Aug 30/95: Gustafsen Lake-Standoff may hinge on court case


Rebel natives' lawyer says the Supreme Court will hear issues next month that are key to dispute

Victoria Times-Colonist
Wednesday, August 30, 1995, Page A1
Greg Joyce - Canadian Press

[SISIS note: The following mainstream news article is provided for reference only, as an example of how mainstream media treats indigenous resistance to genocide. It may contain biased and distorted information and may be missing pertinent facts and/or context.]

100 MILE HOUSE, B.C. -- An upcoming case in the Supreme Court of Canada may be the key to ending a standoff between RCMP and armed native rebels entrenched on a remote private ranch, the Indians' lawyer said Tuesday.

Bruce Clark said he had learned the high court will hear constitutional arguments Sept. 12 in another B.C. native case that involves the same principle at the centre of the confrontation at Gustafsen Lake.

"Yes, that's all they wanted," he said. "They wanted the legal issue of jurisdiction addressed according to the rule of law."

Gustafsen Lake has been the scene of several shooting incidents. Two Mounties were hit in the back by semi-automatic weapons fire on Sunday but saved by flak jackets. Police counted about two dozen rounds fired into the air when their helicopter buzzed the camp.

Clark said the high court will hear arguments on whether Canadian courts have jurisdiction in aboriginal rights disputes between the government and Aboriginal Peoples.

It's part of a case involving Gitxsan Indians of northwestern British Columbia and the B.C. Attorney General.

Clark has argued that only an independent tribunal legally sanctioned by the British Crown has the power to settle disputes over native hunting grounds. Although the main part of the case has been adjourned to March, Clark will be allowed to argue the constitutional question next month.

A similar application was rejected by the Supreme Court last July, Clark said, driving many people who now support the rebels to despair.

"The argument is going to be heard," said Clark before meeting police to contact his clients by radio-telephone. "We're not invisible anymore."

RCMP spokesman Sgt. Peter Montague said the Ottawa lawyer hooked up with the camp by radiophone late Tuesday.

"The talks were very good," said Montague, adding Clark would be present the next time police negotiators spoke with camp leaders, probably today.

Meanwhile, a man who police said was planning to leave the encircled camp Tuesday did not appear as planned. Stuart Dick, 25, of Chase, B.C., was supposed to walk out to the nearest police checkpoint.

"He got scared and turned around," said his uncle, Tom Dennis, who was waiting for him when police came with the news.

Montague said RCMP waited 90 minutes after the time set for Dick to come out and sent up a helicopter when he didn't appear because they weren't sure what happened to him. Later they learned he was back at the camp.

Dennis said Dick went to the camp initially to see what was going on and got trapped behind police lines.

Although Dick's signature appears along with others from the camp on a demand for an independent tribunal into who has jurisdiction on native lands, Dennis said his nephew does not support violence.

RCMP did not say whether Dick faced any charges but that he would be interviewed if he came out.

Clark arrived here Monday but was not allowed through police lines to speak with his clients. Earlier, he defended the gunfire incidents.

"They have a right to resist an invasion of their territories," said Clark.

But RCMP attitudes towards the controversial lawyer seemed to change after they met with him Tuesday.

Sgt. Peter Montague said Clark and police had a "very fruitful" discussion.

"Mr. Clark has taken a humane and reasonable approach to bring this to a peaceful solution," said Montague.

Tensions eased Tuesday after Ovide Mercredi, grand chief of the Assembly of First Nations, urged the RCMP to re-establish the radiophone link with the camp -- cut off last weekend after Mercredi's mediation talks broke down.

The conflict escalated to the brink of bloodshed Sunday when the two officers were hit by crossfire in the dense woods.

About 30 rebels and non-native supporters are occupying the piece of ranch property, 450 kilometres northeast of Vancouver, saying it was never ceded from Indian control by treaty.

It has been used for sundance ceremonies and they say it is sacred -- though other local natives disagree.


Vancouver Sun
Wednesday, August 30, 1995, Page A1
Mike Crawley and Sherryl Yeager

[SISIS note: The following mainstream news article is provided for reference only, as an example of how mainstream media treats indigenous resistance to genocide. It may contain biased and distorted information and may be missing pertinent facts and/or context.]

GUSTAFSEN LAKE -- The controversial lawyer representing armed native Indian rebels was hopeful Tuesday the standoff here can be settled peacefully.

RCMP negotiators allowed Bruce Clark, who has softened his hardline rhetoric, to speak to rebel leaders by radio phone Tuesday night.

They planned to let him talk to his clients again this morning and are considering allowing Clark into the camp.

The rebels on a remote private ranch might put down their weapons because their cause is to be heard in the Supreme Court of Canada, Clark said Tuesday prior to his conversation with the rebels.

As the lawyer tries to get in to meet the militants, a young native Indian who police said wanted to leave the camp failed to emerge Tuesday night.

Tom Dennis went to retrieve his nephew Stuart Dick from the camp but was told by police at 7 p.m. that something went wrong and he would have to go to the 100 Mile House RCMP detachment for more information.

