Hearing the other
side of the story at
This story originally
ran in Spring 1997 edition of Terminal City, BC
By BEN MAHONY
most Canadian television viewers, I watched what was portrayed as reckless
rebel stand at Gustafsen Lake in the summer of 1995. Canadians lamented
what seemed to be the escalation of native militancy. British Columbian
popular opinion endorsed the mobilization a huge RCMP force to disperse
a group of twenty-one Sundancers from a campground which they had never
lawfully ceded. News coverage did not detail the history of this land
nor its original people, the Shuswap nation. Further inquiry has revealed
a different picture from the one conveyed directly from RCMP spokesmen
to media that were told all media reports should be conduits of the
RCMP version of events. I am told that this was stated directly to reporters.
1989, Percy Rosette, a Shuswap nation elder informed American cattle
rancher, Lyle James that spiritual leaders had seen visions of a Sundance
site at Gustafsen Lake and would use this area, a Shuswap burial ground,
as the site for an annual Sundance ceremony. James has grazing rights
to some of the land in this area but it has not been proven that he
owns this land which is located in the interior of British Columbia.
The Sundance took place with little or no controversy. In 1991, William
Jones Ignace, better known by his Shuswap name, Wolverine, sought redress
in regards to these and other "stolen unceded lands" by the
International Court in the Hague. No resolution was reached and twice
over the next two years he sought redress through the United Nations
and petitioned for an independent tribunal to address the fact that
the Shuswap have never negotiated a treaty and therefore have legal
rights to their land.
is an impassioned speaker versed in Canada's constitutional law as it
relates to native jurisdiction. I have heard him address the court room
in Surrey where he sits on trial for unsubstantiated charges ranging
from mischief to attempted murder.
years previous to the Gustafsen Lake "stand-off," many Shuswap
people have made attempts to access their right to a third party tribunal.
They have been denied this right which is enshrined in the Royal Proclamation
of 1763 and reinscribed in Trudeau's 1982 Constitution Act. This document
stated that "aboriginal people cannot legally be molested or disturbed
by newcomer governments, their courts or their citizens, not upon any
Lands whatever which were not ceded to the crown." In addition,
an extinguishment of aboriginal rights is valid only if the intent of
the particular Indian community to cede or to sell is arrived at in
a "Public Meeting or Assembly" and then recorded in a contract
that describes with legal accuracy the land being ceded. This transfer
must then be signed by the community's leaders. King George implemented
this measure to secure his alliance with native nations that helped
England win military battles with New France a century before Confederation.
to, during and since the "stand-off," members of the Shuswap
nation have petitioned for the sort of impartial mediation mechanism
created by Queen Anne in 1704. In that year, a special Constitutional
Court was set up at the request of the Mohegan Indians to mediate their
dispute with the colony of Connecticut. Queen Anne ruled that the newcomers
court system could not be seen to be independent and impartial in a
dispute between the parties. When Wolverine's attorney, Bruce Clark
raised this issue with the Canadian Governor General on August fifteenth,
he was told to apply to the Canadian courts and government for relief,
"the alleged criminals themselves," Clark noted.
the summer of 1995 the "stand off" was portrayed as a reckless
rebel stand by natives "seized with a cult mentality." (Mike
Harcourt) This attitude points towards the hard-line taken by N.D.P.
politicians, especially BC Governor General Ujjal Dosanjh. He refused
to acknowledge petitions for third party adjudication stating that "Gustafsen
Lake has nothing to do with aboriginal land claims issues. It's purely
to do with the weapons found there and the shots that have been fired."
He recanted on November seventh acknowledging that it is a land claims
issue but also asserting that the method to forward their goals is wrong.
