Settlers In Support of Indigenous Sovereignty (S.I.S.I.S.)
March 12, 1998,
At the beginning of March, Canadian officials met in Guatemala with Mayan representatives seeking answers and action on the Gustafsen Lake affair. The Maya are pressing Canada for the release of imprisoned indigenous political prisoners OJ Pitawanakwat and Shuswap elder Jones William Ignace, better known as Wolverine. The two were imprisoned for their defence of unceded, sacred Sundance grounds at Ts'peten near Gustafsen Lake BC in south-central British Columbia.
The Canadian officials present at the meeting included Blaine Favel, Canada's recently appointed Councillor on International Indigenous Issues - a kind of native ambassador. The appointment was made by Minister of Trade Sergio Marchi and External Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy in response to image problems with Canada's continuing colonialist excesses (see the government press release appended below). Mr. Favel is a former head of a government sponsored Native organization in Saskatchewan, a participant in the creation of Canada's first "national Aboriginal Bank," and was the former Indian Act Band Chief of the Poundmaker Indian reserve. The reserve is mired in ongoing corruption allegations concerning Mr. Favel's successor who was earning more than that province's premier. Mr. Favel himself has however not thus far been named in the controversy.
Reports of the meeting indicate that Canadian officials and Favel convinced the Maya to take their concerns to the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), despite repeated assertions by indigenous traditionalists that the AFN organization does not represent them. Mr. Favel indicated that he had been in contact with Chief Manny Jules of the Kamloops Indian Band as well as other AFN officials and offered to arrange a delegation from that organization which would travel to Guatemala to meet with the Mayans. A spokesperson for the Ts'peten Defence Committee however confirmed that the AFN has been given no mandate to negotiate on their behalf beyond implementing their own undertaking to secure an inquiry into "all aspects" of the Gustafsen Lake matter.
Mr. Favel told the Mayan representatives the "official" story of Gustafsen Lake which has been long since discredited and exposed as a lurid construction by RCMP and government spin doctors. According to Canada's 'International Councillor on Indigenous Issues' the Shuswap traditionalists were troublemakers from outside the area, who had instigated and provoked the violent confrontation for their own purposes. He further stated that the Ts'peten Defenders had no support from the Shuswap nation nor any of its organizations or leadership. Mr. Favel also purported to represent and speak for the major mainstream native organizations in Canada that he said endorsed this position. That Mr. Favel can simultaneously represent the interests of the Canadian government that employs him, as well as Aboriginal political organizations, suggests either a bizarre conflict of interest, or even more alarming, that the interests are one and the same.
What Mr. Favel allegedly told the Maya in Guatemala city does not square with reality. The Ts'peten Defenders were and are supported by many people and organizations of many nations worldwide. Apparently left unmentioned, for example, was the September 11, 1995 "Crisis Bulletin" released by the Union of BC Indian Chiefs meeting in emergency session which read in part:
"Contrary to the statement made by the premier of BC on Sept.5, 1995, that 'the armed occupation at Gustafsen Lake is the action of a handful of violent extremists, without the participation or support of a single band or tribal council,' the people at Gustafsen Lake do have the full support of the delegates attending today's meeting. The delegates in attendance are from all parts of the province."
Nor did Favel mention that "more than 140 Chiefs signed a petition at the AFN convention demanding an inquiry into 'excessive force and attempted murder against the Indian people.'" [Vancouver Province, July 31, 1997, P. A3]
Nor did he evidently think it relevant to mention that even the AFN adopted a resolution moved by Chief Stewart Philip of the Penticton Indian Band and seconded by Shuswap Chief Ron Jules of the Adams Lake Band to "demand a full and comprehensive public inquiry into all aspects of the Gustafsen matter... the AFN will take full responsibility for establishing a mechanism to ensure a public inquiry takes place." [AFN Resolution #19 -97 Vancouver Convention]
The Gustafsen Lake crisis arose in 1995, when the BC NDP government called in the Canadian army and heavily armed police against indigenous traditionalists who refused to be evicted by the American owner of one of the largest cattle ranches in the province. During the month long armed siege which followed, over 70,000 rounds of internationally prohibited hollow-point ammunition were fired at the approximately 20 elders, women, children and men inside the Sundance camp. A "psy-ops" advisor used by the FBI at the Waco Texas massacre of a religious sect and later involved in the MRTA Lima Peru "negotiations" also participated in the Gustafsen Crisis Management Team's terror tactics against the camp occupants. The subsequent criminal trial was fraught with irregularities.
The Defenders were denied their counsel of choice Dr. Bruce Clark- an internationally recognized legal authority, who was himself jailed by the BC authorities upon arriving in Vancouver to assume their defence. Speculation is that Clark's legal arguments establish conclusively that "fraud, treason and genocide" has been committed by state officials and the judiciary in furtherance of massive theft of indigenous lands and resources.
