July 10, 1997
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
VANCOUVER, Salish Territory -- Outrage and concerns continue to mount as letters pour in from around the world as more and more human rights and other people become aware of the injustice that continues against indigenous people in Canada.
Today, supporters of the Ts'peten (Gustafsen Lake) Defenders received a copy of a letter from renowned human rights lawyer and the former Attorney General of the United States, Ramsey Clark. In his letter, separately addressed to Judge Bruce Josephson, Attorney General Ujjal Dosanjh, and Prime Minister Jean Chretien, Mr. Clark said that he was familiar with the conflict even before formal charges were made and "felt strongly that there should never have been criminal prosecutions". Mr. Clark urged for the immediate release of all the defendants and a new national commitment to peacefully and honourably resolve these historic disputes.
Earlier in the week, supporters of the Ts'peten Defenders received a copy of a letter from a respected Swedish European parliamentarian and one of the leaders of European Parliament's Green group, Per Gahrton. In his letter to Prime Minister Chretien, Mr. Gahrton expressed deep concern on the ongoing court case against the Secwepemc (Shuswap) people and their supporters who refused to abandon Secwepemc sundance and burial grounds at Gustafsen Lake located in traditional Secwepemc territory. Mr. Gahrton asked for an immediate release of the Secwepemc and their allies who are currently, and improperly, convicted in the British Columbia court system.
Sentencing for the Ts'peten (Gustafsen Lake) defendants continues tomorrow (July 11, 1997) in court room 7 at 14340-57th Avenue in the Surrey Municipal Centre. Shelagh Franklin, one of the defendants, is expected to enter the above letters, and many others, officially into the court records on behalf of defendants.
William Jones Ignace, known as Wolverine -- a Shuswap elder and organic farmer who has been held as a political prisoner for almost two years without bail -- and three others face up to life imprisonment. Eleven defenders face up to ten year prison terms.
In the summer of 1995, the Ts'peten Defenders -- a group of native and non-native people who came together to protect the Sundance grounds at Ts'peten (Gustafsen Lake) -- were met with massive state force including over 77,000 rounds of ammunition, land mines, Bison APCs, and a police and media smear and disinformation campaign. The Sundance site is unceded native land, territory of the Secwepemc (Shuswap) people. The defenders have been criminalized for standing on Natural, International and Canada's own constitutional laws concerning native jurisdiction and land rights, and defending themselves against assaults by ranchers, police and military.
For more information, please contact:
Bill Lightbown, phone: (604) 251-4949;
Splitting the Sky, phone/fax: (604) 543-9661