The long process of picking jurors for the trial of the Sundancers involved in the Gustafsen Lake 'standoff' begins Saturday, June 1 and continues for six days a week until the whole jury is chosen. Both the Defense and the Crown have extensive rights to question and dismiss jurors they find questionable. One of the main concerns is in finding people who have not been prejudiced by the inaccurate and slanted media coverage that took place during the 'standoff.' Because the media coverage was extensive and demonized the Defenders, it is a real concern that jurors be questioned closely about their attitudes. The types of questions permitted and the areas they addressed are now under a press ban to keep potential jurors from considering their answers before they are questioned by the jurors. It has been hoped that at least 20% of the jurors would be aboriginal people but this is proving a difficult objective as their are few aboriginal people living in Surrey. It may be necessary to search for jurors outside of the Surrey area.
Many of the Defenders have been in the Penatang (? I'm not sure of the spelling) gathering strength in ceremonies and sweats. As well, everyone has been helping William Jones Ignace's (Jonesy) wife Flo on the farm by planting seeds. Jonesy is still in jail charged with attempted murder but his spirits remain high. He has, in conjunction with Harold Pascal, Glen Deneault and Bruce Clark just finished a court action requiring Attorney General Dosanjh to prove jurisdiction. The Judge denied the argument but two Defenders - Shelagh Franklin and Glen Deneault plan to use the jurisdiction argument as their defense. Both will be representing themselves but will be able to get advice from the four Defense lawyers as well as Dr. Bruce Clark.
The Defense lawyers are: George Wool, an ex-RCMP officer who was in the force for 20 years; Sheldon Tate who is very precise and thorough, Don Campbell who is a good original thinker and Harry Rankin who when he was in the Vancouver City Council for many years always fought tirelessly for the less powerful. Lawyer George Wool and his wife participated in the ceremonies this past week and like the other lawyers, understands and supports the Defenders and their goals.
The RCMP disclosures not only contradict their press releases but also indicate that there is not much evidence to support their charges against the Defenders. It is hoped that the press ban will be lifted once the jury is chosen and the public will get a chance to learn the truth which is quite different from the media construction architected by the RCMP.
The Defenders are still looking for accomodation in Surrey. There are several possibilities and fortunately there is money for the rent. They prefer to stay together to make it easier to hold ceremonies and to arrange transportation to the trial.
Spirits remain high as the Defenders look forward to the truth coming out.
The trial is expected to begin in mid June.