, sets the frame for the possibility of a huge double standard. There is a huge gap between how the federal government sought to portray itself internationally as a foe of land mines and the government's apparent willingness at home to use these abhorent so-called "disabling devices" in our country's own dirty little Indian wars. As I write these words I am still astounded that not one Canadian journalist has apparently taken the trouble since my article ran on January 21st to pick up the phone to confirm or deny the alleged use of land mines in Canada in 1995 and to confirm or deny that the RCMP used fraud and blackmail to commandeer control of the public broadcaster's airwaves.
It seems that the Canadian media is more comfortable talking about the tough issue of racism through, for instance, what a CTV reporter said on an open mike when she was satirizing the excesses of the so-called politically correct. This kind of trivialization of one of society's most difficult problems is apparently deemed more worthy of intense media coverage than compelling evidence of the Army's use of land mines to quell an Indian assertion of title to a sacred sun dance site. Similarly, the anti-Indian prejudices apparently run so deep in the media that it is possible for Attorney General to violate the law by condemning without even the semblance of due process Indian protestors as criminals without rights and without even their own side of the story to tell. Such intemperate and arguably criminal pronouncements from BC's chief law enforcement officer on matters touching directly on Canada's most sensitive human rights issues and on the country's unresolved Indian title question will live in infamy for those who take seriously the notion that Indians too are entitled to some measure of protection and equal treatment before the law.
So unqualified were the initial patterns set by Mr. Dosanjh of unsubstantiated accusation, criminalization and demonization, that the media overwhelming suspended its usual scepticism to extend North America's old mythological archetypes about the ascent of civilization over savagery. In the mid-1990s version of this very old story, retold again and again especially in the USA to rationalize the brutal theft of lands from the original peoples, the media mobilized to depict a just Indian war in BC led by a noble Indo-Canadian Indian fighter standing up to those fearsome, wild "savage renegades" thought to be lurking in the wildnerness just beyond the perimeters of Camp Zulu. The prize for the quirkiest extremes of these kind of modern-day hate crime goes to BCTV, whose news coverage is farthest along in disseminating those Americanized motifs of cops versus bad guys that play on the most basic story lines of Hollywood Westerns.
So far was this envelope of demonization and criminalization pushed that according to RCMP Deputy Commissioner Farrell, there was a "consensus" that the police and military should be given permission to kill the Indian protestors with "immunity," in other words to execute them without any trial whatsoever. If that revelation is not an legitimate entry point for a serious media discussion on the depths of racism that one report after the next has shown to be deeply entrenched and systemic, especially within the criminal justice system, then we really are in more trouble as a country than even the more pessimistic of our citizens might suspect.
The Gustafsen affair is just one element of a growing mountain of evidence to demonstrate that the police in this country are largely beyond the control of any civil authority. Recent revelations, for instance, point strongly to the possibility that the RCMP in Saskatoon have been basically executing with impunity young Indian men by driving them out to the edge of town and dumping them off to probable death through unprotected exposure to the potentially lethal extremes of the Canadian winter. Similarly, no matter how eleborate the obfuscation, the murder by an RCMP officer of Connie Jacob and her son, Ty, in a social services child apprehension matter on the T'suu Tina reserve near Calgary, adds to the litany of excessive use of deadly force by the Mounties in their Native policing work. The outcome of this imposition of an legal alien regime on First Nations, is that over half the people killed by the Mounties in their 125 years of duty in western Canada have been Aboriginal.
The criticism of Canada by the United Nations Human Rights Commission for the failure to conduct a public inquiry into the murder of the peaceful Ipperwash protestor, Dudley George, suggests further just how repressive this country has become when it comes to the dark business of evading any public accountability for the tactics employed in modern-day Indian fighting. This criticism from the UN points a particularly sharp probe not only at the federal and provincial governments but also at the institutionalized racism entrenched in a journalistic culture in Canada that tends at best to ghettoizes Aboriginal issues, or at worst to misrepresent or ignore them altogether. One symptom of this malaise is manifest in the biases of a Canadian media culture that refuses to hold Aboriginal Affairs officials, both Native and non-Native, accountable to the same kind of standards, however sporadically maintained, that are considered the acceptable norm in the covereage of other areas of public policy.