"For reasons unknown, he returned to the camp," said RCMP Sgt. Peter Montague.

He said police sent a helicopter over the area of the camp in an effort to locate Dick but couldn't find him.

Dennis said he wants police to allow him to talk to his nephew on the phone. "If he changed his mind because he's afraid, I could maybe reassure him that it's okay."

Dick, in his early 20s, is from Adams Lake.

[typo in newspaper; line missing]

...want to leave."

Jules also said he's convinced that more people want to leave but they might fear repercussions. "They're afraid of what could happen later," he said.

RCMP Sgt. Peter Montague said he was not authorized to answer the question when asked if anyone else wants to come out.

Earlier Tuesday, police talked to rebel leaders in the camp on a radio phone.

RCMP negotiator Sgt. Dennis Ryan discussed with Wolverine, also identified as William Ignace, how the cigarettes and canned goods the native requested Monday would be delivered. Ignace requested that Clark bring in the cigarettes, saying the lawyer is the only one who can end the standoff.

Ignace also wanted assurances from police that their message "is going out internationally. We want to make sure there is justice from now on."

The rebel leader also requested videotape for the camera of non-native supporters inside the camp.

Dennis said of Ignace: "I guess I would ask him to look deep in his heart and seek guidance from the creator because as far as I can see he is not going to listen to anyone.

"I don't think it's right that anyone should die over something like this. I don't support anyone who is going to point guns at someone else."

Dennis said his nephew entered the camp Friday believing it was a demonstration.

The decision to get Clark involved in the dispute is "an olive branch", said Montague. However he would not say what Clark's role would be.

Despite the mood of optimism, Montague said the situation is still tense.

"We're still dealing with a very potentially dangerous situation which we're hoping to defuse," he said during a news conference Tuesday in 100 Mile House.

The tension remains because two emergency response team officers were shot at with automatic weapons Sunday in what the police called an "ambush." They were saved by their flak jackets. Police had cut the radio phone to the camp on Saturday and are restoring it only to negotiate.

However, it's believed the rebels have a radio inside the camp and are listening to media reports on the stand-off.

The RCMP negotiating team met with Clark at a bed-and-breakfast in 108 Mile House for about 15 minutes Tuesday afternoon. The negotiators did not speak to reporters when they emerged but Clark said police were considering sending him to the armed camp, 35 kilometres west of 100 Mile House.

"The officers are, I believe, setting in motion a process that has every possibility -- indeed probability -- of a resolution," he said.

Clark said he is optimistic about the chance that he could go into the camp.

When he spoke to reporters after the meeting, Clark was not his usual self. He said nothing about his controversial legal theories nor repeated his previous accusations that the government and police are fraudulent, corrupt and genocidal.

Instead Clark told Canadian Press that he had learned the Supreme Court of Canada will hear constitutional arguments next month that are key in the Gustafsen Lake dispute.

"Yes, that's all they wanted," he said. "They wanted the legal issue of jurisdiction addressed according to the rule of law."

There was no way to immediately confirm whether the Supreme Court will hear the arguments Clark referred to.

"Mr. Clark has taken...a very reasonable approach, a very human approach, and he wants to assist the police in doing whatever he can to bring this to a peaceful resolution," said Montague. He called the negotiating team's discussions with Clark "fruitful."

On the weekend, Montague had said police cut the pone line to the camp "so that they can't be further influenced by their lawyer, Bruce Clark, which is a problem." he would not comment on the police change of heart.

Clark has said Canadian laws do not apply to his clients because they are on unceded Indian land. He and the leaders of the group have demanded that the Queen call an international tribunal to hear their case.

Assembly of First Nations Grand Chief Ovide Mercredi has said Clark was using the standoff to grandstand.

Montague said he could not answer whether Attorney-General Ujjal Dosanjh was consulted about Clark's role.

The RCMP released a few vague details of their operational plan, which until now they have only described in vague terms as "multi-faceted."

The plan is examined on a daily and even hourly basis as developments happen, said Montague.

"We can go to several alternate plans of action at any given time," he said.

"As you turn the page, who knows what's going to be on the next page?"

He said the developments have not changed the pace of the plan.

"We decided to be patient when this first started about three months ago," said Montague. "We will continue to be patient, of course, and prudent and we will do nothing unless it's well thought-out."

Dosanjh said Tuesday that police should be left to resolve the standoff without political interference.

Federal Indian Affairs Minister Ron Irwin says he agrees with the Reform party's call for quick action, but he is concerned about innocent people trapped inside the armed camp.

Irwin said he was confident about the RCMP's handling of the situation and noted that they have acquired experience in dealing with native Indians in B.C. because of the numerous blockades they have dealt with this year.

He rejected calls for his direct involvement in the standoff, saying it would only turn the matter into a "media circus" and would not be helpful.

When asked about Clark, the rebels' lawyer, Irwin only smiled and said he was "different."

"I was a practicing lawyer for three decades. He's different from anything I've ever encountered," said Irwin.

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