Jun 6/97: Wolverine - When will we get justice?

S.I.S.I.S. Court Notes


June 6, 1997

Amid intense police security, Regina v. Pena et al, the largest, costliest and one of the most historically significant trials in Canadian history, began the process of sentencing today. An estimated three hundred people from many nations made the trip to Surrey, "BC" to show solidarity with the Ts'peten (Gustafsen Lake) Defenders. They filled Courtroom 7 and flooded the plaza outside the courthouse.

It soon became apparent that the sentencing process will be lengthy. As has been their practice with disclosures throughout the trial, the Crown delayed proceedings by handing over their written submissions to defence just before the court was to deal with them. Defendants Rob Fleming and Suniva Bronson have hired new counsel for the sentencing, David Gibbons and Harry Rankin QC respectively. Rankin had appeared as provisional counsel for Wolverine, but was fired early in the trial for refusing to present Wolverine's position rejecting Canadian jurisdiction over unceded Shuswap territory. The new counsel for both these non-native defendants will require time to prepare submissions and arrange dates and other logistical matters. All outstanding matters were put over to Tuesday, June 10, though these lawyers may not be available until late July.

Self-representing James (OJ) Pitawanakwat, who is being held in custody along with Wolverine (William Jones Ignace) and also faces a life sentence, reminded Judge Bruce Josephson that he has still not received Josephson's reasons for dismissing the colour of right and jurisdictional defences.

An application was made by defence counsel George Wool to allow Flo Samson to sign for back moneys owed to her son JoJo Ignace. JoJo was acquitted of all charges, but is now so seriously ill in hospital as a result of mistreatment and abuse received while incarcerated during this trial that he cannot sign himself. Josephson refused, preferring that Wool keep the money in trust for JoJo.

Much of today's session involved discussion of the so-called "sentencing circle" applied for by at least one defendant. Wolverine sharply criticized the procedure, saying, "I refuse to be judged by a circle of people like Lyle James, the so-called landlord." James is the American rancher who claims approximately a half-million acres of unceded Shuswap land, including the Ts'peten Sundance and burial grounds. The sentencing circle will also reportedly include members of the RCMP and the local Chamber of Commerce.

"I don't want you to slough off sentencing onto someone else," continued the Shuswap elder, "I want to appeal to you. The Crown admitted there was no purchase and no treaty. So how can you claim to have jurisdiction? Is the Queen involved? The Prime Minister's office? The Attorney General of Canada? We want to see how deep the corruption goes."

Defence counsel Sheldon Tate suggested that "it may be we will have to break into two different groups," those wishing to proceed with dispatch to the sentencing, and those others with submissions being made on their behalf, further implying that this roughly corresponds to the division between those convicted of mischief endangering life and those convicted of simple mischief. The judge advised that he will not be accepting any submissions made to him directly, but only those received through the court. [Readers who wish to have their letters in support of the defendants submitted for the judge's consideration are encouraged to send them to S.I.S.I.S., address below.]

Prosecutor Lance Bernard advised that the Crown would be dealing with defendants as a single group, and reiterated the theory introduced near the end of the trial that mere presence in the camp constituted "conspiracy." The Crown will therefore seek a substantial period of incarceration for all accused, even though imprisonment on a simple mischief charge is highly unusual.

The tension was broken briefly when OJ Pitawanakwat quipped that he had reviewed the guidelines for the sentencing circle, and he thought he would do his own sentencing. Josephson returned, "I may play a small role in that."

OJ insisted that he wanted to proceed with sentencing on Tuesday, and not wait for the others. "I'm right in the clutches of the colonial system," he said, "where they cage us like animals,they feed us like dogs but they count us like diamonds."

He said his submission is simple: his people are victims of cultural genocide and physical genocide. Canada characterized their defence as an act of defiance, but he went up there to protect his people, because those who are sworn to protect them, the RCMP, did not.

OJ also told Josephson that he should not worry about the impression it might make on the others if he were sentenced earlier than they; it is an opportunity, he said, for the judge to show them he's not biased.

Wolverine too preferred a speedy sentencing so that he could begin the appeals proceedings. Speaking sometimes to the packed gallery, sometimes to the jury box which ironically is now occupied by the media, he delivered a powerful and moving statement.

He reiterated his position that the BC court has no jurisdiction, citing Section 109 of the British North America Act which limits the provincial interest as subject to purchase or treaty.

"We stood up for our rights; we were called for," he said, turning toward fellow defendant Percy Rosette. "Our constitutional rights have never been addressed."

Ignace noted Josephson's dismissal of the colour of right defence, and of all of his counsel of choice Bruce Clark's testimony about jurisdiction and natural, international and consitutional law: "You told the jury not to listen to it."

Looking directly at the three jury members who had come to see the results of their guilty verdict, Wolverine said, "I know why the jury cried - they cried because they knew what they did was wrong.

