Feb 6/98: Court upholds Gustafsen convictions


Vancouver Sun
February 6, 1997
Neal Hall

[S.I.S.I.S. note: The following mainstream news article may contain biased or distorted information and may be missing pertinent facts and/or context. It is provided for reference only.]

Jones William Ignace, also known as Wolverine, has lost his appeal of his convictions stemming from the month-long armed standoff at Gustafsen Lake in 1995. A three-judge panel of the BC Court of Appeal dismissed this week the joint appeal of Ignace, Shelagh Franklin and James Pitawanakwat, who were convicted of various offences on May 20, last year after a 185-day trial. The appeal issue was whether the trial judge erred in dismissing the defence application for a declaration that the BC Supreme Court had no jurisdiction to try the appellants for offences under the Criminal Code because the alleged offences took place on native Indian land that was taken without a treaty.

The Appeal Court upheld the lower court ruling that it had jurisdiction and noted nothing in the Supreme Court of Canada's recent decision in the Delgamuukw case, which involved the question of aboriginal sovereignty, casts doubt on the jurisdiction issue. The standoff near 100 Mile House on a ranch owned by Lyle James began after native Indians held a spiritual Sundance ceremony and refused to vacate the property. They claimed it was sacred ground that was unceded Indian territory on Crown land. After shots were fired, hundreds of RCMP officers from around BC were deployed to the armed standoff, where more than 20,000 rounds of gunfire were exchanged without fatal injury. The $5 million police operation was the most expensive in BC history.

At the end of the standoff, 18 people were charged with offences and the subsequent trial cost taxpayers about $2 million in court time and legal aid bills. Ignace was convicted of mischief, possession of a dangerous weapon, discharging a firearm at police and using a firearm to assault an officer. He was sentenced to 54 months in prison and prohibited for life from possessing a firearm or ammunition. Franklin was convicted of mischief and received a 12 month sentence, which she is serving in the community. Pitawanakwat was convicted of mischief and possession of a dangerous weapon. He was given a three-year prison sentence and a lifetime firearms prohibition.

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