Controversial aboriginal rights lawyer Bruce Clark was arrested Tuesday on an outstanding warrant minutes after his flight from Toronto touched down at Vancouver International Airport.
As two dozen native Indian and non-Indian supporters waited for Clark inside the airport terminal, four RCMP officers boarded the Canadian Airlines flight, handcuffed the lawyer and took him to the Richmond detachment.
Margaret Clark, who travelled with her husband, said she did not know when he would be released. But she said that he hoped to represent his clients, several defendants in the Gustafsen Lake trial, in court today.
She said her husband knew he could be arrested if he returned to B.C., but came anyway because "he had to make the attempt" to defend his clients against charges related to the 1995 armed stand-off with police.
"Bruce speaks the truth, he can prove the truth," she said. "Bruce is a brilliant lawyer. That's the reason he's a threat."
The Mounties waited on the tarmac for the plane to arrive. After the other passengers had disembarked, they boarded to arrest Clark. He was led to a marked police car parked beside the terminal building.
When news of the arrest reached the protesters, gathered around a buckskin drum near a baggage carousel, they broke into song and chanted: "Free Bruce Clark, No Jurisdiction" -- a reference to Clark's argument that Canadian courts don't have jurisdiction over Indians.
The lawyer's arrest stems from an incident in 1995 when Clark left his home in an upscale Ottawa neighborhood and flew to B.C. to represent several Indians who were encamped near Gustafsen Lake.
After refusing for weeks to surrender to police to face charges of shooting an officer, the protesters finally gave up. During a bail hearing that September, Clark accused a 100 Mile House judge of running a "kangaroo court" and struggled with police.
Rather than facing the charges -- contempt of court and assaulting a police officer -- Clark fled to the Netherlands. But he returned to Canada and last month appeared before the Supreme Court of Canada on behalf of aboriginal groups in Ontario and New Brunswick.
Supporters gathered at the airport said they believed Clark was arrested because the government is afraid of him. "He's the best there is in Canada," said Glenn Deneault, a defendant in the Gustafsen Lake case.
Bill Lightbowm questioned whether a "judicial conspiracy" was behind Clark's arrest.
"Why are the RCMP, on orders from the governments, so determined to intercept and stop Dr. Bruce Clark from attending and participating as the lawyer of choice of most of the defendants as their defence attorney?" Lightbowm [sic] said.
"Is the B.C. law society and the judiciary complicit in a conspiracy to use illegal and immoral tactics to block Dr. Bruce Clark from presenting his legal arguments in the B.C. courts? If it is, this is the worst case of chicanery in Canadian legal history."
Clark, once a small town Ontario lawyer, has spent most of his career arguing that Canada is engaged in a campaign of "genocide" against Indians and that conflicts between aboriginals and the Crown should be settled by an international tribunal.
His theories have been largely dismissed by the courts and by mainstream aboriginal groups such as the Assembly of First Nations. But that has only fueled accusations by his supporters that they are victims of a government conspiracy.
Adding to conspiracy theories are a series of embarrassing scenes captured on an RCMP training video, and raised as evidence in the trial, in which police refer to a "smear and disinformation campaign" against Clark and the protesters.
Flo Sampson, the wife of Jones (Wolverine) William Ignace, appeared briefly before reporters at the airport to say she wanted Clark freed so he could represent her husband in court in Surrey today.
In a letter to the attorney-general's ministry dated Feb. 13, and released Tuesday by his supporters, Clark offers to apologize for his actions in 100 Mile House, but says he will not "acknowledge any criminal intent to show contempt."
Controversial lawyer Bruce Clark was arrested at Vancouver International Airport yesterday after flying from his New Brunswick home.
He was taken into custody on outstanding warrants for contempt of court and assaulting a police officer.
A familiar figure, with his bald head and imposing eyeglasses, during the 1995 Gustafsen Lake standoff, Clark was escorted by three RCMP officers to a police car and driven to the nearby Richmond RCMP detachment.
Police spokesman Sgt. Willy Laurie said Clark would be held overnight and likely taken today to Williams Lake to appear before the judge who issued the warrants in October 1995.
Clark was returning to B.C. to make submissions today when the defence opens its case in the B.C. Supreme Court trial of 18 people accused in the one-month standoff that pitted natives against the RCMP.
The Gustafsen Lake trial is now in its ninth month, with 14 native and four non-native defendants on trial for weapons and mischief charges. Two defendants are also charged with attempted murder. Clark acted for many of the accused.
After he was taken away yesterday, native and non-native supporters held a protest, chanting and beating drums in the domestic-arrivals terminal.
Clark was detained on outstanding warrants that stem from an incident at the 100 Mile House provincial courthouse in 1995.
He was wrestled to the ground by deputy sheriffs following an outburst and charged with contempt of court and assaulting a police officer. Clark fled the country and later returned to live in New Brunswick.