Jul 11/97: Ts'peten Defenders waiting to see justice


Settlers In Support of Indigenous Sovereignty (S.I.S.I.S.)
July 11, 1997

The Ts'peten (Gustafsen Lake) trial in Surrey heard sentencing submissions July 10th from self-representing defendant OJ Pitawanakwat and from defence lawyers representing Grant Archie, Trond Halle and Rob Fleming.

The sentencing process has been exceedingly lengthy, with dates for submissions spaced weeks apart. Yesterday, Judge Josephson indicated that he likely delay the sentencing itself until late August, four full months after the verdicts were handed down on May 20. The sentencing period will be nearly half the length of the trial, already the longest criminal trial in Canadian history.

Josephson ignores defendants' repeated requests for a speedy sentencing. Wolverine again protested yesterday:

"Seems like people are deliberately dragging their feet. I'd like to get on with sentencing so I can appeal this conviction. We didn't do anything wrong - we stood on unceded Shuswap territory. Again today we hear that we were on rancher Lyle James' land. Until you can prove how the land was transferred, whether through theft, fraud or genocide, how do you have jurisdiction?

"We've already served notice. We can't get justice here in Canada. That is what we are still seeking. That's why we're appealing to the international community. This is fraud. When you people came here on boats, you had nothing - yet you say you own the land. We want proof in law."

OJ Pitawanakwat gave a passionate, meticulous and deeply moving analysis of the Gustafsen Lake incident and the colonial agonies of an indigenous prisoner in Canada.
"We are peoples that are supposed to be protected. Instead, we were assaulted by the supposed guardians of the rule of law. It seems that the RCMP and the Crown were instructed to smear us. The Crown is still treating us as terrorists...

"The Crown's case is one-sided and on the other side is the protection of a way of life and a call for an impartial tribunal. Our ways need to be protected for the Native youth...

"You can be the first to address these issues. You have witnessed the perjury and dirty little deeds. You heard RCMP witnesses state that the Crown told them to doctor their notes. It was the RCMP who stated to the media that the police were on the warpath...

"The RCMP acted as tormentors - no wonder people in the camp wouldn't come out. These are the aggravating circumstances the Crown won't talk about. Every time we point out the solution to a province that is illegally transferring title - look what happens.

"I think Canada will very soon have to face its legacy of genocide. We now have international bodies waiting."

Mr. Pitawanakwat reminded Josephson of the 1948 Genocide Convention and the fact that judges are also subject to it.

He also spoke of the death of "brother Dudley George," the Stoney Point man shot to death by Ontario Provincial Police officer Kenneth Deane during the standoff at Ipperwash simultaneous to the Gustafsen siege. Pitawanakwat cited as precedent Deane's 2 year conditional sentence, which means the killer won't see a day in jail. He contrasted this to the time he and Wolverine have already been imprisoned and reminded the judge that the Native youth are waiting to see justice. OJ reiterated the need for public inquiries into both incidents.

"The people were asserting their rights - they are members of a collective of people who have never given up their land. Canada has repeatedly broken its word. We must settle this. This cannot happen if you put me in jail."
Defence lawyer George Wool also spoke yesterday on behalf of Shuswap Grant Archie and non-native environmentalist and film-maker Trond Halle, calling for absolute discharges for both of them.

He outlined evidence at trial which he said indicated the Gustafsen Lake dispute was simmering as early as 1990."This is known as a redneck area ... Native and non-native people live separate and apart." Wool reminded the court that in June 1995, RCMP Sergeant Martin Sarich wrote about the Sundance at Ts'peten in terms of "ending this yearly headache once and for all." A few days later, ranch "owner" Lyle James went into what Wool characterized as "this unsurveyed area which he believed was part of his land." Ignoring advice from his high-powered Ladner-Downs lawyers to get a survey and court order because it was "too expensive," James brought into a peaceful encampment 13 cowboys armed with rifles and cracking a bull-whip, who threatened to "string up a red nigger." "This in my view started the whole process," said Wool. "Seeds of fear began to develop." [S.I.S.I.S. note: Ladner-Downs and the national partnership Osler Renault Ladner was the firm of former Prime Ministers Kim Campbell and Brian Mulroney. Mulroney remains a senior partner.]

Wool reviewed testimony of further incidents of harassment and threats by white cowhands, who even fired shots into the camp. He pointed out that a large cache of arms attributed to white supremacists had been seized in the area not long before. It was in this context, said Wool, that "Ottawa career officer Len Olfert" made the disastrous decision to send in RCMP officers, armed with M16 assault rifles and dressed in camouflage with no police markings, to penetrate the camp at dawn on August 18. Despite several frightened phone calls from the camp, RCMP did not respond or reveal the gunmen's identity, and a shot was fired.

Wool reminded the court that the RCMP used their own aircraft to transport Vancouver media to Williams Lake for the ensuing press conference. At this point, RCMP demonized camp members as "terrorists" yet continued to "let anybody and everybody enter the camp," and as BCTV journalist John Daly testified, "encouraged and facilitated media entry into the camp, even giving out the phone number to the camp before cutting off the area on August 24." This, noted Wool, was not consistent.

From that point on, all aggression was by police, said Wool; the alleged "incidents" attributed to the camp were all defensive in nature, and evidence also suggests police were recipients of their own 'friendly fire'. The "smear and disinformation campaign" by police calculated to "put stress on the natives" is uncontradicted evidence, Wool told Judge Josephson. Nevertheless, Wool attempted to distance his clients from the spiritual and sovereigntist stances taken by other defendants, depicting Halle as a mere journalist with "no agenda" and Archie as a victim of circumstance, who simply went to visit a friend and found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time.

David Gibbons, recently retained by non-native Bearwatch environmentalist Rob Fleming, took a similar tack, characterizing his client as "idealistic but somewhat naive." Gibbons said Fleming stayed in the camp because he thought that as a non-native, "if he left the police would kill the native people," but that he now recognized "the futility and foolishness of his actions." Support letters by family and friends such as environmentalists Valerie Langer and Julie Draper were also read. Gibbons called for a conditional sentence for his client.

OJ Pitawanakwat will conclude today, and self-representing non-native defendant Shelagh Franklin will begin speaking to sentencing. She will be reading letters of support for the Ts'peten Defenders and their stand, received between 1995 and 1997 from individuals, nations and organizations, including AIM, the Haudenosaunee confederacy, CASNP, the Green Group of the European parliament and Ramsey Clark, lawyer to Leonard Peltier and former US Attorney General.


For more information, contact:
Free the Wolverine Campaign Spokespersons: Splitting the Sky - Phone/Fax (604) 543-9661 Bill Lightbown - (604) 251-4949 Box 13-2147 Commercial Dr. Vancouver, "BC" V5N 4B3 "Canada"

Back to SIS