Settlers In Support of Indigenous Sovereignty (S.I.S.I.S.)
May 7, 1998
Canada's "Counselor on International Indigenous Issues" Blaine Favel, an appointee of Canada's External Affairs and Ministry of International Trade, recently met with Mayan representatives who were seeking the release of Ts'peten political prisoners Wolverine and OJ Pitawanakwat, as well as an internationally monitored public inquiry into the 1995 paramilitary operation against traditionalist Shuswap Sundancers at Gustafsen Lake. Mr. Favel, recently touted by Canada at the UN Human Rights Commission, seriously misrepresented the Gustafsen issue to the Mayans. Given that Mr. Favel's position represents an "executive interchange" with the Assembly of First Nations, and the AFN is publicly supporting an inquiry, it appears that there is understandably some confusion as to whose interests Mr. Favel actually represents. We trust the following will clarify this.
At the time of the 1995 siege on the Sundancers by Canadian Forces, Blaine Favel, then head of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, called the traditionalists "not a legitimate government" who were committing "immoral actions" against local DIA Band Councils and government sponsored native organizations such as the AFN. At the meeting in Guatemala city with representatives of Moloq Hil Tinamit on behalf of 360,000 Maya, Favel again reiterated this stand on behalf of Canada's major native political organizations. S.I.S.I.S. obtained a fax from the Canadian embassy in Mexico to Ottawa which reads in part:
"I thought the best way to resolving this regular irritation was to have a Canadian Indigenous speak to the Cakchiquels, since whatever I could say was coming from a white man and was thus suspicious. Therefore I explained in two words the case to Favel... Favel handled the case in a very professional manner without letting himself be carried away by emotions. He stuck to the facts and explained that the incident did not receive the support of the Canadian Indigenous community, unlike other cases such as Oka or Ipperwash... Favel quickly dissipated the tension and replaced it by a warmer feeling among all, to the point that he promised to convince Phil Fontaine to come to Guatemala in May or June ... and visit the Cakchiquel again."
The Maya, who have repeatedly demanded the freedom of the political prisoners Wolverine and OJ Pitawanakwat as well as an internationally supervised public inquiry into Canada's actions at Gustafsen Lake, had this to say of the meeting with Canada's "Councillor on International Indigenous Issues":
De: Enviado: S bado 4 de Abril de 1998 09:38 PM
Asunto: Re: from Moloq Hil/Chimaltenango
Coordinadora Departamental Moloq Hil Tinamit
Cakchiquel Caji Imox
1 de Avril de 1998
Representantes de Shuswap
We would like to inform you that representatives of our Coordinadora held a meeting with Senor Blaine Favel, representing the Indigenous peoples of Canada, accompanied by the Vice Consul for international political affairs of Canada, in which was discussed various themes concerning the violations to the sacred ceremonial site, Ts'peten, of the Shuswap and Indigenous peoples of Canada.
According to these representatives from Canada, this ceremonial site was private property, and there was a legal agreement which was not respected by the Shuswap camp participants who did not leave when so requested. What appeared difficult for us to understand was their admission to not knowing much of the circumstances, such as why the camp leadership has received such (eight year) a harsh sentence, and why such force was necessary. We understand that some very sophisticated armaments were used against such a humble people with no comparable equipment. We find this offensive. Why couldn't they negotiate a settlement, not use weapons and weapons of such power against a people who have already been humiliated for centuries.
The truth is that there were even contradictions in Senor Favel's explanations, for example he described the Camp Ts'peten as private property yet stated that the land of B.C. is unceded Indigenous territory.
What we could see is that Senor Favel is not informed of the problems of his own people, with the one important problem being that this Shuswap leader Senor Wolverine is now in prison for eight years.
As Cakchiquel people part of the Maya, we are asking the Government of Canada to realize that we are living in the 20th century and it is not possible to carry out such violations as has occurred, especially for Canada, a country of such high advances, ought not to promote such poor examples to the world.
Again we ask the Government of Canada to name an impartial and international tribunal to judge the case of the Ts'peten camp and to open up the facts to the people of Canada.
We've now had two meetings with the Government to present this request. The first was at the Consulate (in Guatemala City) with the Vice Consul for Political Affairs, the 19th of February at 2:00pm, where we set out our proposal with respect to the Ts'peten Camp and imprisonment of their leadership without receiving a fair hearing with justice and dignity. As we explained, we have an understanding with our own blood what injustice can be. Perhaps the cases in our two countries are totally different, but where there is injustice there will be cries, which often will carry to the farthest corners of the world.
The second meeting was in Chimaltenango which was attended by both Senor Favel and the Vice Consul, this past 1st of March, at 1:00pm, where we again presented these themes.
As Indigenous people we will continue raising our cries for the application of justice for all Indigenous peoples worldwide.
For the Coordinadora Moloq Hil Tinamit Cakchiquel