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Roz Royce believes she has a right to know what is happening to her husband behind the armed blockade at Gustafsen Lake. The Vancouver woman says her filmmaker husband, Trond Halle, and native Indians in the camp have been smeared by the RCMP. She said he is only trying to document the truth of the standoff on film.
"He's not a criminal. He is not a terrorist. He has no criminal record," she said as about 40 supporters gathered around her at a vigil in downtown Vancouver on Tuesday. Royce said she is extremely frustrated police will not allow her to have any contact with Halle or her many native Indian friends behind the line. "I have family in there. I have loved ones in there and still I am not allowed to talk to anybody," she said. "They keep talking about peaceful solutions but they mine the roads so vehicles blow up."
Though non-native, Royce said both she and Halle have supported the native Indian struggle for self-determination across Canada. They were contacted by friends in the Gustafsen Lake area and asked to bring their video camera in mid July to document a sundance ceremony at the site, and to record the native Indians' views about the land Royce said. They went a second time to Gustafsen Lake in August when police called a press conference and labeled the natives "terrorists."
Royce said she later decided to return to Vancouver in an attempt to get the rebels' side of the story told. She accuses the media of blindly reporting everything the RCMP has said without questioning it. Royce said police used more smear tactics this week when they released criminal records of some of those in the camp. "They are pulling things out from 1969 to label these people. There is continual denigration of these people," Royce said. "If anyone is a terrorist in this, it is the RCMP."
She said politicians should be involved in trying to negotiate an end to the standoff, not police and the military. "This is a political issue and it's been political for 130 years," Royce said. Others at the Tuesday vigil in front of the provincial courthouse carried signs saying: "Sovereigntists, not terrorists" and "No Ipperwash at Gustafsen." Four Vancouver police officers on bicycles watched the crowd from the other side of the street.
Bill Lewis, a Metis who supports the rebels at Gustafsen Lake, said he was particularly incensed when the RCMP released old criminal records of native Indians there. "I have a criminal record, but I am an ex-criminal," said Lewis. "They always forget the 'ex' part. I guess it's my ex-file. He cited the devastating situation on reserves, which, he said, leads to social problems like alcohol and drug abuse as the reason many more native Indians have criminal convictions than the broader community.
"It's 10 to 20 times the rate of convictions than if you go down a block and ask those people on Robson Street," said Lewis, who is a member of the Canadian Alliance of Solidarity with Native People. "This is a question of sovereignty. It is not a question of criminality."