Jan 16/96: Gustafsen Lake-Trial preparations begin


Ts'peten Defenders
Contact: Splitting the Sky
January 16, 1996

Four months after the last 12 Defenders of Ts'peten (Gustafsen Lake) left their camp, the Crown counsel has finally released some of the disclosures regarding its case against 20 of the Defenders. Many of the reports and statements made in the disclosures are innuendo, conjecture, guilt by association and/or outright lies. For example, one shooting incident in Lac La Hache specifies that "there are no suspects in this incident", but then adds, without further explanation, that "investigators believe that the shooting is related to the Gustafsen Lake incident".

Most of the Crown's case against Wolverine and his son Joseph (JoJo) is based upon statements they allegedly made during their interrogations. Although JoJo is being charged with attempted murder for allegedly firing a shot past one of the five ERT members executing a "covert probe in the area known as the Gustafsen Lake encampment" on August 18, 1995, the disclosures reveal that "none of the team members were able to identify the lone male suspect" and that a search of the area completed on September 22, 1995 reported that "no evidence was found at this site".

Since Bruce Clark remains in exile in New York, Wolverine and Percy Rosette have agreed to no longer retain Dr. Clark's services and instead, have agreed to assemble a legal "team" to work on the Defenders' case. This team currently consists of Don Campbell from Kamloops (retained by Wolverine) and Robin Smith from Williams Lake, with the expected participation of both Owen Young (the lawyer for the Oka defendants) and Lyn Crompton (arguing the jurisdiction question). It is also hoped that Ramsey Clark (former U.S. Attorney General) and other international lawyers and jurists will attend the trial as observers to ensure that the Defenders receive the fair trial that they are entitled to.

Crown Counsel has decided to bypass the preliminary hearing and instead will set the trial date on Friday, February 9th, 1996 in New Westminster for all Defenders. It is anticipated that the Crown will also seek to hold the trial in New Westminster. Meanwhile, Wolverine and JoJo will have another bail hearing in Kamloops on Friday, January 19th, 1996.

Despite RCMP promises that the Defenders would be treated fairly and with dignity and respect, there have been numerous human rights violations against the Defenders of Ts'peten. The disclosures make it very clear that all interrogations of the "prisoners of war" took place without the presence of counsel. Percy Rosette asked for, and was denied, an interpreter, even though English is not his first language. Some of the prisoners had their clothes taken from them and were forced to wear white paper cloth jumpsuits while in prison and for their bail hearings in court. Wolverine has repeatedly asked for, and been denied, the opportunity to hold spiritual ceremonies, including sweats, for himself and other native prisoners being held in Kamloops Regional Correction Centre. All of these human rights violations and many others against the Ts'peten prisoners of war are being documented by the International Indian Treaty Council and other international human rights organizations.

Psychological warfare and propaganda tactics used by the RCMP are also being investigated by the Defenders. Aside from the obvious demonization campaign to label the Defenders "terrorists", "cultists" and "ideologues", the disclosures detail events which, when compared to the "official" version released to the media, reveals that the RCMP used misinformation to justify their actions and to further criminalize the Defenders. One incident takes up almost four pages in the disclosures and details an "alleged" shooting incident on Monday, September 4, 1995 that was used as the justification to deploy four Armored Personnel Carriers towards Gustafsen Lake the very next day, on Tuesday, September 5, 1995.

The disclosures report that three police Suburbans with members of the Victoria Emergency Response Team were leaving their positions at 7:50 p.m. The occupants of the second Suburban heard a popping sound. The Constable seated in the front passenger side "noticed the mirror on that side collapse forward towards the truck. At first he thought the mirror had hit a tree, but soon realized they were under fire." "At that point, the members felt they were being fired upon and returned random fire." Again, "no one saw any suspects" and on September 16, 1995, Kamloops Forensic Identification Section inspected the exterior of the Suburban for any bullet strikes and "none were found". The Suburban's mirror was later examined and as a result "investigators were lead to believe that the mirror was, in fact, struck by a foreign object such as a tree branch and not a bullet. With the lack of physical or other evidence, this investigation was concluded on this date."

Compare this version of events in the disclosures with that of the version released to the media. For example, the Vancouver Sun of Tuesday, September 5, 1995, under the headline of: "Gunfight erupts between RCMP, natives" opened the article with the statement that "a short gunfight erupted Monday night between RCMP officers and native Indians occupying an armed encampment near Gustafsen Lake". The RCMP then corrected their earlier version of events, further perpetuating the misinformation to the media by making it appear that the officers took a "defensive" position throughout this incident. The next day's Vancouver Sun article of Wednesday, September 6, 1995 was headlined: "RCMP ignored chances to return fire, officer says" and opened with this paragraph: "Four RCMP officers who came under fire from armed native Indians later ignored opportunities to shoot their attackers, an RCMP official said Tuesday". The article then reports the RCMP's claim that "the officers later pulled back and took up "defensive positions" a few kilometres away." But during the night they were "actively pursued by persons from the armed camp and only great restraint on the part of the officers prevented what could have been a very serious incident." This "pursuit" is not mentioned in the disclosures because it never happened, except as a news story to justify the deployment of the APC's for the "protection" of the RCMP officers.

These disclosures reveal to what extent the public was manipulated by the RCMP during the standoff and to what degree the state is prepared to lie in order to convict the Defenders. Although the standoff is over, the battle to get the truth out continues, including the fact that the land the Defenders made their stand on is UNCEDED SHUSWAP LAND. It was never sold by the hereditary Shuswap people and therefore, the police and military had no jurisdiction to bring their weapons onto that land in the first place.

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