Mainstream media coverage of Ts'peten trial - February 12 / 97


The Province
Wednesday, February 12, 1997, page A11
by Lora Grindlay, Staff Reporter

The RCMP's media-relations officer exaggerated the criminal records of some natives involved in the Gustafsen Lake standoff, B.C. Supreme Court has heard.

Under cross-examination yesterday by defence lawyer Manuel Azevedo in Surrey, Sgt. Peter Montague first said he couldn't remember telling two local radio reporters that most of the people in the armed camp "had been convicted of murder."

In the absence of the jury, Montague then watched video of the exchange captured on an RCMP training tape.

The jury returned and he told the 12-member panel he did say it but that it was untrue.

Later, under cross-examination by one of the accused, James Pitawanakwat, who is defending himself, Montague said the statement was "obviously a mistake on my part."

"I shouldn't have said convicted of -- capable of, but not convicted of," he said.

Justice Bruce Josephson largely allowed Pitawanakwat and camp leader William Jones Ignace (Wolverine) to make rambling speeches on native rights to Montague.

When Montague couldn't answer a question from Ignace regarding the RCMP's history with natives, Ignace turned to Josephson and asked him.

"Sorry, I'm not here to be cross-examined," the judge replied to Ignace.


The 30-day armed standoff at Gustafsen Lake involved 400 RCMP officers and cost $5.5 million.

The criminal trial has now lasted 120 days, with defence lawyers not expected to start calling witnesses until next week. At $50,000 a day in court costs, the bill is expected to top $6 million.

Fourteen native Indians and four non-natives face a battery of trespassing and weapons charges stemming from the siege, which was punctuated with shooting incidents but ended peacefully on Sept. 17, 1995.

Charged with attempted murder is camp leader William Jones Ignace (Wolverine), 65, and Ignace's mentally disabled son, Joseph.

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