Oct 12/95: Gustafsen Lake-Judge cited as "tyrant"


Vancouver Sun
October 12, 1995
Mark Hume

Former U.S. attorney-general Ramsey Clark has accused the B.C. government of acting emotionally and vindictively in prosecuting those charged after the Gustafsen Lake standoff.

The criticism is contained in a letter from Clark, a civil rights activist, to B.C. Attorney-General Ujjal Dosanjh.

In it, he attacks Dosanjh, law enforcement officials and the justice system for allegedly abusing the rights of those arrested following the occupation by native Indians and their followers of private ranchland.

In a separate letter, he also says the judge hearing the case appears to be a "hateful tyrant" who has been deliberately humiliating the accused.

"After the Indians and their supporters agreed to leave in peace they were not treated with dignity and respect. They were deliberately humiliated," Clark states in his letter on Dosanjh, a copy of which was obtained by 'The Vancouver Sun'.

Clark, who first rose to prominence as a lawyer in the Kennedy administration and later served as Lyndon Johnson's A-G, called on Dosanjh to dismiss all charges arising from the Gustafsen Lake confrontation, including contempt charges lawyer Bruce Clark faces for a courtroom outburst.

Dosanjh rejected Clark's request and said the former U.S. official had failed to research the issue adequately before taking sides.

He said it concerns him that someone of Clark's stature would write such a letter without full knowledge of the facts and said he is drafting a reply to Clark that he hopes will change the influential U.S. lawyer's position.

Dosanjh said the Gustafsen Lake prisoners were treated fairly by the police and the courts. "If anything, we bent over backwards to see that these people were treated as well as anyone."

For example, he said, the accused were allowed to burn sweetgrass in a smudging ceremony when they were booked and they were given ceremonial tobacco pouches which weren't searched out of religious respect.

Dosanjh agreed the prisoners were stripped of their clothes and had to make court appearances wearing paper garments but he said that is routine.

In a separate letter to Judge Nicholas Friesen, who is hearing the Gustafsen Lake cases, Clark attacks Friesen in more detail, and with greater stridency, for the way the justice is dealing with the matter.

"Whatever the facts may ultimately prove to be, the appearance of justice is an essential part of justice itself. The appearance of injustice in your conduct was atrocious," he states.

"The arrested Indians were being humiliated by the police to whom they surrendered, deprived of their clothing and brought into your court in white paper garments. Your partisan support for the police created new tensions and the perception of injustice.

"By denying the Indians representation, you subjected them to lengthy interrogations under extremely coercive conditions by the police."

Clark criticized Friesen for "brushing aside" a legal argument Bruce Clark had tried to raise, in which the authority of the courts and the RCMP was challenged. And he condemned the judge for terminating Bruce Clark's appearance in his courtroom by ordering the Ontario lawyer to be taken away for psychiatric evaluation.

Clark accused Friesen of an "imperious abuse of judicial power" and said he should dismiss the contempt of court charges against Bruce Clark.

Friesen was deliberating on Gustafsen Lake cases Wednesday and could not be reached for comment.

On another issue related to Gustafsen Lake, Mervin Harrower, director of enforcement for the social services ministry, confirmed his department is investigating some of the protesters who were collecting welfare during the long standoff.

"It came to our attention that some of the people at Gustafsen Lake were our clients," he said. Harrower noted that, under ministry regulations, employable people who are on welfare are required to look for work.

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