Bruce Clark Reprimanded but not Disbarred


Report questions Bruce Clark's tactics in pursuing justice for clients

By Donn Downey
The Globe and Mail
Saturday, June 29, 1996, A3

TORONTO -- The Law Society of Upper Canada will not revoke Bruce Allan Clark's right to practice, rejecting its discipline panel's recommendation that the controversial native-rights lawyer be asked to resign.

A report prepared by Clayton Ruby and Gavin MacKenzie, which was obtained yesterday and represents the law society's final deposition of the matter, finds Mr. Clark guilty of three counts of professional misconduct and imposes a reprimand.

Mr. Clark was asked to appear before the January convocation to receive the reprimand. "If he does not appear, he will remain suspended until the reprimand is administered at a subsequent convocation," the report said.

An earlier report of a discipline panel found Mr. Clark guilty of 22 counts of professional misconduct and recommended that he be asked to resign. If he failed to do so, he should be disbarred, the panel recommended.

Yesterday's report said that Mr. Clark has a long history of intemperate behaviour in his "relentless attempts" on behalf of natives, but "he believes that his comments and conduct...were intended to advance the cause of justice and the rule of law."

"The 'genocide' of which Mr. Clark speaks is very real and has very nearly succeeded in destroying the native Canadian community that flourished here when European settlers arrived. No one who has seen many of our first nation communities can remain untouched by this reality."

The reports said that Mr. Clark's single legal argument "is based on the proposition that certain native lands [or hunting grounds] hae never been properly surrendered to the Crown. It follows, he contends, that Canadian courts have no jurisdiction over indigenous people who reside on this unsurrendered land."

The report did find that Mr. Clark, while appearing before a panel of the British Columbia Court of Appeal, attempted to perform a citizen's arrest of four judges on charges of treason and complicity to genocide.

It also found that in June of 1993 he unlawfully assaulted an Ontario Provincial Police officer and, at about the same time, trespassed in an unjustified and illegal attempt to carry out a citizen's arrest.

In his deposition to the law society, Mr. Clark was unrepentant. He wrote that he had simply tried to put the law as he interpreted it before the courts. "No judge has ever ruled on that law," he wrote.

The MacKenzie-Ruby report disagreed with the discipline panel's finding that Mr. Clark's "forensic excesses" represented professional misconduct. Nor did it agree with the panel's finding that Mr. Clark was ungovernable.

"The solicitor [Mr. Clark] is not ungovernable," the report said. "He simply does not agree with the characterization of his conduct by the law society, nor that of the courts that have refused to rule on it, and he will not give up his argument at least until some court has ruled on it."

The report did question Mr. Clark's tactics. "His use of such words as 'fraud', 'treason' and 'genocide' is designed to shock as well as explain, but does not justify the unwillingness of many courts to hear his submissions."

"The law society should be become the arbiter of lawyers' techniques. Styles of advocacy vary greatly and the effectiveness of any particular style is not a matter for [the society] to pronounce on in the context of professional misconduct."

The discipline panel also had acknowledged that Mr. Clark had made "very significant family and financial sacrifices in pursuit of his quest for justice for his clients."

Mr. Clark is not in the country and was not available for comment.

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