In the short time that Gustafsen Lake captured the media spotlight,
the provincial NDP catapulted from dead last to such popularity that
they drafted an election writ. Public support, especially in the Interior,
for the 'war-like tactics' (Globe and Mail October 8, 1996) employed
by the provincial government buoyed Harcourt to the point where he was
poised for an election call until the "bingo-gate" scandal
hit within the month.
largest mobilization of the RCMP in history is under public scrutiny
in the courtroom where I sat with eight or nine Shuswap supporters and
sometimes a reporter from the all-news radio station. Only since video
footage of the detonation of a truck at the camp by an RCMP command
mine and footage of discussions regarding a "smear" campaign
have come to light have major media begun to attend the trial where
the RCMP are incriminating themselves on the stand. Although RCMP spin
doctors styled the military action at Gustafsen Lake as initiated by
armed insurgents, a RCMP officer under cross-examination testified in
January, 1996 that military action was planned in May two months before
the recently acknowledged 'smear campaign' painted a picture of the
Gustafsen lake camp members as radical criminals. A one-hundred twenty
page report details this smear campaign which was channeled through
RCMP spokesman Peter Montague. On RCMP video tape taken at Gustafsen
Lake Montague states "Smear campaigns are our specialty."
August eighteenth, a press conference was held where US rancher Lyle
James was styled the owner of this land although it has been revealed
that no legal survey has been done there and James himself is vague
about where his grazing rights begin and the land he claims to own begins.
Guns found in the truck of a native man charged with a fishing infraction
a week earlier were also shown at this press conference. The intent
was to show that there were dangerous people in the camp. "On the
same day eight camouflaged and fully armed men were happened upon by
a member of the Sundance camp in the bush. Thinking they might be red-neck
vigilantes bent upon killing the Indians, Sundancers phoned the RCMP
around seven A.M. 'No Sundancer fired any shot at one of the men.' (Ts'Peten
Defenders' Press Release August 22, 1995) Splitting the Sky who figures
prominently in the Defenders press material spoke at the S.F.U. Harbourfront
campus recently and stated that "neo-nazi sympathizers in Percy's
area associated with right-wing militia have admitted to killing native
people." In this context an armed but defensive protection of land
seems logical. (According to court testimony over 20,000 shots were
fired at the camp and 104 from the camp.)
officers have appeared very nervous and rattled during recent court
proceedings at the high-security court room in Surrey. Ts'Peten (the
native name for the Gustafsen Lake area) Defenders encourage interested
parties to attend as the truth of the RCMP disinformation campaign has
been emerging. A plane of protective glass separates the judges, sheriffs,
defence attorneys and jurors from the gallery where I sit in awe of
the evolving weight of evidence that truth was the first casualty in
this case. "It sure felt like a war," according to one RCMP
officer. The largest mobilization of the RCMP ever is under public scrutiny
in this courtroom where official transcripts are being compiled which
provide a clearer view of the events of the August 1995 "siege."
transcripts, however, have not been made easily accessible to the public.
I have gone to great lengths to secure them. I was told by the Surrey
court clerk that I could only have access to a copy of the charges and
some other supporting documents but not the transcripts themselves.
I was unsatisfied by this so she referred me to a Lawyers Referral Service.
I called them and they said they couldn't help me because they are simply
a Lawyers Referral Service. I was given another phone number which landed
me in an endless maze of voice-activated options. I then tried the Law
Society of BC. At their local office they asked why I was calling the
Vancouver office regarding a trial taking place in Surrey? He was terse,
unhelpful and filled me with the most frustration I've felt since the
last time I dealt with student loans people. In desperation, I called
back the people in Surrey. This time they told me that the Surrey court
room where the trial was taking place was being rented from the New
Westminster Court House. I tried them. It costs $4.50 per page if documents
have not been previously released or $1.50 if they have. Obtaining one
witness's testimony would cost approximately four hundred dollars. Some
access to information. A journalist who was in the camp and has been
charged in this mass trial of twenty-one defendants has been keeping
court notes and updating a web site. (It can be accessed at Web: http://kafka.uvic.ca/~vipirg/SISIS/gustmain.html.)
of the accused, acting in her own defense, has finally been told she
can have access to some court transcripts although her request was made
months ago. On top of the $5.5 million spent on the RCMP build-up in
the summer of 1995, many thousands more in daily allowances to the defendants
and wages to the lawyers, are one million dollars of court costs in
the way of such police state training as: "$41,204 for added surveillance
cameras, a monitor and VCR for court room security, $3,006 for gas masks
and 12,278 for handheld radios for the sheriffs, plus $5,255 in various
protective and security equipment, 3,000 for training sheriffs and court
administrators in crowd management and aboriginal awareness,' and 4,400
to tint the windows lining the courthouse hallway to prevent T.V. news
cameras from trying to film the trial from outside the building."
