Sep/97: Gustafsen Lake-Terminal City interviews John Shafer



Terminal City #205
by Ben Mahony

"Our object is to continue until there is not a single Indian that has not been absorbed into the body politic of Canada, and there is no more Indian question. That is the whole purpose of our legislation."
- Duncan Campbell Scott, Indian Affairs head, 1920.
The struggle to "Free Wolverine" continued this week with a concert in Montreal which put Wolverine and fellow Defender OJ Pitawanakwat on par with the plight of jailed Afro-American journalist Mumia Abdul-Jamal. Having recently read Abdul-Jamal's auto-biography, which is unavailable in many places, I was struck with the similarities. Both Wolverine and Abdul-Jamal are political prisoners. Both face discrimination. The autobiography of Abdul-Jamal tells the story of slanted juries and biased judges which made his trial a miscarriage of justice. In an interview conducted in April 1997, John Shafer described a scenario of judicial collusion surrounding Native sovereigntists.

Appeals are now pending as the Sundancers, who were recently jailed, prepare to show that they are advocates of Native sovereignty, not part of a "conspiracy." Their appeals will likely point to the enormous body of evidence that shows that there was concerted effort by the R.C.M.P. and government officials to discredit the Sundancers through a "smear campaign." The appeals will likely highlight the constitutional laws which show that the Shuswap people have not given up jurisdiction of the land where the Gustafsen Lake Stand-Off took place in 1995.

"This is not a democracy and there are consequences for speaking the truth." This from John Shafer, radio host at C.F.U.V. at the University of Victoria who was trying to get word out during the Gustafsen Lake Siege that the N.D.P. government was, "attempting to manufacture consent for the cold-blooded murder of indigenous people." In part two of this interview with him, Shafer shared insights into what really happened at the stand-off and revealed the corporate and political interests associated with the 1995 crackdown on the Gustafsen Lake Defenders. [S.I.S.I.S. note: For part one go to the Sundancer Archive at]

Ben: What was the reaction of the international community to information they received about the stand-off?

John: The mainstream coverage that we sent abroad was so manifestly biased, belligerent, and racist, that people and organizations were shocked, and started seeking us out. At one point, we were informed that both the Prime Minister and Governor General's fax machines were handling so much traffic that the transmissions were being disconnected when it became apparent they were incoming protest faxes.

Ben: Do you think that the public outcry made an impact?

John: Based on what I've heard, read, and seen, it was this huge wave of international support and outrage against what was happening, that did buy some time in the initial stages. But they still continued to stage provocations like the mining of the road, the blowing up of the red truck, and the fierce fusillade which was supposed to involve incoming elders. This was supposed to be it, I think. All was to disappear in a hail of bullets - funny even Superintendent Len Olfert, the R.C.M.P. commander, said on the police "training" videotape that there would be inquiries going on til hell freezes over. Even the judge alluded to and inquiry early on in the trial... it's going to be quite amusing to see the government try to squirm out of it. In Ontario both the N.D.P. and Liberals are calling for an inquiry into Ipperwash. Here nothing.

Ben: In your view, why were Wolverine and the Sundancers in the "camp?" Or what precipitated the "stand off?"

John: Obviously, they were in the camp to Sundance. The stand-off was precipitated by R.C.M.P. planning, which we now know from the interrogation of Superintendent Len Olfret was already being discussed in May of 1995. This is an alarming admission. I would draw your attention to the law firm which represented the rancher Lyle James. That was Ladner Downs. The national partnership is Osler, Renault, Ladner. One of the senior partners is Brian Mulroney. Kim Campbell was also with Ladner Downs. They used to represent Fletcher Challenge, Interfor, and I think Doman [Industries]. They were involved in the early stages - in advising Mr. James. Now it's important that you realize that the monster law partnerships like Ladner Downs, or Russell & DuMoulin which is the firm the present Chief Justice came from, or Davis & Company, which is where the Chief B.C. Treaty Commissioner Alec Robertson, also a former Daishowa director, comes from. These powerful firms like Davis & Co., (Daishowa, Mitsubishi, C.I.B.C., etc.) bracket the resource industries, and also act as a kind of interface between the judiciary, the political establishment, and the corporate world. If you're looking for "the state" this is a good place to start.

Ben: You're saying that corporate layers had direct input into the stand-off and the trial?

John: These firms elect the majority of the benchers to the law society (which denied Bruce Clark an occasional appearance generally granted to an out-of-province lawyer). They also number a disproportionate amount of their former partners among the judiciary. The fact that they are involved in the Gustafsen Lake matter signals me. Ever since Hudson's Bay Co., corporate interests have controlled the "land question" to their benefit with government.

Ben: You were talking before about events which precipitated the stand-off itself. Can you elaborate?

John: What precipitated the stand-off would have been the insertion of the covert probe of Emergency Response Team into the camp on August 18, 1995. Native officers had just brokered a peace process. It was to culminate in a meeting of all concerned parties, then was suddenly and inexplicably aborted. They were pulled off their Gustafsen Lake assignment the day before the covert probe.

