Saturday, February 22, 1997
CBC radio has reported that Judge Friesen has sentenced native rights lawyer Bruce Clark to 3 months in prison for contempt of court.
"Everything that is happening seems to me to be impossible that it is happening in Canada. Yet it is happening to me. And it had been happening to the Indian people for a very long time. The criminalization of Indian resistance, even when it entails the bringing forward by them of existing law, is such a deeply entrenched modus operandi in the judicial genocide of indigenous people as to seem normal and irremediable. Yet we must remedy it. For not to resist genocide, when you know as we do that it exists and can not like the judges pretend not to see it, is to condone the genocide. Your stand upon principle is of importance to your people, to the indigenous people of the rest of Canada who may occupy yet unsurrendered Indian territory, to the Indians of the United States in similar positions, and to the natives of every other country in the Americas and around the world whether it be East Timor or Nigeria."
-- Dr. Bruce Clark to Verna Friday, traditional Family head of the Bear Island Temagami-Anishnabe people, Dec. 11, 1995DEFEND DR. BRUCE CLARK - DEFEND WOLVERINE - DEFEND THE TS'PETEN DEFENDERS
100 MILE HOUSE, BC - Native rights lawyer Bruce Clark, who returned to British Columbia to help defendants in the Gustafsen Lake stand-off trial, was sentenced yesterday to three months in jail for contempt of court.
The flamboyant lawyer, known for his shaved head and space-age glasses, was charged in 1995 after an outburst in provincial court. He was acting for some of those charged in an armed standoff at Gustafsen Lake when he threw a sheaf of papers at the judge and accused him of running a kangaroo court. He was wrestled to the floor by deputies. Yesterday Mr. Clark was also given a day in jail, to be served concurrently with the three-month sentence, after he pleaded guilty to resisting a peace officer. The Crown stayed one charge of assaulting a police officer and another of assaulting a deputy sheriff.
Court clerk Cheryl Barker said a bail hearing was under way before a judge on those three charges when the court took a break to allow Judge Nick Friesen to deliver his sentence on the contempt charge. He was the judge who issued the arrest warrants in 1995. When court resumed, however, the bail hearing was abandoned after Mr. Clark pleaded guilty to one charge and the Crown stayed the others.
"The courtroom was full, but it was very subdued," Ms. Barker said. When the sentence was read "there were no problems." She said many of Mr. Clark's supporters went outside later and beat drums.
The controversial lawyer had left British Columbia after the charges were laid and warrants were issued for his arrest. He returned Tuesday from New Brunswick to attend the Gustafsen Lake trial, but was arrested at the airport and transported to the BC Interior to appear on the charges. He will still be able to appear at the Gustafsen Lake trial, now in its ninth month, because one of the defendants has called on him to appear as a witness. No date has been set for that appearance.
The 30-day armed standoff at Gustafsen Lake began in August of 1995 over a dispute between native sundancers and a rancher. The rancher wanted them evicted but the natives claimed the land was on sacred, unceded territory. Fourteen native and four non-native defendants are charged with weapons and mischief charges. Two men also face charges of attempted murder.
Mr. Clark has spent most of his time in recent years arguing native- rights cases. His recurring theme, which has been rejected by Canadian courts is that some native lands have not been legally surrendered to the Crown. He says Canadian courts therefore have no jurisdiction over natives, and that disputes should be settled by an independent, third party tribunal.