( News Leader Jan. 26, 1997) Every day in court costs the tax payers
fifty thousand dollars and yet the judge denied a defendant court transcripts
for her own case for months.
the military presence increased at Gustafsen Lake, further attempts
were made to petition the Queen. These were stalled when Leader of the
First Nations Assembly Ovide Mercredi earned the disrespect of the camp
by failing to endorse the Shuswap petition for third party adjudication.
On August twenty-sixth, Clark requested Queen Elizabeth II address the
petition dated January third, 1995 as filed by his clients. Later that
day the RCMP "cut the phone line to the camp so that they can't
be further influenced by their lawyer, Bruce Clark, which is a problem"
according to RCMP staff Sgt. Montague (Vancouver Sun, August 30, 1995)
Mercredi then tried again to mediate and failed. Next came the official
request for military intervention although they had already been training
nearby in Kamloops. "The crews and their equipment were confined
to an armoury in Kamloops to prevent detection and orders were given
for no military aircraft to land at any airport nearby." (Vancouver
Sun, April 12, 1996) As the largest RCMP mobilization ever began, so
did media misrepresentation.
August twenty-seventh, Sergeant Peter Montague reported to the press
that "two officers were hit by machine gun fire in an 'ambush'
near the renegade native camp," and that they were saved from 'serious
injury or even death' by their flak jackets. No evidence has been introduced
into the court that substantiates the story and no one has been charged
in connection with this incident. The manufacturer of the flak jackets
has made a public statement that the light - duty vests that the officers
were wearing were designed to withstand small arms fire and that the
rifle fire would certainly have penetrated into the body of the wearer.
The flack jackets, now infamous to T.V. viewers were shown on the news.
According to crown disclosures of September first 1995, Deputy Commissioner
Johnston made a note during a phone conversation four days later with
Superintendent Len Olfert that 'There are six hardliners in the camp
who will require killing.' At a press conference in 100 mile House (about
a forty-five minute drive) from the camp, RCMP Corporal John Ward reported
that "four RCMP officers came under fire from armed natives from
the Gustafsen Lake camp." He went on to say that "shots were
fired at them and a number are thought to have struck the vehicle"
and that the officers were "actively pursued by persons from the
armed camp and only great restraint on the part of the officers prevented
what could have been a very serious incident." Corporal Ward assured
the press that the APC's were being used "strictly in the defensive
posture." (The Vancouver Sun, Sept. 6, 1995; Front Page.) Four
military, armed personal carriers were sent in, supposedly, to extract
the officers to safety. At this time the surveillance capability employed
by the RCMP included twenty-four hour Wescam, night vision, heat sensing,
trip-wire booby traps, on-ground cameras, early detection devices plus
ERT patrols. It seems likely then that RCMP command knew more of the
actual details of the incident as detailed by their own subsequent forensic
analysis. Recent testimony from the RCMP forensics expert determined
that the RCMP vehicle struck a tree branch, panicking the officers and
causing them to shoot wildly. (Pretrial disclosures, June 14, 1996).
