Jul 9/97: Ramsey Clark supports Ts'Peten (Gustafsen) Defenders


July 9, 1997

Hon. Bruce Josephson
Supreme Court of British Columbia
Begbie Square
New Westminster, BC V3M 1C9

Dear Judge Josephson:

I am writing you concerning the sentencing hearings for 15 persons, Indians and their supporters, who were convicted in your Court for acts in defence of Native rights at Gustafsen Lake. Having been familiar with the conflict even before formal charges were made, I felt strongly that there should never have been criminal prosecutions and urged the authorities to seek reconciliation among peoples and negotiate an agreed resolution of this ancient dispute.

Unfortunately the government chose prosecution which has resulted in greater division, hostility and distrust.

This struggle is part of a world wide effort of more than 200,000,000 indigenous peoples to survive and to preserve their distinct cultures. Without exception, the first peoples everywhere, the aboriginals, are the most endangered of the human species. For the future of humanity we must look to moral leadership in governments and populations that yield power where indigenous people live to respect their rights, to understand and cherish their spiritual values, love of nature and invaluable heritage, and to assure sensitive and honorable conduct toward them at all times.

The centuries of dishonor in the conduct of post Columbian governments toward Indian people in our hemisphere is one of the tragedies of human history. We must act to end that tragedy now.

Surely, if after the horrors of Apartheid, South Africans can face a future together through a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Canada can end a policy of criminal prosecution against Indian people struggling to protect their rights, especially where its own failures to respect those rights and excessive uses of force have been so persistent.

I urge the immediate release of all the defendants and a new national commitment to peacefully and honorably resolve these historic disputes between two peoples who can yet live together on the same soil with dignity, respect and love.


Ramsey Clark

[S.I.S.I.S. note: Similar letters from Clark, the eminent lawyer of Leonard Peltier, human rights activist and former US Attorney-General, were sent to BC's NDP Attorney-General Ujjal Dosanjh and the Prime Minister of Canada.]

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