By way of comparison, I believe if the peaceful protests of Canadian farmers had led to the police shooting of an unarmed activist, there would be no way for government to hold back the insistent media calls for a public inquiry. When even the direct criticism of the UN is largely ignored in this matter, the sharp inequity of the balance of power is clarified in a country where politicians, especially in BC, can rise in public esteem through the popular deployment of extreme anti-Indian rhetoric. A classic example of this phenomenon is witnessed in the wide, uncritical coverage afforded Ujjal Dosanjh in his rise to the premiership of BC, when he condemned in 1995 the group at the Gustafsen camp. His hate-filled rhetoric essentially relegated the protestors to such a sub-human status that they were publically labelled by him as "zeroes" without so much as their own side of the story.
The depth of hate-filled, state-sanctioned disinformation that has been left uncorrected by the media in its handling of the Gustafsen Lake story reveals that almost anything goes when it comes to holding down the militant extremes of the Native sovereignty movement. Those officials who quite clearly have broken law after law in these operations obviously face little srutiny for what they have done. It seems once a story is established in the public mind as one connected to a stereotype like "renegade Natives," there are no checks to see that anything like truth or legal conduct are required from those officials who move to harm, divide, criminalize and quell those thus depicted as outside the realm of so-called "civilized" society. The public's great confusion and anxiety about almost every aspect of Aboriginal Affairs is probably the crucial factor in officialdom's ability to suspend almost all the usual laws of due process even as the police's media acolytes disseminate stories and imagery that fail to meet even rudimentary standards of reporting different sides of a given event. The roots of what made such one-sided deceit palatable to the media and the general public go deep into the grave inadequacies of our public education system when it comes to explaining the background of the marginalized place of First Nations in Canada.
The media too bears great responsibility for failing to train, cultivate and hold the personnel who are needed to understand and interpret for the public this most nuanced and many-tiered dimension of Canadian public policy. For instance there is really no one at the CBC or the Vancouver Sun or BCTV who in my estimation are anywhere near qualified enough to offer interesting and authoritative interpretations and commentary on all the complexities of history, law, culture and and politics necessary to understand even the basic ins and outs of the Indian title question in BC.
As the country's only national public broadcaster who in the final analysis is accountable to the citizens of Canada, the CBC in my view has a higher standard to meet when it comes to their coverage of public affairs. The CBC had a good start in its handling of Aboriginal Affairs when it broke new ground with the establishment of the radio show, Our Native Land. This hour-long, weekly show on the national radio service gave a pan-Canadian spotlight to First Nations peoples and their issues. The show also gave the Corporation a site of institutional memory and expertise that could be called upon whenever a crisis arose. Alas, the CBC cancelled this show over a decade and a half ago, putting nothing comparable in its place. The result has been that the public broadcaster's journalists have been vulnerable ever since to the smear and disinformation tactics that Crown officials have consistently employed whenever a militant Native group makes an aggressive defence of a site which they see as a legitimate part of their own Aboriginal inheritance.
In my estimation the failure of the CBC to provide a national centre within their infrastructure for the timely interpretation of the changing circumstances of First Nations within Canada, constitutes a direct violation of section 35 of the Canadian constitution. Given the importance of the flow of information to the life blood of all peoples, the failure of the federal public broadcaster to deal credibly with the Gustafsen fiasco even to this day, represents a telling illustration of a far broader institutional problem. As I see it the failure of the Queen's federal broadcaster to muster the expertise to cover objectively and fairly a story like this one, involving the largest police operation in BC's history and one of only three deployments of the Canadian military since 1945, stands as stark proof that the Queen's federal broadcaster is not living up to the federal government's affirmation and recognition of existing Aboriginal and treaty rights.
In my view those Aboriginal rights include the right not to be subjected to the racism engendered by smear and disinformation campaigns such as those disseminated from time to time trough the CBC's air waves, even to the point where the RCMP is known to have blackmailed Director of Radio News, Jeffrey Dvorkin, in order to disseminate without constraint their propaganda of lies and hatred. In my view those Aboriginal rights referred to in section 35 include the right of First Nations to be honestly and pluralistically depicted on the air waves of the public broadcaster as well as to have reasonable access to the whole infrastructure of the CBC in order to contribute in meaningful ways to the articulation, representation and dramatization of a constantly-changing Canada.
To place a disproportionate burden of blame on the CBC for the media's complicity in the state's smear and disinformation campaign would be to let the other news outlets in BC and Canada off the hook too easily. Certainly the conflict-of-interest built into the biases of the private-sector media, whose ownership and control is centred in fewer and fewer hands, becomes quite evident on a story like the Indian title question in BC. The substance of this bias is apparent when a focus is placed on those centres of financial control where media ownership and corporate control of BC's huge natural resource base meet. Quite naturally, the media controlled by owners who who have benefited most from the previous century of illegal dispossession of First Nations, will be uninclined to give deep and informative coverage to the perspectives of those best able to articulate how the province has developed outside the Crown's laws of existing Aboriginal and treaty rights.
