Gustafsen Lake Defenders demand public inquiry
Shunpiking Online has received the following public appeal regarding Gustafsen Lake, BC and the call for a public inquiry into this major assault on Aboriginal rights, title and jurisdiction which unfolded in 1995. It was distributed at an informational picket at a NDP fundraiser in Vancouver at the Orpheum Theatre held on 20 March 004. The outrageous events in British Columbia that are briefly outlined below were never reported in the media in Atlantic Canada.
In honour of the Gustafsen Lake Defenders
It is time for all those opposed to the Canadian colonial system to support, through tangible actions, those struggling for land, life, dignity and soverignty across these lands.
The statement below will be presented on March 20 at a NDP fundraiser at a ticketed event in Vancouver. Several Gustafsen Lake defenders will be converging in Vancouver on that night to speak about the injustices at Gustafsen Lake.
WE ARE ALSO URGENTLY SEEKING HUNDREDS OF ENDORSEMENTS FOR THE DEMAND BELOW.
HONOUR OF THE GUSTAFSEN LAKE DEFENDERS !!!
We are gathered here today to remind everyone about the role of the NDP government in the largest paramilitary operation in Canada. The NDP launched a full assault on indigenous defenders asserting their inherent and legal rights to self-determination on unceded territories of BC.
In honour of the Gustafsen Lake Defenders, in memory of Dudley George and the millions who were and continue to be victims of the colonial regime, we aim to expose the hypocrisy of "progressive" politicians.
"I am unable to support the call for a public inquiry... my New Democratic colleagues and I will continue to support the treaty negotiation process in BC, including the recently concluded Nisga'a treaty. This process, while often painstakingly slow and difficult, is certainly preferable to taking up guns and violence, as occurred in the summer of 1995," said Svend Robinson.
"And We do further strictly enjoin and require all Persons whatever who have either wilfully or inadvertently seated themselves upon any Lands within the Countries above described, or upon any other Lands which, not having been ceded to or purchased by Us, are still reserved to the said Indians as aforesaid, forthwith to remove themselves from such Settlements." -- Royal Proclamation Act, 1763.
"Kill this Clark, smear the prick and everyone with him." -- Dennis Ryan, RCMP Gustafsen Lake Crisis Management Team, Sept. 1995. Disclosed during the Gustafsen trial.
In 1995, after a long history of peaceful attempts to have Shuswap sovereignty respected, indigenous people from the Shuswap and other nations and a few non-indigenous supporters took a stand on sacred Sundance lands at Ts'Peten, aka Gustafsen Lake. People came to the Sundance grounds after a call for help went out, in response to threats made by a local rancher; one ranch hand pulled out a bullwhip and said: 'This is a good day to string up some red niggers.' " (Defenders' press release, June 19/95) Shortly afterwards the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) surrounded the Ts'Peten Defenders and held the people there under siege.
On June 19, Counsel Dr. Bruce Clark confirmed that "as a matter of strict law, you are acting within your existing legal rights by resisting the invasion." Over the next month police, politicians, and media escalated the situation to make the siege the most expensive domestic military operation in Canada's history. Miraculously, there was only one casualty -- a dog deliberately killed by a police sniper firing at two unarmed people and the animal as they fled from police gunfire and armoured personnel carriers.
The state actions there constituted the largest paramilitary operation in Canadian history and included armoured personnel carriers, .50 calibre machine guns, land mines, and massive human rights violations directed against a small number of Shuswap traditionalists who cited constitutional and international law protections for their resistance to the attempted invasion.
The federal and provincial governments both rejected any involvement by an impartial, independent, international adjudication process to settle the conflict at Gustafsen Lake. They even rejected the presence of neutral peacekeepers. Ujjal Dosanjh responded to the possibility of outside observers with the infamous declaration: "There shall be no alien intervention into the affairs of this state." Dosanjh, like all other politicians, knows that in an independent court, the legal arguments of the Indians could not be suppressed.
