Mar 12/97: BC Court of Appeal Hostile to Dr. Bruce Clark

S.I.S.I.S Bulletin


Wednesday, March 12, 1997

On Tuesday, March 11, the case of "Regina v. Bruce Clark" proceeded before an openly hostile panel of judges at the BC Court of Appeals in Vancouver. Native rights lawyer Clark was appealing the February 20th decision of BC Provincial Court Judge Nicholas Friesen which convicted Clark of criminal contempt of court and sentenced him to three months imprisonment.

Observers reported to S.I.S.I.S. that Dr. Clark's defence lawyer Manuel Azevedo faced constant interruptions and hectoring from presiding Justices Proudfoot, Gibbs and McFarlane. The panel moreover challenged Azevedo's assertion that there was "a reasonable apprehension of bias" on the part of Judge Friesen. Friesen effectively acted as witness, prosecutor and judge party to the action, since it was he who charged Clark with contempt in the first place. Azevedo argued that this was highly improper and that the integrity of the process was breached.

Senior counsel Harry Rankin, a Queen's Counsel, also submitted that Friesen was not impartial. Rankin pointed out that before this case, no lawyer here has ever been jailed for contempt of court.

In his final summation, Rankin QC said: "It is hard to substantiate the requirement of objectivity or at least the perception of it with Clark's counsel Azevedo being badgered throughout his submissions and then veritable silence for the crown's presentation.

"The procedure is the safeguard of the person. And in a case where the integrity of the procedure is in question, it behooves the court to ensure that the appearance of justice is maintained. In a case involving a more public or controversial figure where the conduct of the courts has been less than exemplary, it creates a situation where something stands out like a beacon. And inferences can be drawn from that." The Justices of the BC's highest court refused to hear or entertain any jurisdictional arguments, the defence for which Clark is known.

The contempt charges stem from Clark's September 15, 1995 attempt to file a motion on behalf of clients arrested in connection with the month-long RCMP siege on sacred Ts'peten (Gustafsen Lake) Sundance grounds objecting to the jurisdiction of the BC court. According to Margaret Clark, Dr. Clark's wife and legal assistant, Judge Friesen confirmed in court on February 20, 1997, that the reports widely broadcast by the media saying Dr. Clark "threw a sheaf of papers at the judge" are false.

The Ts'peten trial, already the longest in Canadian history, continues in Surrey, BC. Its alarming revelations so far include video footage of senior RCMP planning a "smear and misinformation campaign" against Ts'peten Defenders and their lawyer Clark, as well as evidence that RCMP instigated and in one case even fabricated incidents blamed on the defendants. Defendant and Shuswap elder Wolverine, who has been imprisoned without bail since September 1995, has recently called his jailed counsel of choice Clark to appear instead as an expert witness.

The Court of Appeal has reserved judgment on Clark's appeal until Friday.



Sample letters and links to politicians' email are on the Settlers In Support of Indigenous Sovereignty (S.I.S.I.S.) site, at:
Please send a copy of your letter to S.I.S.I.S.


Ts'peten Defence Committee:
Splitting the Sky - Phone/Fax: (604) 543-9661
Bill Lightbown - Phone: (604) 251-4949
Ts'peten Legal Defence Team:
Manuel Azevedo, phone: (604) 687-0231, fax: (604) 687-0241
Margaret Clark, c/o phone: (604) 687-0231, fax: (604) 687-0241
Settlers In Support of Indigenous Sovereignty
PO Box 8673, Victoria, BC Canada V8X 3S2
Email: or

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