Sep/95: Letters supporting Ts'peten Defenders & Bruce Clark

The following letters -- the first from a senior lawyer, Queen's Counsel -- appeared in the Vancouver Province in late September of 1995.


Re: "Clark a disgrace" (Province, Sept.13 ):

Antonio Lamer, chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, is quoted as having said of lawyer Bruce Clark's argument before the Court on Sept.12: "In my 26 years as a judge I've never heard anything so preposterous."

One wonders if Lamer has been paying careful attention throughout all those years. While I do not agree with Clark's assertion that "the judiciary has engaged in fraud and genocide, by ignoring native sovereignty over vast tracts of land, including the disputed ranchland at Gustafsen Lake," I do not find it preposterous that Clark should assert it.

Further, Clark is no greater a "disgrace to the bar" for having asserted it than Lamer is to the bench for calling him a disgrace. How else could Clark have asserted this argument which seems to him correct? All that Clark is saying is that the Canadian judiciary (and the Canadian government and its police) have no jurisdiction over native people (and the lands occupied by them), as native people have never signed a treaty with the invading conqueror. And hence that the unilateral assertion of jurisdiction by the conqueror and its police amounts to fraud and genocide.

What is wrong with that argument? That is how Clark sees it. The invader did in fact sign treaties with the native peoples in provinces other than BC. Why could the Supreme Court of Canada, populated as it purports to be by legal scholars, not have framed a reply to Clark based upon the Norman conquest of England? Did William the Conqueror listen to any assertions from the Saxons, Danes, and Celts whom he found in Britain that they had never signed a treaty with him?

One may assume that William would have regarded such assertions as preposterous. But even William would not have called such people a disgrace. He would have placed in front of them a treaty granting him absolute authority, and would have summarily executed those who refused to sign it.

Walter R. Thompson, QC
Langley, BC


How is it we are willing to support military actions abroad to defend against the suppression and displacement of people from their ancestral homelands, yet we cannot see the validity of native land claims such as those at Gustafsen Lake? Canadians are all too willing to cross oceans to impose their superior sense of morality on others. Bosnia and Somalia are not too far away to intervene. Yet faced with the appalling treatment of Canadian aboriginals, we turned a blind eye to the truth and demanded rebel blood at Gustafsen Lake.

We have subjected natives to their living conditions. We have refused to take seriously their demands for restitution and self-government. We have rarely bargained in good faith. Before this type of protest becomes commonplace across Canada, we must admit our wrongdoing and take immediate action to settle land rights claims or continue to suffer the shame and trials of a tyranny."

Larry J. Herscovitch
North Vancouver

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