The truck that was allegedly shot at was towed out covered in a tarp
to "preserve the evidence." A few days later it was shown
to journalists with numerous bullet holes supposedly caused by people
from the camp. Even at the time the story sounded unconvincing: "Something,
perhaps my grey hair, tells me that the story of an 'ambush' in a 'hail
of bullets' fired by semi-automatic weapons doesn't stand up. When an
ambush involves crossfire from two sides on unsuspecting targets - the
story told by the Mounties - one would expect that someone would get
hurt. If there is no wounded Mountie to photograph and show the pictures
of, if there is no bullet - torn clothing to hold up at a press conference,
I begin to sense that there is more or less to the "ambush"
story than what reporters so confidently reported." (William Johnson,
Montreal Gazette, August 29, 1995)
public support grew nationally and internationally for the Ts'Peten
Defenders. Chief Saul Terry, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs
released a statement accusing the RCMP, the Attorney General and the
media as having gone: "to great lengths to discredit the Shuswap
Sundancers and their supporters at Gustafsen Lake as dangerous fanatics
in order to justify the use of armed force to remove them from the Sundance
grounds... In trying to discredit and isolate the Sundancers, the RCMP,
the Attorney General are laying the groundwork for bloodshed - needless
bloodshed." (Press Release, August 28, 1995) On August twenty-seventh,
Clark made contact by radio phone to the camp while a coalition of Peace
and Justice Groups picketed the Canadian Embassy in Washington. On August
thirty - first, Clark was allowed in the camp after being denied entrance
by the RCMP under the rationale that they couldn't guarantee his safety,...
a curious and mysterious concern. He emerged with RCMP bullet casings
and a sworn affidavit by an independent journalist within the camp indicating
that the August twenty-seventh incident was instigated by the police.
On September first., Clark reached an agreement with RCMP Sgt. Ryan
stating that Ryan would "(i) Submit a proposal through the Attorney
General of Canada" and that "(ii) No RCMP attack would take
place pending the Attorney General's Decision." Clark said that
camp members would come out if there was confirmation that the Attorney
General and the Minister of Justice for Canada sent a letter to Queen
Elizabeth II. Ryan then acted in bad faith submitting the proposal not
to the Attorney General of Canada as he originally agreed but to BC's
Attorney General Dosanjh who promptly vetoed it perpetuating the stand-off
and effectively aggravating the antagonism.
to the situation at Gustafsen Lake increased both domestically and internationally.
In the Canadian media, the camp members were portrayed as "cult
followers." In Washington, a delegation of Native American Leaders
met with Canadian Government officials. There were also reports about
an agreement between US Rancher Lyle James with the Canoe Creek band
council. What the average consumer of media may not know is that these
band councils were set up at the time of the Indian Act which stated
that no Indian had a right to representation in court or for appeal
in court. This was in blatant violation of the Royal Proclamation and
Canada's Constitution. The creation of band council and the reserve
system came about then, in 1876. The Indian Act was later used as a
blue print for South Africa's Colonial system of forced relocation called
Apartheid. In the decades following the passing of the Indian Act, the
forced relocation and cultural sabotage of the BC native nations was
undertaken by successive provincial and federal governments on a wide
scale. Until recently, these realities were unknown to most students
of "history." Federally funded Band Chief Agnes Snow, who
is not a member of the Sundance Society, and who made the agreement
with James has no validity in the eyes of the Shuswap traditionals.
They view the band councils of which Ovide Mercredi is the National
Chief as puppet governments set up by the colonial government to facilitate
and perpetuate colonial and corporate control. "It's a raw deal,
It's genocide" RCMP Sergeant Findley has been recorded as saying
after he spent time listening to the history of the Shuswap nation from
the elders themselves. After Sergeant Ryan's bad faith negotiating and
the intensified military build-up, Clark became more vociferous and
stated that Ryan was complicit in this genocidal process as per the
Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide,
adopted by Canada in 1948.
it seemed to those of us watching from the television screens that the
camp was full of agitators, according to members of the camp the prevailing
mood in the camp was relaxed into mid-August. Camp-fires and games of
football reflected the tone. It was during these days that native Constables
Findley, Andrews and Wood spent time in the camp gaining a sense of
the Shuswap Sundancer's perspective. According to Findley's notes as
read by him on Day 13 of the trial, he recommended no police action.
He listened to them speak about their history. Findley understood that
the 1864 Douglas Reserve was negotiated between the colony of BC and
the Canoe Creek and Dog Creek Indian Bands. His report notes that there
was no legal survey, no public assembly and no participation by the
Shuswap hereditary chiefs in this process. Findley filed his report
which is sensitive to the Sundancer's claim to their unceded land on
July twelfth. On that same day, his superiors removed from the case.