The people inside the encampment were forced to endure the longest criminal trial in Canadian history. After over a year of astonishing testimony by police (including open admissions of a "smear and disinformation campaign" against the Ts'Peten Defenders and lawyer Bruce Clark), thirteen of the Defenders received jail sentences. Three of the Defenders appealed the verdicts on the grounds that the land where the siege took place is native land, and therefore the settler (non-native) courts have no jurisdiction.
During the Gustafsen Lake trial William Ignace, known better by his Shuswap name, Wolverine, cited the Indian Provision of the Royal Proclamation Act of 1763, which clearly states that until an Indian territory has been purchased by the Crown, non-Indians cannot legally occupy land, never mind subject Indians to the jurisdiction of the Crown.
The BC Court of Appeal maintained: "The Royal Proclamation has never applied to this Province, the appellants cannot rely upon the Royal Proclamation as support for their position." Ironically, on November 11, 1998, the Vancouver Sun reported that Prime Minister Chretien, after promising to quickly implement the Nisga'a Final Agreement, said:
"Nisga'a is an important thing.... I believe in it personally and it is an obligation of the government and it is a constitutional obligation of the Royal Proclamation that the King of England gave us in 1763."
Several important facts were revealed during the Gustafsen Lake trials.
Only some are outlined below.
* A letter from Bruce Clark to his clients inside the Gustafsen Lake encampment was blocked by RCMP, Staff Sgt. Montague stated that "police cut the phone line to the camp 'so that they can't be further influenced by their lawyer, Bruce Clark, which is a problem.'" (Vancouver Sun, Aug. 30, 1995).
* According to RCMP, people inside the camp shot into the air, allegedly at a helicopter. Later RCMP disclosures reveal that one of the people in the helicopter heard no shots and saw no evidence of gunshots.
* RCMP surveillance footage, taken from six to eight thousand feet in the air by Wescam, reveals the camp truck blown-up by a powerful landmine, then two apparently UNARMED people running from the truck which was moments later struck violently by an APC. The camp dog, seen running away from the truck is shot and killed by RCMP fire. Cst. S.H. Arthur testified that he saw the two occupants running from the truck and that neitheraa were carrying weapons. He also testified that he fired upon the unarmed occupants of the truck as they were leaving the lake with their hands in the air, within what was supposed to be the guaranteed safe zone.
* On September 6, Ontario Provincial Police attempted to remove native occupiers of traditional lands at Ipperwash Provincial Park, Ontario.
When efforts to remove the occupiers were unsuccessful, police responded by sending in police in riot gear, who stormed the gate. Two men were hit. Dudley George died.
* Chief Superintendent Johnston makes a note during a phone conversation with Superintendent Len Olfert that "There are 6 hardliners in the camp WHO WILL REQUIRE KILLING." (Source: Crown disclosures)
Since the end of the standoff, Defenders have called for an inquiry into the military siege. National and international support for an independent public inquiry into all aspects of the Gustafsen Lake standoff and Ipperwash continues to grow: Alexa McDonough, National Campus/Community Radio Association, Teaching Support Staff Union of Simon Fraser University, the UVic Graduate Students' Society, Victoria's CUPE Local 50, Defensoria Maya (Guatemala); Canadian Alliance in Solidarity with Native Peoples; The Green Group of the European Parliament; The Black Community Collective; The Afrikan Frontline Network; North West Leonard Peltier Support Network; Aboriginal Rights Coalition; Council of Canadians; Building Bridges to Chiapas; The National Green Party of Canada; Ramsey Clark, Former US Attorney General and Council to Leonard Peltier; and many other groups and individuals, including a resolution by the Assembly of First Nations.
WE REITERATE THE CALL FOR A PUBLIC INQUIRY. THE INJUSTICES AT GUSTAFSEN LAKE WILL NOT BE FORGOTTEN AS STRUGGLES FOR INDIGENOUS SOVEREIGNTY CONTINUE AND PEOPLE FIGHT FOR THEIR RIGHTS AND DIGNITY
Native Youth Movement-Secwepemc Chapter,
Native Solidarity Network Vancouver,
No One is Illegal-Vancouver
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