Feb 20/97: Gustafsen Lake - mainstream news clipping


Vancouver Sun
Thursday, February 20, 1997, Page B03
By Neal Hall and Mark Hume

One of the people on trial for his part in the Gustafsen Lake standoff told B.C. Supreme Court Justice Bruce Josephson he wants an imprisoned native-rights lawyer to appear on his behalf.

"He's the only one who can do the job and he's my counsel of choice," Jones (Wolverine) Ignace said Wednesday. Ignace is charged with weapons offences and attempted murder for allegedly firing at police during the month-long standoff in 1995 at Gustafsen Lake near 100 Mile House.

"If I don't have Bruce Clark as my counsel, then I'm being denied justice in this country," he added.

Clark spent the day in custody after returning to B.C on Tuesday to represent Ignace and other defendants in the Gustafsen Lake case.

The controversial lawyer was arrested at Vancouver International Airport on two outstanding warrants and was transferred to Williams Lake. He will be taken to 100 Mile House today to make his first court appearance.

Defence lawyer Don Campbell suggested the court could issue an order to allow Clark out of jail so he could appear as a witness for Ignace on Friday.

But Clark, an Ontario lawyer, is not licensed to practice in B.C and would need to get approval from the Law Society of B.C. and the trial judge in order to represent Ignace.

In the fall of 1995, Clark appeared at a raucous bail hearing in 100 Mile House, where he accused a judge of running a kangaroo court. The lawyer also got in a scuffle with police officers.

Those incidents led to charges of assaulting a police officer and contempt of court. Clark fled Canada before he could be brought to court to face them.

He said in an interview this week that he wants to challenge the jurisdiction of the courts with an argument that cases involving native Indian claims to land must be dealt with by an independent, third-party tribunal, not by a court appointed by the state.

To date, no Canadian court has accepted that the argument has any merit.

The expectation of Clark's appearance Wednesday at the Gustafsen Lake trial attracted about a dozen members of the media to the high-security courtroom in Surrey. But when it quickly became evident Clark would be a no-show, most of the media lost interest and left before the lunch break.

The trial involves 14 native Indians and four non-Indians who were charged mainly with weapons offences and criminal mischief at the end of the armed standoff, which came during a summer of native Indian unrest in B.C.

Up to 400 RCMP officers and military personnel were employed at Gustafsen Lake. It became the largest police operation in B.C. history, costing taxpayers more than $5 million.

Ignace's son, Joseph, 25, is charged with two counts of attempted murder for shooting at RCMP Constable Ray Wilby on Aug. 18, 1995, and at a number of other officers during an alleged gun battle on Sept. 11, shortly before the armed standoff ended.

His lawyer, George Wool, said in his opening address to the jury Wednesday that he plans to prove his client was not at Gustafsen Lake when Wilby was shot at.

He said a defence witness, Danny Ford, will testify he phoned the Ignace home in Chase that day and talked to "Jo-Jo," as the young man is called by his family.

Outside court, Wool said he estimates the defence may wrap up its case in three weeks.

That would be welcome news for the jury, which was originally told the case would take two months -- it is now in its 29th week.

One former defence lawyer, Harry Rankin, estimated the trial is costing taxpayers about $50,000 a day. Part of the cost is the $60 a day paid to the accused, who are mostly from out of town, to cover food and accommodation expenses.

The standoff during August and September 1995 was triggered by rising tensions between a rancher and native Indians who took part in an annual religious sundance ceremony that had been held since 1989.

The ceremony was held on remote land near 100 Mile House owned by cattle rancher Lyle James. But James served an eviction notice on one of the sundancers after the Indians erected a fence, saying the area was a sacred site.

The standoff escalated when shots were allegedly fired at a forestry worker and police.

Jones Ignace, who is charged with weapons offenses and attempted murder, says he is being denied justice if Bruce Clark cannot represent him.


The Province
Thursday, February 20, 1997
By Clare Ogilvie, Staff Reporter

Everyone was there except the man they'd all come to see.

Television crews from local and national stations, newspaper and radio reporters and native supporters lined the steps of the Surrey courthouse yesterday to see if lawyer Bruce Clark would make it to the Gustafsen Lake trial.

But the flamboyant lawyer, easily recognizable with his shaved head and space-age eye-glasses, was due to leave for 100 Mile House, courtesy of the RCMP.

Clark is to face charges there today of contempt of court and assaulting a police officer.

He was charged after a fracas at 100 Mile courthouse in September 1995 and was wanted on B.C.-wide warrants. He was arrested Tuesday when he returned to B.C. from New Brunswick.

Clark was representing many of the natives charged after the 30-day Gustafsen Lake standoff ended Sept. 17, 1995.

Camp leader William Jones Ignace (Wolverine) told B.C. Supreme Court Justice Bruce Josephson yesterday that preventing Clark from representing him showed there was no justice in Canada. Ignace, who is defending himself, said if Clark can't be his lawyer he will call him to testify as early as tomorrow.

George Wool, defending five of the protesters, told the jury, which has been hearing Crown evidence for the past 128 days, that one of his clients, Joseph (JoJo) Ignace, was not at the Gustafsen Lake Camp on Aug. 18, the day he is alleged to have fired at a Mountie.

Wool said Joseph Ignace, William Ignace's son, was at home at the time. He said two medical experts will testify that Joseph suffers from severe fetal alcohol syndrome, which can impair brain function.

Defence witness Barry Holden, who has been fishing at Gustafsen for almost 40 years, testified that he was visited by RCMP officers every day while camping at the lake in June, just before the standoff.

"(A Mountie) said there may be trouble," said Holden.

"He said that shots had been fired at a forestry officer, or something, in the weeks prior."

Not long after one of the visits, Holden heard and saw a cowboy ride into the native camp and scream at the occupants. The cowboy then rode to Holden's camp.

"He said you guys better get out of here," Holden testified.

"There is going to be trouble and shooting around here."

The trial continues.

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