Hearing the other side of the story at
Gustafsen Lake

This story originally ran in Spring 1997 edition of Terminal City, BC


With 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.

In 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.

Wolverine 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.

For 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.

Previous 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.

During 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.

The 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."

On 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.)

RCMP 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."

These 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.)

One 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.

As 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.

On 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)

Meanwhile 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.

Attention 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.

Although 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.

The 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)

Recent 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."

As 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.

On 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.

Splitting 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.

On 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."

In 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.

A 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.

If 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.

The 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.

Maintained by Moonbeam Media. Updated 11 February 2000. 20:30 GET.


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