Apr 29/97: Conspiracy at Gust Lake = Politicians + Police


The Province, Page A4c
Tuesday, April 29, 1997
Holly Horwood, Staff Reporter

[SISIS note: The following mainstream news article is provided for reference only, as an example of how mainstream media treats indigenous resistance to genocide. It may contain biased and distorted information and may be missing pertinent facts and/or context.]

The RCMP's actions at Gustafsen Lake amounted to a "Canadian civil war" in which lies, conspiracy and brutal armed muscle were used, a defence lawyer told a Surrey court yesterday.

Manual Azevedo also told B.C. Supreme Court jurors that the RCMP were motivated by racism during the 1995 month-long standoff with armed native Indian supporters.

"If these was a conspiracy, it was not on the part of the accused," Azevedo said during final arguments in the nine-month trial.

"It was on the part of the RCMP and their political masters to once and for all crush this revival of Indian culture at Gustafsen Lake. They were going to go right to the prime minister... This case went to the highest authorities, and that's where the conspiracy lay."

Azevedo, who represents spiritual singer Glenn Denault, said there was no criminal intent on the part of those who claimed the Gustafsen ranchland as native territory. He said the police operation spiralled out of control after Aug. 18, 1995, when the RCMP called off the two native negotiators: "At that point the racism which has been institutionalized and is systemic in some institutions took over... it was a victory of tanks over talk."

He said RCMP overstepped legal and moral bounds when police:

- Conducted covert raids on the native encampment.

- Lied to the public about criminal records of those in the camp.

- Refused to respond immediately to calls for help from encampment members.

- Amassed military-style weaponry, including automatic, high-powered sniper guns and armoured personnel carriers.

- Shot at (but missed) a native in an agreed-upon "no-shoot zone."

Camp patriarch Jones Ignace, 63, also known as Wolverine, told the court the real issue of native rights has been ignored in the case.

"We stood up against the best they had," said Ignace, who is charged with attempted murder after he shot out the wheels of an armoured tank that was chasing him. "Just a few people, and yet we're called terrorists... in our own homeland."

Crown counsel presents its arguments today.


ACCUSED: Fourteen native Indians and four non-native supporters. The charges range from mischief and weapons offences to attempted murder of police officers.

STANDOFF: In the Cariboo. The month-long siege in the summer of 1995 ended peacefully on Sept. 17.

ISSUES: Natives who had permission since 1989 from rancher Lyle James to conduct a "Sundance" spiritual ceremony on the land lingered on. Issues of land entitlement escalated as RCMP called in military weapons and denounced camp supporters as terrorists.

Accompanying photo of Wolverine; staff file photo by Rick Loughran. Photo caption: "Jones (Wolverine) Ignace told the court the real issue of native rights is being ignored."

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