This institutional bias is multiplied when it comes to coverage of those whose position is that the BC Treaty process, which seeks to resolve the BC land dispute through negotiated settlements rather than litigation, is illegitimate because it depends on a process for the choosing of Indian representation through the apparatus of the federal Indian Act. In the opinion of the protestors at Gustafsen Lake, the Indian Act was and is actually illegal in international law, just as those who claim to represent First Nations from that alien legislative base are incapable giving authentic voice and representation to the inherent principles of true Indigenous self-governance. This basis of criticism of the treaty process, one very different the opinion of premier-in-waiting Gordon Campbell and the other deniers of Indian land theft in BC, has been almost totally absent from the coverage of the province-wide land dispute, the issue that will almost certainly hold centre stage in BC politics for at least the next generation.
In its one-sided coverage of the Gustafsen fiasco, BCTV probably demonstrated the most undeviatingly hostile bias against the positions of who would characterize the delegations of politicians and lawyers on the Indian side of the BC Treaty negotiations as puppet regimes subject to the funding controls of the federal government. Recall that BCTV, whose huge audience overwhelms that of all other news sources in the province, may well have played a role in creating the trumped up misrepresentations that were fed to the public on August 27th as part of the process of manufacturing the rationale to bring in the hardware and personnel of the Canadian army. If it was to be shown that BCTV participated in an illegal act as part of the particularly intensive smear and disinformation campaign of August 27th, 1995, then I believe an appropriate response would be for the federal regulator to withdraw that offending company's extremely lucrative broadcasting license.
It should be remembered that the private-sector print and broadcast media operate with licences and sanctions ultimately extended to them as a privilege granted by the the citizens of Canada. Just as we give out through our governments various charters to perform the vital task of supplying us with the information we need to fulfill our democratic responsibilities, so it also lays in our power to withdraw these sanctions if our news diseeminators fail to live up to the responsibilities that go along with the privileges they have been extended. In my view the private -sector media profoundly failed the Canadian people for failing to deal with their own complicity in the RCMP smear and disinformation campaign that was especially integral to the coverage of the standoff at Gustafsen Lake.
I have reason to be especially critical of the media tactics I saw employed in the days before the selection by the NDP of BC's new premier, when editorial decisions were made to prevent the documentation of very serious allegations that premier-to-be Dosanjh may have broken very serious laws in his oversight of the police and military operations at Gustafsen Lake. The containment of that information was justified to me as a necessary expedient to prevent the "defaming" of Ujjal Dosanjh. Unfortunately, very few in the media showed similar caution when Mr. Dosanjh as Attorney General quite clearly defamed the Gustafsen protestors by branding their defensive stance as criminal without so much as an iota of due process.
The consistency of the pack rat mentality of print and broadcast journalists in their following the simple-minded script of demonization provided them by Mr. Dosanjh and the RCMP in the Gustafsen fiasco, illustrates pointedly how the concentration of media ownership in fewer and fewer hands is depriving Canadians of pluralistic perspectives we need on the news of the day. The mental monoculture brought to us in the impoverished, lowest-common-denominator approach emphasized by the likes of CTV, the Sun chain and the Conrad Black dailies, makes it increasingly difficult for Canadians to picture one another beyond the narrow confines of the advertising and boosterism of the self-congratulatory business community.
Insult is added to this injury by the growing paralysis of the CBC when it comes to reporting and investigating the more complex and difficult public affairs issues which used to be the public broadcaster's jewel in the Crown corporation. The result is that there is little to check the oligarchical rise of a thinly-disguised police state in Canada, where the RCMP lead the way as a force available to serve the political agendas of those in business and government most willing to exploit the new realities of how state coercion is invoked -- those most capable of exploiting the fact that when it comes to protecting the privilege of certain elites, there is nothing in this country which remotely approaches the existence of a genuine rule of law.
However much a few honest and decent cops in the system might strive to hold back this cycle of corruption from within, the thoroughgoing politicization of the Mounties is so far advanced that there will be huge obstacles placed in the way of any serious effort to re-establish some kind of arm's-length relationship between the police and the elected branches of government. As Paul Palango and Jack Glenn have documented in their important studies on the demise of the rule of law in Canada, there are almost no checks whatsoever to prevent the provincial Attorneys General from harnessing the agencies of the criminal justice system to own interests, to those of their their favourites in their own political parties, and to the networks of business friends that form the patronage connections which are the essential glue of any elected government in Canada.