Findley's report noted that in 1865, Joseph Trutch, Land and Works Commissioner
declared natives non-citizens and passed an ordinance that natives could
neither buy nor sell land. When coupled with the smallpox epidemic of
1862, the roots of a deep-rooted genocide which is playing itself in
court today become clearer elements in the history of our Province.
Crown's claims of ownership of the land in question are murky even in
the context of Confederation as no legal survey appears to have been
done in this area. A map supplied by the Crown Council on July fifteenth,
1996, had no date and no certification from an official land surveyor.
The signatory simply listed himself as "manager." Judge Josephson
decided to disallow this document as evidence in what defendants consider
an important victory. On the stand, James was vague about much land
he owned settling for an estimate of 18,000 acres and grazing rights
for approximately two million more. On June thirteenth, 1995, just over
two months before police action was taken, James arrived at the Sundance
site with four trucks and twelve men. They attempted to evict Percy
and the Sundancers who had been "discouraging trespassers on Indian
Land and reinforced a fence around the Sundance grounds, to keep "the
James Cattle CO.'s 2000 head of cattle off the Shuswap Sacred Grounds."
James and his ranch hands "filmed and violated the sacred fast
of one of our Sundance singers." The ranch hands brought rifles
and according to Splitting the Sky, "they pulled out rifles and
threatened to kill them [the Sundancers]. One of them pulled out a bull
whip and said: 'This is a good day to string up some red niggers'"
(Defenders Press Release, June 16,1995). On the stand, James' son Dale
who video-taped part of the event denied that anyone called the people
at the camp 'red niggers' but then admitted that he didn't hear all
the conversations that were going on. Dale testified that one of the
ranch hands pulled out the bullwhip when Percy arrived. Dale admitted
that the last time he used a whip or saw a man drive cattle with a whip
was five years ago. He testified that a young man in his group had just
bought a bullwhip, thrown it into their vehicle just before they left
and then practised for a short amount of time waiting for Percy to arrive.
On June sixteenth, a lone ranch hand: "came into the Sundance grounds,
yelling and whooping in a drunken stupor. He was confronted by the men
in the camp and when asked what he was doing in Shuswap territory, he
stated emphatically that the ranchers intended to burn the council lodge
and the RCMP were planning an invasion of the camp. Given the prevailing
mood of violence against the Defenders... we are declaring that force
will be met with resistant force. (Ts'peten Defenders Press Release)
The demands made by the members of the camp for a peaceful resolution
were:" (i) An investigation by Ottawa's Attorney General; (ii)
An investigation into the Dept. of Indian Affairs and all cohorts in
the various band councils to expose illegal leasing and/or selling of
Native lands; (iii) That an audience with the Queen of England and the
Privy Council be convened to renew the treaty obligations of the Royal
Proclamation of 1763; (iv) That every in individual reading this urgent
Press release is asked to call the RCMP... express concern over the
potential of violence..." (Ts'Peten Defender Press Release)
Crown disclosures have revealed the extent of the media manipulation
designed to construct Ts'Peten Defenders as the aggressors. Jo Jo Ignace,
son of Wolverine has been charged with attempted murder. It is alleged
that he fired a shot past one of the five Emergency Response Team Members
executing a "covert probe." Yet the testimony reveals that
"none of the team members were able to identify the lone male suspect."
