[SISIS note: The following mainstream news articles are provided for reference only. They may contain biased and distorted information and may be missing pertinent facts and/or context.]
Gustafsen Lake jurors got a glimpse of the man behind the space-age glasses yesterday when controversial lawyer Bruce Clark testified for the defence.
Three burly sherrifs towered over the native-rights lawyer as he was escorted into B.C. Supreme Court in Surrey to testify about the advice he gave natives during the Gustafsen Lake standoff in September 1995.
William Jones Ignace (Wolverine), who is defending himself and called Clark, hopes to prove the natives held an honest -- though mistaken -- belief that they had a right to occupy the land at Gustafsen Lake, based on Clark's advice.
If the jury agrees, it may acquit Ignace of mischief.
Ignace and his grandson Joseph also are charged with attempted murder after allegedly firing at an undercover police officer.
Clark is currently serving three months for contempt of court after an outburst in a 100 Mile House courtroom.
He was acting for some of those charged in the standoff when he threw a sheaf of papers at the judge and accused him of running a kangaroo court.
Yesterday he meticulously explained his legal education since graduating from law school in the 1970s.
He told the court that in 1978 he underwent a personal transformation. It prompted him to give up his lucrative Ontario law practice -- which paid for his homes, three cars and a private plane -- to help natives.
Clark said that after his transformation he moved with his wife and three children to a native reserve, where he lived until 1985.
He said the experience gave him an insight into the special relationship natives have with the land, a relationship he described as alien to western culture.
Clark said he considers Ignace one of his chief mentors in native traditions.
He said he shares Ignace's belief that the Canadian judicial system does not have jurisdiction over natives because they never gave up their sovereignty.
When he finished testifying the crowded public gallery rose and applauded.
Spectators in a packed courtroom at the Gustafsen Lake trial Thursday erupted into a round of applause after listening to controversial lawyer Bruce Clark testify for the first time.
A witness for William Ignace, one of 18 defendants in the case, Clark did not need to be lead with questions by Ignace, who is representing himself.
Instead, Ignace -- known as Wolverine during the standoff between native Indians and police in the summer of 1995 near 100 Mile House -- simply asked Clark to describe his background.
Clark then began a day-long historical lecture on native Indians in Canada and their claim they have never ceded jurisdiction over their traditional lands.
He also spoke at length about his own personal views and how he once ignored Indian sovereignty because of his training in the "white court system."
"Unintentionally and with the best of motives, I was a racist," he said.
But Clark said as he researched the relationship native Indians held with the land, he realized he was wrong -- native sovereignty existed as did a native legal system.
He said "racism has reared its ugly head and is here with us in full force today . . . I came through this door as a prisoner."
Clark was then reminded by Justice Bruce Josephson to restrict his evidence to the discussions he had with Ignace that would indicate the defendant's state of mind during the standoff.
"This isn't a forum for your personal evolution and experience," said Josephson. "I'm trying to give latitude, but it seems to be getting worse and worse."
Earlier, the judge explained to the jury if there was an "honestly held belief" that the accused in this case were legally entitled to occupy the land -- even if that belief was legally wrong -- it may be used as a defence against the charges.
The 18 defendants -- 14 native Indians and four non-Indians -- are charged with offences ranging from mischief to attempted murder.
Clark is serving a three-month jail sentence for contempt of court. His charge stems from an outburst in a 100 Mile House courtroom in 1995, when he was acting as counsel for some of the people charged in the armed standoff.
He threw a sheaf of papers at the presiding judge in that case and accused him of running a kangaroo court.
During Thursday's criminal trial, Ignace began his opening statement by praising Clark as the only man in Canada willing to fight for native Indians on the Gustafsen Lake issue.
"We may bump heads from time to time with Bruce because Bruce deals with white law and I deal with natural law. But I still say he's the only man in Canada to aid us," said Ignace.
He also thanked the jurors for listening with "open minds and open hearts" during the trial.