Very clear evidence on how far Canada has already gone in its transformation into a police state emerges every day from the trial of Wiebo Ludwig. That Albertan man has been charged with vandalizing the infrastructures of the province's oil patch in his crusade to call attention to what he believes are the severe health deficits forced on the public by the province's most powerful and environmentally-unfriendly industry. Every day new revelations emerge about how the RCMP actually allowed itself to accept funds and computer services from private industry in its efforts to criminalize Mr. Ludwig, seemingly the target of another classic smear and disinformation campaign which Sargeant Montague has boasted is an RCMP's specialty. If RCMP smear and disinformation services are available to the private sector for a fee, what does that say about the state of policing in our endangered democracy?
Every time Mr. Ludwig is put on trial it seems new information bomb shells emerge, telling of how officials in the RCMP and the Alberta Energy Corporation blew up gas installations in a covert campaign to turn public opinion against the oil industry's most resolute critic. What is even more remarkable is the relative unwillingness of the Alberta media tp press hard questions about the extent to which the executive branch of the Alberta government is either directing or deliberately ignoring this orgy of RCMP lawlessness. Are the reported criminal acts of police isolated incidents, or is this just the tip of the ice berg of what is really going on in Canada to crush, discredit and demoralize the most effective forms of dissent?
Clearly there are immense double standards that motivate the media and police to give great protection to some politicians and to some entrepreneurs even as this same latitude of unscrutinized action is denied those outside the charmed inner circle of officially-sanctioned influence and prestige. Thus to put it plainly, there is no such thing as equality of treatment before Canadian law. There is one law for the rich, one for the poor and yet another law for those most denigrated Native people who constitute the underclass of this country's unjust society. Meanwhile, there is no formal mechanism whatsoever for citizens to hold government officials accountable for violations of the criminal code. And the top politicians control all police investigations into their own activities and those of their friends. Hence there is essentially no law other than the media-controlled constraints of public opinion for those within the control chamber of Canadian government as well as their political masters at the commanding heights of the business community..
Apparently pampered Indian fighters such as Premier Dosanjh or gurus of privatization such as Premier Ralph Klein are given lots of room to play fast and loose with the rule of law as long as they advance the preferred agendas of big business. This reality points to the fact that the real heart of the Gustafsen Lake story, or the disputed Indian title story in BC for that matter, is not so much that these conflicts situate Native people at the centre of controversy. In the final analysis what these controversies really pivot around is the question of whether or not Canada is governed by the rule of law or the rule of politics.
Accordingly there are dark signs that abuses suffered by Native people under the arbitrary authority of police working in concert with a prejudiced media oligarchy have established patterns that will be visited on widening constituencies as the power of big business expands. The signs are unmistakable that the police in this country are seriously out of control as evidenced, for instance, by the rampage of police wrongdoing in the matter of Wiebo Ludwig, or in the dark revelations about the immense, unaccountable power of the Ontario Police Union, or in the thick web of connections linking the Hell's Angels and the leadership of the Edmonton police force. Thus in the light of future history the real significance of the unfolding drama of smear and disinformation in the Gustafsen fiasco was that this covert little Indian war foreshadowed much about the state of things to come for all Canadians.
As Dr. Bruce Clark repeatedly insisted in his many representations on Indian land question, the real issue at stake concerns the integrity of the rule of law. That most vulnerable of all balances is perhaps the most essential ingredient for the health and wellbeing of any society. When the rights and freedoms of Native people are violated, everybody loses from the brutalization of those institutions, including the police, the media, the judiciary and the executive branch of government, which are absolutely basic to the viability of our democracy.
While it may be tempting for many Canadians to assume that whatever the police and the journalists do to keep the more militant activists of Indian Country on the margins of public opinion, this reaction, with all its blatently racist connotations, is based on a very unsound reading of reality. As former US Attorney General Ramsay Clark has said in his commentary on the "despicable" handling of the Gustafsen crisis by the police, the judges and the media, it is easy to "divide" Native people and "push them around" as has been happening since 1492. "By now, however," said Clark, "we should be aspiring to something better."
To my way of thinking all the elements of the smear and disinformation strategy at Gustafsen Lake were replayed on a scale at once smaller and yet more monumental, when the RCMP together with BCTV visited former Premier Glen Clark's home to search it. This act was in my view the decisive moment when it was demonstrated where the the actual locus of power in the real government of British Columbia lies. The raid set off a chain of events that removed a premier from office, clearing the way for Ujjal Dosanjh to reap his reward of high office as the victor of the Battle of Gustafsen Lake.