After a search of the area was completed "no evidence was found
at this site." Notwithstanding the unsubstantiated evidence attributing
guilt by association or innuendo to Jo Jo, there is testimony that Jo
Jo wasn't even at Gustafsen Lake on the day he is alleged to have shot
at a member of the ERT, but in Chase with his mother and friends. Jo
Jo's current imprisonment comes after he was interrogated for over two
hours about this incident. After approximately an hour of this interrogation
where Jo Jo denied every question about the shooting, he was told to
take off his clothes in the small ten by ten room with the two RCMP
still present to put on prison issue paper cover-alls. Jo Jo has Fetal
Alcohol Syndrome and is therefore easily suggestible and subject to
flights of fancy. A Psychiatrist testified that he functions at an eight
year old level and likes to brag. After two hours of questioning about
the shooting, Jo Jo raised a finger in a pointing gesture which could
have had any of a number of connotations. His questioners have claimed
that this gesture meant that he was admitting to firing one bullet at
an ERT member on that day that many have testified he was not even at
the camp. Defense has charged that the nature of these interrogations
is inhumane, illegal and according to the Criminal Code, falls under
the category of 'Torture.' As well, according to Ts'Peten Defenders,
Jo Jo's interrogations took place without the presence of a lawyer.
On October twentieth, 1995, shortly after the denial of Jo Jo's release
on bail, he was put in solitary confinement despite the numerous indications
of his emotional deterioration since his original imprisonment on September
seventeenth, 1995. Although the supervisor at the Kamloops Regional
Corrections Centre recognized that the confinement was the reason for
Jo Jo Jo's emotional instability, he was never the less moved into twenty-three
hour lockdown for no reason other than prison overflow. As of the Defenders
press release of October 24, 1995, he was under twenty-four hour supervision
along with twenty-one other inmates and had only been recently informed
of his canteen privileges. "Additionally since he can't write and
no one offered him any assistance, he has not been able to fill out
request forms or visitors lists. His mother sent in a visitors list
for him over a week ago, but it still isn't in the Kamloops Regional
Corrections Centre computer." David Pena was arrested on August
eleventh, 1995. The release had this to say about his condition in jail:
"His mother was not allowed to visit him because she was charged
as well. In addition, the prison food is not sufficient for his special
diabetic needs and his health is deteriorating."
I decipher this information I feel I am transported back to the eighties
before I was transfixed by cynicism and did things for my fellow creatures
like write letters to repressive governments on behalf of political
prisoners to nations where there is not even the illusion we have of
a free press and where police state tactics are the norm. The last time
I visited the Surrey court room was the day Wolverine was denied bail
again. He sits waiting in a Surrey pre-trial jail cell charged with
"Mischief," "Possession of weapons," "Attempted
murder," "Illegal use of a Firearm," "Intent to
injure with a Firearm," "Discharge of a firearm to prevent
arrest," and "assault with a weapon." These seem to verge
on the absurd. They stem from the events of September eleventh. There
is RCMP surveillance footage taken from six to eight thousand feet in
the air by Wescam which shows a camp truck being blown up by a command
mine, then two unarmed people running from the truck which was moments
later struck by the thirteen tonne APC. These two fled for their lives
while being fired upon by an APC which had a driver instructed to "eliminate
the shooter." Wolverine was this "shooter" who was within
four feet of the exposed driver of the vehicle. The evidence shows that
had Wolverine wanted to shoot anyone he had every opportunity to lethally
injure the armed military personnel who were shooting at his two camp
companions. As the APC attempted to literally run him down, Wolverine
attempted to shoot out the tires. The vehicle was disabled by a stump
it ran over, saving Jones's life, and bloodshed was avoided. Evidence
regarding this incident points towards self-defense and the Defense
has not yet begun stating its case. The camp dog, seen running away
from the truck was shot and killed by RCMP fire. Only a few hundred
metres away, one of four Shuswap Elders of the delegation waiting to
be picked up by the truck to go into the camp, suffered a heart attack
upon hearing the explosion. Wolverine is accused of taunting soldiers
as he fled for his life from huge deadly tanks. This taunting has been
twisted into an attempted murder charge.