The involvement of the Prime Minister of Canada and various other federal and provincial ministers in the Gustafsen affair has led to a virtual media blackout on the alarming revelations which have caught the attention of Human rights organizations worldwide. Ex-US Attorney General Ramsey Clark called the Gustafsen affair "shameful". But Canada has thus far resisted the call for the release of the prisoners and a public inquiry.
During the standoff itself, BC's Attorney General Ujjal Dosanjh rejected impartial, international adjudication of the dispute as called for by the Ts'peten Defenders in the camp, saying "There shall be no alien intervention in the affairs of this state." Unfortunately, the then leader of Canada's largest government sponsored native organization, the Assembly of First Nations, publicly accused the camp occupants of "acts of attempted murder." This position was later dropped when grassroots outrage including the invasion of Grand Chief Ovide Mercredi's office, forced the AFN to reverse its position. Thus far however, apart from passing the resolution, the organization has taken no concrete steps to secure the inquiry.
It is thought the inquiry would also disclose the roles played by John De Chastelaine and Louise Frechette. De Chastelaine, a former ambassador to Washington, was, at the time of the 1995 armed standoff, Canada's Chief of Defence Staff and responsible for drafting the 'Rules of Engagement' for the Canadian Forces Gustafsen operation, code-named "Operation Wallaby". Louise Frechette is the assistant secretary general of the United Nations. At the time of the standoff, she was Canada's deputy defence minister and her name has surfaced in connection to the standoff. JTF2, an elite little known commando squad within the Canadian Forces, was believed to be standing by to "finish off" the Sundance camp occupants had the standoff continued. The siege ended when medicine people advised the camp that they could voluntarily leave the sacred site and that it would be protected from harm. However once gone and in custody the sundance site was clearcut and burned by the authorities with the cooperation of local Band Councils who had earlier promised with the rancher to protect the ceremonial site.
If Mr. Favel's crude misinformation campaign and disrespectful dissembling to the Guatemalan Mayan representatives does accurately represent the AFN and the other large Canadian native organizations he mentioned, then their nominal, public support was merely designed to placate a growing disenchantment by the indigenous grassroots with their leadership. Although, in the absence of any repudiation of Favel by these organizations, one must assume that, indeed perhaps these interests are not as dissimilar as one would have thought. Clearly Favel's role is to protect the interests of the Canadian state. This is apparent from his debut in Guatemala city. Canada has added a new appendage to its neo-colonial apparatus designed to obscure the reality of continuing indigenous genocide and corporate colonialist crisis management.
The truth of Canada's crimes at Gustafsen and those who committed them, as well as those who now conspire to keep them hidden will not so crudely and ineptly be hidden by Favel or anyone. The truth is strong. The truth will be free.
"Condenamos: We Condemn in the name of the Indigenous and Mayan People... we repudiate the deplorable incidents and violations of human rights of our brothers and sisters of the Shuswap people... today more than ever we are uniting ourselves, all the marginalized and discriminated peoples of the world..."
- from Maya support letter, September 1 1997
Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy today announced the appointment of Mr. Blaine Favel as Counsellor on International Issues. This appointment will be effected through an Executive Interchange Canada agreement with the Assembly of First Nations. Mr. Phil Fontaine, Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, and Mr. Favel were present during the announcement.
"In his role, Mr. Favel will provide myself and the Minister for International Trade, Sergio Marchi, with an important viewpoint on a broad range of international issues affecting indigenous peoples worldwide," said Mr. Axworthy. "He will provide, in particular, input and policy advice on Canadian positions concerning indigenous issues at the United Nations, the Organization of American States and other international fora."
"This reflects the Government of Canada's commitment to develop a new partnership with First Nations in Canada as stated in the announcement by the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Jane Stewart. This appointment will support the strengthening of First Nations' initiatives in the fields of economic and business development, not only in Canada but also around the world," stated Chief Phil Fontaine.
"This appointment is an example of the commitment to new partnerships that the government outlined in Gathering Strength: Canada's Aboriginal Action Plan," said Jane Stewart. "Two major elements of the Plan are renewal of partnerships with Aboriginal people and support for strong communities, people and economies. The Plan makes specific references to international partnerships and increased access to overseas markets."
I'm pleased that the Government is serious in its efforts to improve the relationship with First Nations," said Favel. "My appointment is in the new spirit fo partnership that can work to promote Aboriginal rights."
Mr. Favel's diplomatic appointment is also part of a strategy on indigenous economic and cultural development that will be undertaken by the Government of Canada in co-operation with the Canadian Aboriginal community. The strategy will bring together Canadian federal departments and Canadian Aboriginal organizations in new international activities. It is designed to promote awareness among Canada's Aboriginal Peoples of the programs and funds available to them, both inside and outside Canada.