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An RCMP negotiator says he didn't see the point in forcing defiant natives at Gustafsen Lake to surrender on their knees to white police officers.
Sgt. Dennis Ryan said he talked emergency-response officers out of that plan when encampment members walked out peacefully Sept.17 after a month barricaded on private Cariboo ranch land. But Ryan admits he may have said:"I don't care what you do with the bastards" afterwards.
"I could have said that," Ryan told jurors yesterday. "In some cases, in candid conversation, there's earthy language, but to suggest I don't care, well...I had no axe to grind with these people. I was not angry." Defence Lawyer George Wool said of the police operation: "The attitude of the collective group, including yourself was very, very, anti-native." "No, I reject that." Ryan said.
Another RCMP officer now claims he never meant what he said in private strategy meetings during the Gustafsen Lake standoff. Media liason oficer Sgt. Peter Montague--who told fellow officers that "smear campaigns are our specialty"-ate his words yesterday in BC Supreme Court.
"I can assure the court that that was ssaid in jest," said the 25-year veteran, the Mounties mouthpiece during the month-long 1995 siege that ended in criminal charges against 14 natives and four non-natives.
"It was irony. It was using words to express the exact opposite of what I meant...There's never been any suggestion, ever, that any such thing as a smear campaign has ever been considered." Senior mediator Sgt. Dennis Ryan testified Monday that he misquoted a superior when he used the terms "smear campaign" and misinformation" in a meeting. The defence contention that the RCMP exploited the media to paint the renegades as terrorists and justify an escalation of the crisis has become a key trial issue.
Descriptions of shooting and harassment events have differed wildly in court from the previous RCMP version given to reporters, causing defence counsel to protest that Montague's comments yesterday were "editorializing like crazy." Jurors were cautioned three times by Justice Bruce Josephson to disregard Montague's opinions about contentious events except to gauge witness credibility and to assess the defence theory about media manipulation.
Yesterday Montague described a pressure-cooker atmosphere in which the RCMP took heat from an inquiring media, the public, and its own officers seeking a quick resolution.
"There was a potential danger that (RCMP) members might express views not consistent with our official messaging," he told jurors of plans to keep a tight lid on media releases. He defended a three-page media strategy paper endorsed by what Montague calls the RCMP "management team" in which he refers to encampment leader "Wolverine (Jones William Ignace) and his band of thugs."
We agreed that a criminal agenda was present in the camp..." Montague said. "It's my terminology, but a theme which the management team and everyone I spoke to shared."