At the moment of writing this commentary no charges have been pressed against the former premier. While there is apparently some evidence that Glen Clark may may have accepted the lumber for a balcony on his small, working-class home from an applicant for a casino license, to my way of thinking this hint of scandal does not come close to the blatent violations of Premier Ralph Klein and his aids when they allowed their wives to receive free Multicorp shares in return for government favours in helping this company succeed in the Chinese market. (See Hall, "Did Ralph Klein Break the Law?" Canadian Dimension, May-June, 1996, pp. 57-60)
Why is it that the right -wing regime in Alberta is given a virtual license by the police and their obsequious friends in the media to act outside even the government's own conflic of interests guidelines, let alone the criminal code? Why is Mike Harris's regime can literally murder an Indian protestor and thereby be condemned the United Nations Human Commission, and yet Glen Clark's little balcony on his modest, working class home merits the huge attention of journalists and police investigators, who were under the chain of command led by Attorney General Ujjal Dosanjh? What has this kind of glaring double standard got to do with anything like the principle of equality of treatment before the law?
To me it would be unthinkable to imagine the local CTV affiliate, CFCN, ever filming a police raid on the home of its former employee, namely Premier Ralph Klein, no matter what this folksy everyman was charged with. The fix is clearly in and the police and their friends in the media apparently can make or break premiers with easy dispatch. While the media went into a feeding frenzy to try to dissect the intersection between Glen Clark's personal and professional dealings, I have witnessed the placing of every kind of obstacle to some kind of detailed scrutiny of the possibility that Attorney General Ujjal Dosanjh may have violated the law in his oversight and direction of the Gustafsen Lake operation.
To re-iterate, here is how I see the evidence in the case that could be made against BC's former chief law enforcement officer. Let me be clear that I am not making wild and unsubstantiated accusations such as those directed by Mr. Dosanjh against the Gustafsen Lake sun dancers in 1995. I am not stating unequivocally that he commited one or more crimes. Rather I am arguing that there is considerable evidence that he may have commited one or more crimes. Nor am I declaring that there is only one side to this story, as Ujjal Dosanjh himself did during the height of the conflict. Clearly the Premier has his side of the story and he should be allowed every opportunity to articulate it properly in an appropriate forum.
Having been very very explicit about these qualifications, I argue on the basis of the documents that I have described above that there is much to indicate the alleged shooting incidents of August 27th and September 4th were in fact concocted by police as part of the falsified rationale to bring in the Canadian military. I argue that Mr. Dosanjh had every opportunity to learn for himself that the alleged incidents did not take place according to the scenario outlined in the clearly-chronicled smear and disinformation campaign conducted by the RCMP, whose activities at Camp Zulu and 100 Mile House took place in their capacity as a provincial police force ultimately under the command of the provincial Attorney General.
The most telling evidence that the report of the September 4th shooting was falsified lies in the fact that no bullets nor any bullet holes were subsequently found in the police vehicle in question. This finding is completely at variance with the RCMP claim at the time that a .22 calibre bullet "narrowly missed the head of the Victoria Team leader," and this projectile was "recovered" from the "headliner" of the Suburban van in question. This signed account of what appears to have been a falsified incident, is the document that eventually went through the Attorney General's hands and up the chain of command in the federal government in order to edify and confirm the case advanced by Mr. Dosanjh with his federal colleagues as early as August 19th. The argument advanced repeatedly and insistently by Mr. Dosanjh, was that there was a sufficiently critical national emergency underway to justify the deployment of elements of the Canadian army.
The fact that the army was eventually brought in on the basis of a mere Memorandum of Understanding in my view adds to the case that whole sorry episode, whose federal military dimension was code named Operation Wallaby, went forward in a way demonstrating a systemic pattern of carelessness and disregard for the requirements of the rule of law. Operation Wallaby therefore I believe represented a violation of Canada's constitution. Moreover, given the nature of the state crime I am alleging, the proper forum for redress most appropriately lies in the international community within the framework of international law.
In my view the carelessness of federal and provincial officials in expediting this matter was based largely on their understanding that they could count on facing little scrutiny given the success of the RCMP smear and disinformation campaign which played so cynically on the public's deeply-rooted racist biases against that element of society repeatedly described in the press as, for instance, "renegade Indians" or "maverick Indians." In a public inquiry into this matter I would be in a good position to describe the mechanics of how this veil of silence around the Gustafsen incident has been maintained, with some small breeches, right up to the time I am writing this commentary.