Ben: Why were the Native officers pulled from the case if they were about to broker a peace agreement?

John: The reason for this, I believe, was because the plan demanded it. Next we had the media flown up to Williams Lake for a press conference at which weapons were displayed coming from a separate location miles away, and demonstrated in court to have been unconnected with anyone charged in the Gustafsen Lake stand-off. Suddenly, we have Olfert telling media that the campers are fanatics and terrorists with no understandable issues, despite his knowledge of Percy Rosette's attempts to secure regular access to the site for years and a big, fat file from his staff telling him exactley what the issues were. Why do things get so big so fast?

Ben: Why indeed?

John: Cast your mind back to 1995. After Native "protests" at Adam's Lake, Douglas Lake, Apex, the Nisga talks stalled, as well as their low standing in the polls due to the theft of charity funds (Bingo-Gate), and with a declining window of opportunity in the final part of their mandate, the N.D.P. was in trouble. Their research and polling indicated that they were perceived as "soft" on "native matters" with the then Attorney General Colin Gablemann considered especially "wimpy."

Ben: What about the current Attorney General Ujjal Dosanjh?

John: Dosanjh was brought in to reverse the political fortunes of the N.D.P., and specifically, to "get tough" with Native protests. The party was aware that the interior 'red-neck ridings' could be lost on the issue of aboriginal rights. Virtually the first thing he did was to crank up the heat on Gustafsen Lake... Let me see, some of my favourite Ujjal quotes are: "There shall be no alien intervention in the affairs of the State" - this in response to a request for independent accredited international monitors. Or "the state has an exclusive monopoly on the use of force." Or "this is not a political issue." Ujjal stick-handled the Gustafsen project so well, that by the time it ended, N.D.P. fortunes had turned around. They were ready to drop an election writ. His constituency account was the richest of all the N.D.P. ridings, the loot having flowed in during the standoff, and even Vaughan Palmer was saying that Ujjal, "could well become the first non-white Premier of B.C." An Angus Reid poll done just as the stand-off ended put the Native issues at an unprecedented high in the minds of British Columbians. According to an article in the Sun September 18, the "Election train was ready... the government would "try to translate its success in the high profile stand-off into a victory at the polls and the same Mr. Dosanjh who had relatives that had been hung for anti-colonial struggles in British India, could now put his signature to documents ordering 50-calibre sniper rifles to blow big bloody holes through some of the nicest Native and non-Native people you'd ever want to meet. So help me. Not to mention extensive wiretap and 'dirty tricks' authorized by then Deputy A.G. Stephen Owen - Mr. 'Human Rights'.

Ben: It has been acknowledged that there was a smear campaign against the camp members. What sort of misinformation was there that people might have seen or heard?

John: Virtually everything. Almost nothing they reported was true. B.C. media are on videotape spying for the police and bringing them their interviews for "vetting" prior to broadcast. That is why they haven't been reporting the trial. The worst misinformation was that Sundancers were terrorists with "a criminal agenda." The agenda was to dance and to do ceremony and to try and hold some kind of cultural and spiritual presence under what has been 130 years of unmitigated terror. "The amazing thing about Indian Country is how peaceful it really is, and how diligent people are about seeking reforms THROUGH THE PROCESSES WE HAVE INVENTED FOR THEM." That was D.I.A. deputy Minister Harry Swain just after Oka... remember that... well, they're doing it to the Seneca now, and the Manitoba Warriors, and the Lil'wat, and the Okanagans, and the Zapatistas.... and pretty soon they'll be doing it to you, too... so I would pay real close attention if I were you. First they came for the Ts'peten Defenders... know what I mean? What the people at Gustafsen Lake wanted... what they all signed as wanting, was reference to an independent third-party international tribunal to answer the question of their unextinguished rights to sovereignty and self determination. Clearly this country and its courts cannot possibly entertain such an important question. If you and I have a dispute over something as fundamental as land and jurisdiction, neither you nor I can be seen as impartial and capable of judging it? Right? It has to go elsewhere. That was the agreed-upon process established by the Mohegan vs. Connecticut case way back in the 18th century... and yes these legal principles do still apply... think about what the Magna Carta 1066 means to your rights? Sometimes, at darker times, it seems as if the simple reason that the settler population has by and large never lifted a finger to stop the genocide, is that deep down they know they are the beneficiaries and they accept that. But then other times I think not... Mexican civil society is following the lead of the EZLN in pushing back against corporate rule.

The deeper we look into the Gustafsen Lake Stand-Off the more we find issues of racism and legal chicanery coming up. For evidence of the racism of judges we need look only to Chief Justice Allan McEachern who ruled against Native jurisdiction based on what he determined was the lack of proof of a sophisticated pre-Columbus Native culture. In his dismissal of Native jurisdiction, he described pre-contact Native history as "nasty, brutish and short." The issue is still being raised in the courts though by appeals in the Delgamuukw case, a case which has set a confusing precedent. On the one hand the judges did not accept the assertion of Native jurisdiction. Yet the Supreme Court of Canada stated that Delgamuukw did not decide the issue. Nevertheless, federal lawyers submitted to the Gustafsen Lake trial judge that Delgamuukw did dispense with the challenge to newcomer jurisdiction over untreatied territory. To most observers this obfuscation is confusing. To Bruce Clark, it's just smoke and mirrors and good old-fashioned fraud.

