Assembly of First Nations Grand Chieftain Ovide Mercredi left Gustafsen Lake in a huff, saying they (those in the encampment) have chosen their own lawyer who, he claims, is simply here to grand-stand. I've known Ovide for 20 years. We've worked together on some issues and disagreed on others. He's an authority on a number of matters but in the area of public relations and grandstanding he's the unquestioned grand poobah.
Though I don't know Bruce Clark, I can say with some certainty that he knows nothing about public relations or grandstanding. The only time I recall meeting Clark face to face was when he, a scruffy kid at the time, had completed a massive research project detailing the Temagami Indian Band's ownership of a large chunk of valuable land in the North Bay area of Ontario.
Chief Gary Potts was mighty proud of his achievements and took full credit for having the foresight to retain Clark in the first place. "Retain" may be a bad choice of words. Clark and his wife lived on welfare as they went about their laborious research. Ottawa and Bay Treet lawyers enjoyed many a hearty laugh at the mere mention of Clark's name. Bruce was called "the other joe who?" as the purple-faced humorists gracefully gulped their last lunchtime martinis before huffing and puffing their way back to elevators carrying them high above the human race.
But the laughter turned to bitter rage when the results of Clark's work turned up in court documents threatening the holdings of many respectable clients of Central Canada's most prestigious law firms.
Clark's case before the court rested on his research showing the land claimed by the Temagami Band had historically been used and occupied by the Temagami people, tht it had nevr been the subject of a treaty, that it had never been ceded by the Indians, that no government had ever claimed the land was acquired by conquest; that the British Crown had guaranteed protection of the land and its people via the Royal Proclamation of 1763; and that peace, order and good goevernment must demonstrate a continuity of legally binding decisions entrenched in law.
This meant that the government lacked the legal authority required to grant any form of tenure to anyone because the land and people previously using the land held the only existing, continuous legal authority which was granted by way of the 1763 Royal Proclamation.
Therefore, the government and those they granted rights to the land had to either vacate or deal with the Indians. The Upper Canada Law Society blew a gasket. But as befits a body with such a distinguished name, they blew it with grace. The case went to court. Clark argued on behalf of the Temagami Band. Having spent most of his time since recieving his law patch researching the Temagami claim he was a novice in the courtroom.
Such a novice in fact, that he forgot to introduce all his evidence. The Ottawa and Bay Street boys made mincemeat of Clark. He appealed and tried to introduce the evidence he forgot on the first go-round. The evidence was ruled inadmissible. The appeal was tossed out. Eventually a settlement was reached comparable to settlements handed to most Indians in Canada. Governments and resource companies rested peacefully. Chief Potts new lawyers did not live on welfare.
The aftermath featured Clark getting his doctorate in constitutional law and writing snooty letters to lawyers and judges across the nation. Grandstanding lawyers never send snooty letters to lawyers and judges. They may write them but never are they put in the mail. Snooty letters are sent only to the wretched of the earth, the undeserving.
BC Attorney-General Ujjal Dosanjh, for many years immersed in his own public relations campaign, would serve BC citizens better by studying Clark's arguments then by dismissing him in the manner of a terrorist. To date, Clark has produced better evidence to show that Dosanjh is presiding over terrorist laws than the government of BC has produced to show that Clark is engaged in doing anything more than providing his clients with the best legal advice he can muster. Is that terrorism?
Fred Gudmundson is a free-lance columnist with The Ottawa Citizen.