The trial involving 14 native Indians and four non-natives stemming from the armed siege at Gustafsen Lake resumed yesterday after a Christmas break. Two of the accused, William Jones Ignace, who calls himself Wolverine, and his son, Joseph (Jo Jo) Ignace , are accused of attempted murder of RCMP officers. The others are facing criminal-trespass and weapons charges.
Their trial takes place in one of BC's most secure courtrooms, where observers are separated from participants by a retractable wall of bulletproof glass and a squad of sheriffs.
The month - long standoff in the summer of 1995 began after native sundancers gathered on privately owned ranchland at Gustafsen Lake, in the Cariboo, under spiritual leader Percy Rosette. The squatters refused to move, claiming the land was sacred, unceded aboriginal territory. Tension grew on both sides as those inside the camp built fences, bunkers and foxholes.
The RCMP and military brought in emergency response teams, high powered equipment and Bison armored personnel carriers. The carriers, owned by the United Nations and never used before in Canada, became a political football in a dispute over who would drive them.
By the time the siege ended peacefully, as many as 400 officers had been dispatched, making it the most expensive RCMP operation in Canada.
But in an angry exchange in BC Supreme Court, Supt. Len Olfert denied that he staged a "media show", or that he wanted six "hardliners" inside the Gustafsen Lake camp killed.
"I could have said it's their intent they'll have to be killed (before they would come out)," Olfert told a well- guarded Surrey courtroom where 18 people face charges resulting from the standoff.
"I think our expectation was we could expect casualties on both sides."
Olfert agreed that RCMP:
- Illegally released criminal records of people believed to be inside the native encampment;Yesterday Olfert said he did not recall using the word "killing" but agreed he and Johnston discussed potential casualties on both sides. He was also questioned about an Aug. 26 call from Senator Len Marchand, a native Indian, who told Olfert the Gustafsen Lake holdouts "were no better or even similar to the Branch Davidians" (extremists involved in a 1993 standoff in Waco, Tex., in which 80 people were killed).
- Flew reporters in RCMP planes to an Aug. 19 Williams Lake press conference (where Olfert described "acts of terrorism" and displayed weapons confiscated from another native confrontation;
- Released unsubstantiated stories to prevent reporters from "talking to people on the street." One story wrongly alleged police were fired upon after they disabled a native supply truck with an explosive-like device.
Marchand "supports action we may have to take and feels they may all give up with a show of force," Olfert noted after the call.
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