If Attorney General Dosanjh knowingly signed off on a report describing an incident that he knew did not take place, then he is guilty of a major crime. I am aware of course that there is a very high onus of proof to demonstrate that not only were the alleged events of September 4th falsified, but that Attorney General Dosanjh knew they were falsified when he reported them to the federal government in order to justify bringing in the military. The question of whether or not Mr. Dosanjh had a guilty mind when he signed off on the relevant document is connected to the legal issue of whether or not he used due diligence to learn for himself whether the version of events reported to him were verifiable and true.
The similar incident which was alleged to have happened on August 27th carries its own range of complexities and conundrums. To re-iterate, I believe it may be very significant that according to the notes of RCMP Deputy Commissioner Brown, Mr. Dosanjh is said to have learned of the alleged shooting incident from BCTV. The comment suggests that the role of this broadcaster in this episode may have gone beyond reporting to include participation in the staging or misrepresentation of falsified events in the police's smear and disinformation campaign.
Brown's notes mentioning BCTV's report of the shooting were written at 3:15 pm. Three hours earlier Brown's notes indicate, "Everyone is on side. The Attorney General and we would come to an agreement, when we have exhausted all avenues then we go in." Following that phrase a sentence has been deleted from Brown's notes for national security purposes. What did that deleted phrase say and what is the rationale for preventing the Canadian people from knowing what was planned to have happened, presumably after the police "go in?"
The most likely scenario I can imagine from this timing is that the alleged shooting incident was concocted in order to hurry events along after the decision was made to "go in." Of course I am speculating here. Until we have an answer to who Brown means by "everyone," and what was the agreement to which they were "on side," then this genre of speculation is entirely legitimate. Those who might object to such speculation should qualify this objection by acknowledging the need for a public inquiry. There is more than enough evidence on the public record to justify the need for some neutral investigator to collect the existing facts and employ the full range of judicial powers in order to exact answers from those who had a hand in the conduct and reporting of BC's covert little Indian war. We Canadians have a right to know what was being done on our behalf at Victoria, Ottawa and Camp Zulu under the cover of the infamous smear and disinformation campaign orchestrated in the briefing sessions led by Sargeant Montague.
When Ujjal Dosanjh became the premier of British Columbia on February 20th, 2000, he was widely reported to have become Canada's first non-White provincial First Minister. Actually that honour fell to Prince Edward Island's Joe Ghiz, who was of Lebanese ancestry. Mr. Ghiz was a visionary leader whose approach to First Nations emphasized the idea of making peace rather than war. The First Minister of PEI did great credit to his province and his country when he made the historic proposal of renewing the relationships between First Nations and the other orders of Canadian government through the negotiation of some sort of national treaty. Unfortunately, that proposal seemed to disappear from the public stage around that the time when PEI's most luminous leader passed away.
When Ujjal Dosanjh took office he waxed eloquent on the abundance of fairness and tolerance he had enjoyed which had enabled an immigrant from the Punjab in India to move into government and acquire the top political job in British Columbia. This ascent was widely perceived especially in BC and Asia as a kind of catharsis marking a moving beyond those particularly dark chapters in the province's earlier history, when onslaught after onslaught of institutionalized racism was directed especially at BC's citizens of Asian ancestry.
I for one saw saw great irony in Premier Dosanjh's acceptance speech, where he eulogized the political work of his father in fighting for India's independence against the alien control of the British empire over the people and resources of his Mother Country. How is it that Premier Dosanjh could so easily identify and condemn this brand of colonialism, whereas the struggle of the Indigenous peoples of BC to re assert some measure of self-determination and some measure of resource sharing in the land's of the province are not afforded the same level of dignity?
One of the great ironies to conjur with in comparing the anti-colonial struggle of the Dosanjh family in India to the similar struggle of First Nations activists in BC, is that the assertions of liberty of the latter are supported rather than undermined by Britain's imperial laws on which Canada's westernmost province is founded. Accordingly, those who made their defensive stand at Gustafsen Lake in 1995 were seeking to invoke rather than overcome the laws at the constitutional foundation of British North America. That was the reason that Dr. Clark was engaged in intense diplomatic efforts to open channels of communication with Queen Elizabeth II when the Gustafsen standoff began.
