Monday, April 14, 1997
The historic Gustafsen Standoff trial winds to an end, and the "post mortem" images and lessons of this massive police and legal undertaking will remain a highly disturbing memory.
In Kafka's nightmarish story nothing could be achieved until the protagonist got to the Castle. However through bureaucratic corridors, officious and unhelpful civil servants, and other obstacles he was unable to reach the Castle, as well as his objective. It is one of those worst nightmare scenarios, where you go in circles and always end up where you started.
In a similar manner, the Shuswap people have tried to reach their objective since early this century. Jones Ignace revealed in court that his predecessors first went to visit the Queen in 1906 to see if they could get third party adjudication as provided for by Queen Anne in 1704. She had set up a court to adjudicate disputes between the Aboriginal people and the new settlers in North America. This court, made up of the Privy Council, acted as an impartial third party adjudicator. More recent Shuswap attempts to get justice followed. Three chiefs went to visit the British Crown in 1924 to press their case, but again to no avail.
On April 11, 1997 two junior lawyers, one from the Federal Justice Department, the other, from the A/G's office in Victoria descended on the high security Surrey courtroom, which was devoid of jury for this purpose. In five minutes they managed to add yet another chapter to B.C.'s version of the Castle.
The AG man, C.F. Wilms quoted then Chief Justice McEachern (in the Delgamuukw case) that the "Royal Proclamation never applied to this Province". He continued that it was a waste of time to hear cases that would fail!
The claim that British Columbia might not be governed by the Constitution of Canada no doubt surprised many of those present in court. But after listening to Dr. Bruce Clark's accounts of judicial hi-jinx most were surely expecting another legal sleight-of-hand! Nevertheless, it did sound like another door in the long Kafkaesque corridor slamming shut. The Castle of Justice is still ever so far up the hill.
Jones Ignace tried to remind the learned gentlemen that section 109, article 10 of the Constitution Act of 1982 states that the Proclamation applies, but to no avail.
James (OJ) Pitawanakwat, a 25 year old Native man conducting his own defence, suggested that the Federal Justice Department representative was in conflict of interest. The Federal Government is supposed to protect the interest of the Natives, he reminded the court. OJ commented on how unjust the Federal treatment has been after the aid his ancestors gave the British, in helping them gain a strong foothold on the Continent against the French. He stated: we had our own ways of governing ourselves, our political entities, our own spiritual structure, and our own laws.
OJ continued that while his people struggle for freedom and often bare necessities, lawyers like those in court, make 2,800 dollars a day. But they are biased, he said. Looking from Mr. Ignace to OJ one is reminded of the slogan on some defendants' T-shirts: "for every man that goes down, ten stand up."
The two constitutional lawyers bowed out rather hurriedly without further arguments or statements. They were clearly not in court to discuss the law. A few moments after arriving, they were gone, as quickly as they were called. The unreality of their appearance and presentation might have almost been laughable, a little like two Punch and Judy puppets popping up before a kindergarten audience. Unfortunately the implications of their statement will have to be addressed in a more serious manner in order to get a just resolution, not just for the Aboriginal nations, but for all Canadians. For inevitably living with a lie damages our integrity.
But what is really behind the trial, the struggles for Native justice, and the determined official resistance to bargaining in good faith?
The basis of all these struggles is, and has throughout history, been found in the land. Our land base, after all is what feeds us, and whether or not urbanites realize it, this will always be the case. Those who have the authority to dispose of the wealth of the land have the only real power.
At present there is another hidden struggle for this same land which is deliberately kept out of sight: it is the latest round of taking the power from the people, and putting it into the hands of Multinational Investors and Financiers. Thus the Multilateral Agreement on Investment which is to be signed this spring by the OECD countries, moves ahead in deathly media silence.
The Globalization agenda wants to have all of the world's wealth at its disposal, and the un-certainty of large tracts of productive forests, farm land, and fresh waters in the hands of Aboriginal Traditionalists is the last thing these global interests desire.
So the agenda is framed by the controlled media in terms of "Criminal Indians" against good, law abiding "ordinary Canadians". Behind the scenes, the work to sign away the rights to the land, of these same "ordinary Canadians" races on. What Canadians have to ask themselves now is: Who would we rather have in control of the land? Foreign bankers, or the Aboriginal people? Who would manage it better, and more equitably? Who has a greater historical right to it?
Canadians do not stand a chance to negotiate a decent deal with the Bankers in control. We know that all the wealth and profits from the rape of the resources of this land will end up in a few foreign pockets, giving those few incredible global power. We, the settlers as well as the Aboriginals will end up as the serfs of the new Global Feudalism. We won't even know where the Castle is located. Reaching it will be out of the question!
The latest initiative towards that Global Utopia for the Super-rich is the Multilateral Agreement on Investments. Let's consider just a few of the implications of this mega-power deal to be signed by Canada this spring.
One of the key give-away phrases in the MAI document is that "Foreign investors should be treated at least as favourably as national investors". The deal would grant transnational investors the unrestricted "right" to buy, sell and move businesses and other assets wherever, and whenever they want. "The objective is to cover all investments, resulting in the acquisition of actual interests in the activity of the foreign country".
Clearly such interests would include water, land and resources. We would very soon find ourselves tenants in Canada. The new absentee land-lords would be people obsessed with power and material wealth to the exclusion of the well-being of humanity. They already have a disdain for the law, unless it benefits them, and try to buy whatever, and whoever they can to achieve their goals. Maximizing profit, and global power are the over-riding goals.
At the other end of the scale we have the original Nations of the Continent, who have for millennia been governed by the love of, and reverence for this land, and all of Creation.
In the powerful words of Chief Seattle in his address to the US Congress nearly 150 years ago: "Every part of the earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every clearing, and humming insect is holy in the memory and experience of my people".
We must seriously consider which set of values would be more beneficial to all the people of this Continent; which would lead to a better life for all the citizens of Turtle Island? To do that we must forget the spins fed the media by the likes of RCMP spokesperson Montague who gave out versions of Gustafsen Lake stand-off consistent with the "Criminal Indians" line, and privately told his colleagues (albeit on video) that disinformation campaigns were a specialty of his.
Difficult as it may be in the maze of lies and disinformation, we have to come to rely on our own intelligence, and inner values to show us the path to follow. Each of us has to ask ourselves: what philosophy, and what culture should I support? Should it be the one that will install global investors as the new, unelected, unaccountable rulers of the Earth?
Or should we gamble on supporting the rule of historical natural law, and ally ourselves with the people who believe that the essence of Natural law is respect for all creation? Should we not support this second option? Isn't it more likely to ensure the survival of humanity?
If we decide for this second option, we must strongly voice our support for recognizing history, and giving the Aboriginal Nations title to their unceded lands as provided for in the Canadian Constitution Act. Given the large unceded areas in B.C. this alone could thwart the exploitative agenda of the Global Investment lobby.
What we have to watch out for is attempts of the Global interests to pre-empt this option, by forcing the resolution of land claims through the Indian Act which is organized along lines that put power into too few hands in each Native Nation. As we know from the experience with our own politicians, financial favours generally usurp the agenda then.
If jurisdiction of the Aboriginal people is recognized, it is imperative that decision-making powers not be vested in few hands, but in the whole community, and through broader discussions, the whole country. This is precisely the point of traditionalists like Jones Ignace.
So at the end of the Gustafsen Trial we stand before important options, and decisions for the future of Canada. The turn we take from now on will impact profoundly on all Canadians, living and yet unborn.