The RCMP feared a racial firestorm across Canada over any media leak about the army's armored personnel carries being brought in for the Gustafsen Lake standoff in BC.
"The risk is just awesome," Supt. Len Olfert, who headed the operation, says in a videotape of an August 30, 1995, strategy meeting played to a BC Supreme Court jury in Surrey yesterday.
"Once the APCs come out of the package , there will be a war. It will be a war. If they (native supporters) have a siege mentality now, they'd have a death mentality." The taped meeting - part of 50 hours of RCMP videotape of the month long standoff with natives - aired as Olfert finished his third day of cross - examination.
"You were of the opinion that if the public found out the police had access to the vehicles it would create a firestorm across Canada that would attract radicals...that would ignite race relations across the country? asked lawyer Sheldon Tate. "Yes, I didn't think of the necessity to reveal them until we used them," Olfert replied. "It wasn't so much to isolate the camp, but we had to be sure we didn't have (native) supporters coming in or the redneck element causing problems."
Fourteen natives and four non-natives face weapons and trespassing charges relating to the militants camp on private land in the Cariboo.
Leader William (Wolverine ) Ignace is charged with attempted murder, as is his son Joseph.
Olfert admitted that a Sept.11 operation to blow up the natives' supply truck, which ended in a massive gun battle - nost of it RCMP crossfire - was "not the perfect situation."
He also agreed he was extremely frustrated with the Armed Forces, which placed restrictions on the RCMP's use of the armored vehicles.
But Olfert denied Tate's accusation that the RCMP "was on a war footing and was acting without regards to the law of the country."
He shrugged off suggestions that the RCMP overstepped their grounds when they commandeered neighboring native land without a search warrant. Said Olfert: "I think we rewrote the book in a lot of areas there because it was a life and death situation."
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