Beneath the manyrepresentations of the much-maligned Dr. Clark lies a monumental, if much-ignored or misrepresented, body of constitutional law and interpretation. It was on the moral and legal high ground created by this body of Crown law that the self-declared defenders of the Gustafsen Lake sun dance site believed they were standing in opposing what they saw as the the illegal encroachments of the Queen's Red-Coated Mounties. Of course it will be hard for many Canadians to put aside our instinctive trust of authority; to accept instead that it is possible for the police rather than the Indians to be the real transgressors of the rule of law. But there is no way to escape coming to terms with how seriously the RCMP have strayed from the essence of the mythology on which the force was founded back in 1874.
That mythology pictures the Mounties as friends and allies of the Indians who saved them from being debauched by the diabolical American whiskey traders in order to establish instead the imagined even-handed justice of the British empire. Lamentably, there has been too much lawlessness in the Indian policing work of the RCMP to sustain that myth any longer. As questions grow in Saskatchewan, for instance, about how many Indians the RCMP have literally murdered with impunity, Canadians should have no delusions about how far matters have been allowed to slide into the quiet reign of terror that prevails over too many parts of Indian Country. When Ujjal Dosanjh succumbed to the temptations to derive political advantage by playing to the worst instincts of a BC electorate, who by and large are encouraged by the media to have less and less patience for the bewildering discourse of land claims, the former Attorney General acted in the repressive manner of the British Raj in India at its worst.
The Globe and Mail's columnist Paul Sullivan led the way in the effort to romanticize the coming to power of Premier Dosanjh as a testament to the sagacity and beneficence of Canada's treatment of immigrants. The fact that an Indo-Canadian could become premier was cited as proof of how far the country has come in combatting racism. But who has paid the major price as a result of setting up Canada as a land that affords such magnificent opportunities to immigrants. Why is it that there has never been a Native person who has become premier of a province. Indeed the Metis man who was probably best suited to become a premier of Manitoba, namely Louis Riel, ended up being executed by the government along with eight Indian people for treason. How do these hard realities of Canada, which still treated adult Indians as wards of the state and thus ineligible to vote until 1960, square with the self congratulatory rhetoric associated with the premiership of Ujjal Dosanjh?
I recall well a related episode in 1987, where the question came up of how Canada was set up in a way that so consistently favours the interests of immigrants over the rights of Native peoples. The episode came in the dying moments of the failed, four year series of constitutional conferences on Aboriginal matters, an event that turned out to be the prelude to the premier's overnight decision to afford Quebec the status of a "distinct society" in the Meech Lake accord.
In apportioning blame for the failure of the process, the Saskatchewan Metis leader, Jim Sinclair, turned to Bill Vander Zalm who was then premier of British Columbia. He pointed out how good Canada had been to Mr. Vander Zalm, an immigrant from Holland who had risen to great prominence in one of the country's most important provinces. Sinclair then reminded the immigrant premier that many Metis and Indian men in Canada had served in World War II in the campaign to liberate the Netherlands from Nazi control. Sinclair reminded his audience of how many Native people were lying in foreign military burial grounds, killed in the line of duty in the protection of Canada and the British empire; killed in struggle to obtain liberty and freedom from tyranny for the likes of the Vander Zalm family in Holland. As televised across the country by the national service of the CBC, the Metis leader then observed how ironic it was that the BC premier had played a major role in denying rights and freedoms to the Indigenous peoples of Canada.
Mr. Vander Zalm has since gone on to become one of the most outspoken critics of the Nisga'a Treaty, which he characterizes with an amazing flash of Cold War nostalgia as "communitist." Moreover the themes raised by Jim Sinclair in 1987 were re-played with a terrible intensity in 1990, as many Native veterans of the Canadian armed forces watched with dismay as the Canadian Army rolled into Oka and Kanewake. The Native war vets clarified their opposition to the stance taken by the government in Canada in a major representation to Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, one of the many key episodes of Crown-Indian relations in Canada that an ethnocentric media chose in their institutionalized ignorance and prejudice not to publicize and interpret for their audiences.
To my way of thinking the stance of the General and the Attorney, Ujjal Dosanjh, in the Battle of Gustafsen Lake resembled not so much the imperial contempt for the Indigenous peoples of India during the height of the coercive control of the British Raj. A more appropriate way of viewing Mr. Dosanjh's stance was as one of those many Indian fighters in US history who rose to high office through a highly sensationalized defeat of an Aboriginal group on the frontiers of American Manifest Destiny. For instance presidents Andrew Jackson and William Henry Harrison both entered the White House based largely on the celebrity they achieved as generals of the extended American war on Indian Country. Similarly, George Custer was campaigning for the job of US president when he became too overconfident about the ability of his forces to defeat the Souian warriors of Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse in the Battle of Little Big Horn. At one time the American war on Indian Country was also a war on Canada. Thus the British Red Coats and the soldiers of the Indian Confederacy of Canada once co operated militarily in their treaty alliance to prevent the USA from annexing our country. If it had not been for the ability of the legendary Shawnee General, Tecumseh, to mobilize about 10,000 warriors to defend Canada from the Americans at a time when the British army was mostly tied down in the Napoleonic wars in Europe, Canada would certainly have fallen to the Stars and Stripes during the War of 1812. Thus the treaty tradition presently working its way into the politics of British Columbia derives much of its vitality from a constitutional and military history where the national security of Canada depended on making treaties rather than war with the First Nations. In my view the security of Canada still stands on the same strategic ground.
