Mainstream media coverage of Ts'peten trial - February 5 / 97


The Province
Wednesday, February 5, 1997, Page A16
By Holly Horwood, Staff Reporter The RCMP commander at the Gustafsen Lake native standoff has described as "ludicrous" suggestions that he wanted to kill or publicly discredit those in the encampment.

Supt. Len Olfert also angrily denied suggestions he was intent on smearing natives not involved in the 1995 armed siege.

"You were trying to discredit in a very broad sense all the native people who might not even be associated with the camp," suggested defence counsel George Wool in B.C. Supreme Court.

"Absolutely not," retorted the officer. "I don't even know what you're getting at."

Jurors heard evidence yesterday that:

- Olfert's directive about a media campaign was relayed to other officers by Sgt. Dennis Ryan, who said Olfert wanted to "kill" and "smear" the rebels and Bruce Clark, their lawyer at the time. Olfert denied using those words.

- The RCMP released juvenile criminal records of people believed in the camp -- a tactic normally used to warn the public of sexual predators or fugitives. Olfert said it was done to "account to the public (which) saw inaction on our part." Records of one native, Johnny Guitar, were released -- although RCMP can't confirm if he was ever in the camp.

Guitar was at the press conference where police released his records to national media.

Yesterday, jurors also heard the RCMP had contingency plans to assault the camp on Sept. 17, 1995 -- the day defiant occupants walked out -- with military armored personnel carriers (APCs) and a .50-calibre machine-gun obtained from the U.S.

"Now the APCs were being used offensively," defence lawyer Manuel Azevedo told Olfert. "There's no mention (in the plan) of a search warrant, is there?"

"Well, no . . . ." responded the Kamloops-based officer.

The defendants are using the trial to remind the public of the standoff's origins: A contention that the ranch property is sacred aboriginal land.

"The place where the defence occurred was on unceded territory, and yet you were there to criminalize us," camp leader Jones William (Wolverine) Ignace, who is defending himself, told Olfert.

"We were pursuing a criminal investigation," Olfert replied. "A person can take a stand on issues, but not with AK-47s (assault rifles).

"I think that was the distinguishing feature."

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