"We have to go back to the law. Take a good look - you'll see you have no jurisdiction. This court, this Canadian system is biased. Under section 11 of the Constitution it says we have a right to third party adjudication. This is all we asked for, here in this court and up at the lake.

"Who did the invading? The RCMP. We exposed the biggest fraud in this country; that's why we're being criminalized. We have to have the law addressed by an international tribunal; we won't get justice in Canada. The honour of the Crown is at stake. The Crown openly admitted Section 109 was broken. By whom? The politicians. I'm here as a political prisoner, not a criminal, because I exposed the scams between the Crown, the judges' bench, the lawyers and the politicians, scams so our people can be ripped off!

"Dr. Bruce Clark was thrown out of court for telling the truth. He's my lawyer of choice, but he's not allowed to appear in my defence. When are we going to get justice?

"This is my submission, whether you like it or not."

The public raised fists in salute as Wolverine and OJ were led out of the courtroom. Outside, the drumming and singing continued. Members of many sovereign indigenous nations were in attendance, including highly respected Tommy Gregoire of the Okanagan-Shuswap alliance and other elders. The day concluded with the rally moving across the street to the prison, where drumming, songs, and messages of resistence and solidarity were conveyed to the windows of the political prisoners inside. It was a day of strong words and strong hearts.


Come to court, show support and bear witness.

Tuesday, June 10th
10:00 a.m. (arrive early if you want a seat!)
Surrey Municipal Centre
King George and Highway 10

Car pool: If you have a car or need a ride, call: 251-3048

Skytrain: to Surrey Central, then catch the White Rock Centre 321 bus to the corner of King George and Highway 10, walk east.

Driving: Follow Clark Drive south to Hwy 91, go east on Hwy 91 across the Alex Fraser bridge (Surrey/Delta) then east on Hwy 10 to Surrey Municipal Centre just past King George Hwy.

Contact: Free the Wolverine Campaign
Bill Lightbown - Phone: (604) 251-4949
Splitting the Sky - Phone/Fax: (604) 543-9661


Canadian Press
June 6, 1997

[Please note: The following mainstream news article may contain biased or distorted information and may be missing pertinent facts and/or context. It is provided for reference only. -- S.I.S.I.S.]

SURREY, B.C. (CP) Some of those convicted in the Gustafsen Lake armed standoff could face an aboriginal sentencing circle, but the two looking at the most serious jail time just want it over with.

Sentencing circles, used as an alternative to traditional sentencing for aboriginals, involves members of the community, including victims and police.

Those who've owned up to their crimes face judgment from their peers to help heal the damage they've caused. They can face punishments other than prison.

Last month, 15 people were convicted of charges ranging from mischief to weapons offences in the month-long incident in 1995 over a piece of Cariboo ranchland claimed as unceded aboriginal territory. Three were acquitted.

Crown prosecutor Lance Bernard told Justice Bruce Josephson he will argue for prison sentences for all of them, including a "substantial period of incarceration" for standoff leader Jones Ignace.

Defence lawyers challenged Bernard's demand the 11 people found guilty of less serious mischief offences be jailed along with the four convicted of weapons and endangerment charges. For them, the healing circle might be more appropriate, said Sheldon Tate.

"My clients have a wish not to persecute or bring down this country or cause more rancor and dissension," said Tate, who represents several of the Gustafsen group, including sundancer Percy Rosette, considered their spiritual leader.

"The healing process is something that is part of his tradition and this is a chance for everyone to understand what did happen and perhaps learn something from the outcome."

Tate said even the jurors could take part in the sentencing circle, which he said would let them say what they observed and felt during the trial.

But Bernard said the fact the offences took place during an armed confrontation with police raised them above simple mischief.

Josephson will hear arguments when the sentencing hearing resumes Tuesday in a tightly guarded B.C. Supreme Court room.

The lawyer for Edward Dick, convicted of mischief causing danger to life and firearms possession, also wants a six-week psychiatric assessment for his client. He wants to argue Dick suffers from fetal alcohol syndrome, which diminishes mental capacity.

The jury acquitted Joseph Ignace, son of Jones Ignace, for the same reason. The submissions threaten to extend the sentencing process possibly through the summer after a trial that took 10 months.

The prospect of more delays frustrated Ignace and James Pitawanakwat, the only two in custody, who are representing themselves.

They told Josephson they want to be sentenced right away so they can press on with appealing the case on constitutional grounds.

"I'm ready to proceed on Tuesday," said Ignace, who's been in custody since the standoff. "I'm right in the clutches of the colonial system here."

In a bitter tirade, Ignace reiterated that Canadian courts have no jurisdiction over aboriginals protected under centuries-old treaties with the British Crown.

"This is going to be my submission to this court, whether you like it or not," said Ignace, who with Pitawanakwat faces a maximum life sentence.

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