Here is how Lewis Cass, a Michigan Governor and the recipient from Harvard of an honorary Ph.D. as the foremost US "Indian expert" of his generation, described the movement that rallied around Tecumseh in what was by far the most serious Aboriginal resistance movement ever met in the USA's saga of western expansion. Bear in mind that the strength of this First Nations resistance is the reason that Canada was able to survive the War of 1812 and persevere to this day as a distinct sovereign country in North America. Cass wrote in the 1820s that the Indian fighting forces that rallied around Tecumseh were "deserters from a few tribes." He continued, "The acknowledged government of each tribe disavowed any participation in their projects. And they were in fact a lawless and predatory band, obeying no common authority, and seeking no common authority, and seeking no rational object."
These words of propaganda from a very important Indian fighter in the USA could easily be substituted as the substance of the smear and disinformation campaign directed at the Gustafsen Lake protestors in 1995. Indeed, the same basic script of psychological warfare has been recycled basically every time a pan-Indian group has made a defensive stand in the effort to halt the subversive progress of land theft from First Nations which is the most consistent theme in the history of the Americas since 1492.
Certainly Lewis Cass's attack on the role of Tecumseh's people in the defence of Canada from the acquisition grasp of the USA, was almost identical to official condemnations of the stand made by the American Indian Movement at Wounded Knee in 1973. Certainly this kind of incitement to Indian hating is common in the propaganda efforts to cover over the lack of any deep investigation of the cold blooded murders of AIM supporters in a small civil war on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota in the mid-1970s. Certainly the script written by Lewis Cass in the 1820s was basically the same as the ones used in government efforts to cover over the extradition from Canada of the USA's most obvious political prisoner, Leonard Peltier, or to discredit the stand of the Ojibway Warriors Society made at Kenora's Ancinabe Park in 1974.
In each of these actions and many others as well, the co-ordinators of the smear and disinformation campaigns on the government side sought to deny the resisters any sympathetic identification from non-Aboriginals by assuring the general public that "the acknowledged government of each tribed disavowed" any support for the defensive stances. In almost every such case the official version is that the Indian protestors have "no rationale object," or as Attorney General Dosanjh asserted, they do not have even a side of the story that needs to be heard, let alone acted upon. The other side of this old tactic of Indian fighting shows up in the very revealing notes of RCMP Deputy Commissioner Brown, who commented on August 31st, 1995 that "Shuswap Band had a news conference and did real good." To me this verbal pat on the head from the police for the personnel of a Native agency created by the federal Indian Act, speaks volumes. Given the structure of federal funding to impoverished Indian reserves, Crown officials have enormous leverage in the old game of divide-and conquer in playing on the class divisions between those Native people inside and outside the structures of collaboration with federal and provincial authorities.
As I see it, the pattern of small Indian wars in Canada that was initiated with the Battle of Oka in 1990 is a manifestation of the Americanization of Canada. Having a fur trade and military history that has made collaboration with the First Nations the original modus operandi of European imperialism in the northern part of North America, Canada's constitutional heritage is very different than that of the United States, a country that legislatively prohibited the making of any further treaties with the First Nations in 1871.
To my way of thinking the political question of whether or not the Crown's Indian treaty frontier can or cannot be successfully extended into British Columbia in the new millenium, constitutes the essential test case of whether or not Canada is capable of surviving and maturing as a distinct North American society outside the imperial grasp of the United States. To me the extreme extent of the Americanization of Canada shows up in the apparent unwillingness of officialdom, the media and the general public to hold Mr. Dosanjh, the RCMP and, indeed, the Prime Minister himself, accountable, both legally and politically, for the crimes commited and the constitutional principles tragically violated in the Battle of Gustafsen Lake.
*Dr. Anthony Hall is a professor of Native Studies at the University
of Lethbridge in Alberta and a contributing writer to shunpiking magazine.
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