the court day Wolverine's bail was denied tires of the car of a group
of defendants were slashed. This is not an isolated incident. Since
the trial proceedings began tires have been slashed, brake cables cut
and nails hammered in gas tanks. On the way to SFU's Harbourfront campus
for a public forum, a car with two of the speakers and their family
members were followed and pulled off the road by the RCMP and searched
for weapons. At the event impassioned speeches by Flo, wife of Wolverine,
Splitting the Sky, a Mohawk Sundancer, and Bill Lightbown, a Kootenai
elder, attempted to raise public awareness of the dangerous fascist
tactics employed by the RCMP at Gustafsen Lake which a recent Globe
and Mail headline referred to as "warlike." Shuswap leaders
spoke of the strong spiritual bond between camp members citing it as
the reason they survived 20 000 rounds of ammunition fired at them within
a two hour period. Flo spoke of the peaceful division of labour within
the camp in regards to cooking and hand - drumming and how "every
morning we'd wake up to helicopters... hear APC's on all sides of us...we
had to be ready all the time." Despite the possibility of lethal
confrontation, Flo said she: "had no fear when I was up there...
we talked to each other before bed... they cut off our food and water.
Negotiators promised us that we'd be treated with dignity and respect.
Once we got out there were guns from the trees... we were hand - cuffed,
booked, put in a helicopter and brought to jail. My son (Jo Jo) was
beaten up in 100-Mile House by sheriffs.. and again two weeks ago in
the court house." Flo had a sore arm when I met her as it had been
twisted behind her back in the court room in Surrey by sheriffs who
"restrained" her as she went to the aid of her son. Jo Jo
was held by a number of sheriffs as his emotional stability continued
to deteriorate resulting in an out burst in the courtroom. "Ever
since we began this, we've been harassed, our brake lines have been
cut, nails hammered in gas tanks and our tires have been slashed."
Wolverine is still in jail and is determined to hold out for justice.
"Every time I talk to my husband he says never to give up,"
she said with both delicate and stoic determination. The aim is to raise
awareness of the validity of jurisdictional issue of unceded land during
the court proceedings. If languishing in a jail cell can serve that
end, it would seem Wolverine is willing to pay that price. Speculation
is that the trial will end within a month. A mistrial is likely. If
a mistrial is declared the accused would lose out on the chance to speak
to their Constitutional Rights.
the Sky has been instrumental in articulating the Defenders position.
He is visiting from the Mohawk Nation in Ontario where the "overt
forces of genocide have been raging for 505 years." He voiced amazement
upon arriving in BC at how recently the same forces have decimated the
Shuswap. As an Ontarian I have also been astonished, especially at how
recent the events are which have shaped the current disenfranchisement
of independent native nations and thousands of their people throughout
BC. Splitting the Sky spoke of his respect for the spirituality of the
Shuswap: "Thirty or forty people gathered to practise their religious
rite, the Sundance, to create a connection between the world of spirit
and ourselves." He pointed directly at "all the lies you've
been told about who the aggressor was at Gustafsen Lake." Outlining
major areas of cover-up, he noted the testimony of the Forensics Expert
who the stated that the damage done to the police vehicle, on September
Fourth was done by a tree branch, not by the gun fire of an imaginary
native "ambush." Pages and pages of court disclosures have
RCMP and Kamloops R.C. relating convoluted details about the afore-mentioned
incident where twenty thousand rounds of ammunition rang out. Sergeant
Armstrong's statement taken on September 12, 1995 acknowledged one incidence
of a soldier being hit by friendly fire.
September eleventh, a crucial incident took place where the red truck
driven by two natives was detonated by an RCMP command mine. The truck
detonated in a massive explosion, then an APC rammed the truck from
behind twice. Luckily the occupants were thrown out before the explosion
and the two natives fled for their lives. The camera footage shows no
guns on these two yet the RCMP shot and killed their dog and fired 20,000
rounds. Wolverine has been accused of distracting the shooters who had
orders to "neutralize the threat." The confusion in the chain
of command at this time was witnessed by Sgt. Maloney who testified
on October second that "to my knowledge there was no one in charge."
