Defence lawyer Sheldon Tate said Thursday that if anyone should have been charged following the Gustafsen Lake standoff it was lawyer Bruce Clark.
"Bruce Clark is no Jesus Christ and he sure as hell is no Indian -- although he talks as if he knows them better than they know themselves," Tate told a B.C. Supreme Court jury, causing a stir in the packed Surrey courtroom. "If there's a criminal in the bunch, he's the one who should have been charged."
Some of the defendants who support Clark became agitated when Tate accused the controversial native-rights lawyer of manipulating events at Gustafsen Lake to serve his own political agenda. Tate represents three of the defendants: Percy Rosette, Rosette's wife Mary Pena and Ron Dionne.
The 18 defendants are accused of mischief, endangering life and possession of weapons. Two of the accused are charged with attempted murder.
The charges stem from the Gustafsen Lake standoff in the summer of 1995. Police were shot at during the armed occupation by native and their supporters of a camp and range land that had been used for native Sundance ceremonies.
Tate's submissions to the jury came as the nine-month trial enters its final phase. The accused, 14 native Indians and four non-natives, were arrested when they surrendered to police at the conclusion of a 30-day siege.
Clark, who has spent much of his career arguing that the Canadian government has no jurisdiction over native Indians, arrived at Gustafsen Lake at the beginning of the standoff.
He represented some of the accused following their arrest. He got involved in a courtroom tussle with court officers in 100 Mile House and was sentenced to three months in jail for assault.
Tate said there was no direct evidence that his clients had shot at a police helicopter, and that Rosette was a peaceful man who had been the faith keeper of the Sundance at Gustafsen Lake.
Tate said the local RCMP sided with Lyle James, the rancher who claims ownership of the property, against the Indians in what he said was a civil dispute similar to a landlord-tenant dispute. "They knew if they didn't do something, it could end in gunplay like the shootout at the OK Corral."
Faced with an eviction notice from James, Rosette phoned Clark in Ottawa, Tate continued.
"He wanted him to do something as a lawyer and from that point on, Dr. Clark took over and Mr. Rosette was just a little pawn in a sinister plot by a devious mind so twisted in its beliefs that he can only see things in terms of black and white," said Tate.
He said next the police sent in a heavily armed officers wearing camouflage gear who alarmed occupants of the camp. Tate said they thought these men were the ranchers returning to finish them off, and Rosette phoned the police to ask for protection.
Tate said Clark was let through police lines into the camp because he promised to negotiate an end to the dispute, but when he met with the camp's defenders he encouraged them to resist.
"He told them the police were going to kill them, that he could get their case before the Supreme Court of Canada. It was all lies, lies.
"I suggest Dr. Clark is like Jim Carrey in [the movie] Liar Liar, except he's not nearly as funny."
Two of the accused who are representing themselves also spoke to the jury on Thursday.
Robert Flemming said he never intended to harm anyone. He said the police response was irresponsible and that he was relieved no one was injured during the standoff.
Shelagh Franklin told the jury that they were the "closest thing to a third- party tribunal that the Indian people had ever got near to in this country.
"We are told Canada is number one in human rights, yet we were surrounded, isolated, smeared, demonized, shot at, terrorized, silenced. We were cut off and threatened and starved."
The trial continues.