There was a military driver and crew commander there, as well as himself,
Preston, two Vancouver ERT and two EDU personnel. Confusion reigned
as this multi-force surrounded the camp. A synopsis of Maloney's testimony
states "Sgt. Maloney agrees that there was a plan to blow up truck
and that there was a meeting to discuss this the night before. He was
there but can't recall who was in charge." [Defense attorney] Harry
Rankin can't believe that Maloney can't recall this. Rankin: 'Are you
serious?' Sgt. Maloney: 'I'm very serious.'" The attempts at evasion
through semantics can be summed by the following exchange as per the
court notes of October second where Maloney acknowledged that he made
the statement "eliminate the shooter" He claimed that this
meant "attempt to arrest." Rankin wondered how you arrest
someone from a moving tank. Maloney said the driver was to understand
that he was to apprehend the shooter. Rankin suggested that "eliminate"
in the English Language implied to kill him, to run him down. Sgt. Maloney
testified that two shots were fired at "swimmers." Wescam
footage shows them escaping from the blown-up truck attempting to swim
back to the camp while being fired upon. At no point does an RCMP officer
disclose that these swimmers were armed. Maloney agreed that "there
was a lot of animosity against the camp and that he believed the camp
was full of "belligerent and unfriendlies."
his concluding remarks at the Harbourfront Conference, Splitting the
Sky warned that "we're not living in a time where we can accept
being lied to." The next speaker was a calm self-assured, self-described
"vet from OKA." Kahn-ta-neta Horn, president of the Canadian
Association for Native Peoples visiting from Toronto voiced fear of
the precedent provided in Gustafsen Lake. "One thing I'm very afraid
of is that the powers that be have decided that the solution is a military
solution." She voiced concern for the proliferation of right-wing
material in Canadian universities noting her books documenting the truth
of the OKA crisis have been banned. "The police state is here...
today they decided to keep him [Wolverine], a political decision."
It is suggested that the hard-line taken by the N.D.P. during the stand-off
and their slander towards the "rebels" was designed to win
votes in the traditionally conservative interior. "Coming here
tonight we were stopped by the police and spoken to like we were dirt
beneath their shoes...[and] searched for weapons." Kahn-ta-neta
visited the places where defendants are housed stating that "people
are living in tents and trailers." Three people I visited were
living in a dingy one room motel room in Surrey. The defenders asked
that the trial take place near their home near Gustafsen Lake. The court
room selected, the highest security court room in the province is located
in Surrey which further denigrates and dehumanizes the defendants.
final speaker at the Harbourfront conference, Burrard elder Bob George
expressed deep concerns for the suffering of his people. He too pointed
at the weight of evidence which proves the innocence of the accused.
George noted the testimony of the Field Superintendent who admitted
that the whole process was instigated by the RCMP. This Officer noted
that the signal to begin shooting is when the truck is detonated by
the land mine. To those who doubted that it was the RCMP that shot first,
he put forth the question as to the logic of the Shuswap opening fire
on an RCMP force with murderous fire power. The Shuswap maintain that
nothing short of the strength of spirit saved them from a flurry of
20 000 rounds which left holes from the base of the trees to forty to
fifty feet up.
a mistrial is declared, the Gustafsen Lake camp members may be remembered
only by the public in terms of camouflaged natives seized with "a
cult mentality." Yet court disclosures belie this. Sgt. Armstrong
who was on the stand July second, 1996 testified that he had been one
of the experts that laid the land mines around the camp, one of which
blew up a truck on September eleventh, 1996 when two camp members went
to a stream for water. When asked about his orders, he stated that officers
had been given a green light to kill. The RCMP's own disclosures now
state that the two persons in the truck were not armed and that they
did not fire on the officers.
campaign to "Free Wolverine" is rooted in these inconsistencies.
The Defense attorneys, retained by legal aid do not address the question
of native jurisdiction, which undermines the validity of the system
itself. Instead, they are attempting to secure a "not guilty"
verdict by virtue of the crown's poor and circumstantial evidence. Two
defendants representing themselves are trying to speak to this question
of jurisdiction. The judge consistently refuses to allow these crucial
discussions to take place. Notwithstanding, the defendants are still
hopeful that they will be able to bring forward testimony and their
pertinent historical evidence so that the jury can finally hear their
side of the question of jurisdiction.
by Moonbeam Media. Updated 11 February 2000. 20:30 GET.