Ben: How would you describe Bruce Clark's jurisdiction argument to someone who doesn't know much about it?

John: Well, it isn't his argument. It's simply the law. Quite simple - No treaty means no jurisdiction. And treaties by definition are agreements between sovereign nations. Not as in B.C., where you have a Province ceding rights to band council governments or "First Nations," which is a term created by white bureaucrats. There is no such thing as a "first nation" in international law, only nations. They were here first. A process of respect and consent is necessary, obviously. I'm not prepared to be a trespasser, a "squatter." That's funny, isn't it? Calling indigenous people squatters on their own unceded territories. But that was the weirdness that was the summer of '95.

Ben: Bruce Clark referred to the Delgamuukw case as crucial to understanding the legal struggle that the defenders are having. Do you know much about the judges who were involved in the Delgamuukw decision?

John: The Delgamuukw case was a giant land claims case sat on and ruled upon by Chief Justice Allan McEachern. Most of the counsel representing both the federal and provincial governments were former partners and associates of McEachern's old law firm Russell & DuMoulin. R. & D. used to prosecute potlatchers for the D.I.A. [Department of Indian Affairs]. Anyway, the case was fixed, rigged, a fraud. And in 1993 about 15 Gitksan hereditary chiefs instructed their lawyer to proceed with a fraud action. Named in the action were the chief justice, the governments, and both legal teams. The lawyer, Jack Cram, was also thrown in the psych ward like Bruce Clark, and eventually "retired." Delgamuukw is the case that supposedly finds that Native sovereignty is "extinguished." One of the lawyers on the Natives' legal team in Delgamuukw, Stuart Rush, was advising the police at Gustafsen Lake. His instructions to the police were to not disclose his participation. Another lawyer associated with the Gitksan, Gordon Sebastian, was a member of the Shuswap Liaison Group [the Native third party itermediaries "working for the cops" according to Wolverine, and according to Sergeant Peter Montague "both sides worked tirelessly to achieve a shared goal"] Sebastian along with Stuart Rush were both involved with the R.C.M.P., and he was also present in Nick Friesen's court at 100 Mile when Bruce Clark was assaulted at the counsel table in an attempt to ascertain the status of his clients, who were having their first bail appearance after the stand-off. Sebastian was supposedly representing Clark's clients, but this turned out not to be so. Sebastian, along with Don Ryan, another Gitksan Native leader, would have been involved in the "fixed game" of Delgamuukw. Probably the best thing would be to go to the Website:

I call Delgamuukw the "trojan horse" court case. It is designed to move to the Supreme Court of Canada this summer, and close the door on Native sovereignty. But Clark was told by the Supreme Court of Canada that Delgamuukw didn't pronounce on that question.

Ben: Antoine Archie, a Native person, was shown on television denouncing the camp in 1995. Do you know who he is?

John: He's one of those D.I.A. dictators from the Cariboo. A band chief who was selected by the R.C.M.P. to make the CBC broadcast in Secwepemc to the campers, as part of the psy-ops [psychological warfare] designed to inflame the camp. The traditionalists might refer to him as a "sell out". He appeared with Mercredi, when Mercredi stated that the Defenders were guilty of "attempted murder". This was part of the smear campaign. Mercredi himself was seeking a position as a Canadian ambassador and had made this known in an interview with Canadian Press in June 1995. You may remember a delegation of Native people raided his office during the stand-off, and pronounced him as "responsible."

Ben: What kind of relationship do you think the Ts'peten Defenders are seeking with B.C. or Canada at large?

John: Something immeasurably better than the sorry mess we have now. One of respect, honour, and independence... a chance to self-determine and decolonize... in a word sovereignty.

Ben: What sort of decision-making process do you think went on at a senior level at CBC in regards to their coverage of the stand-off?

John: Who knows? Why don't you file a freedom of information request seeking all notes respecting decisions taken. Including the decision to broadcast the Antoine Archie speech. I think CBC covered this in a public affairs show on the radio network. I do know that they have been inundated with queries as to why they're not covering the trial, or doing a good investigative piece on the political machinations behind it all. Why can we get to hear O.J. Simpson and not O.J. Pitawanakwat?And some people want for us to fight to save the CBC? ...that's liberals for you ...only fight for something once it's already dead and stinking. By the way, have they ripped off T.C. for anything else lately?

Ben: What do you know about Bruce Clark's arrest and appeal?

John: Legally outrageous. A straight police state case of trying to silence the messenger. Or one of them. His appeal was a complete outrage... kangaroo court stuff. Goes to show just how appalling things are. And if they get away with it, it will only get more and more oppressive. There is no check on judicial power or corporate power. Actually in B.C. they are virtually the same thing. We have one prominent ex-judge from Russel & DuMoulin that is a consul for the Singapore dictatorship.

Ben: I just got a call from a resident of Chase [near Gustafsen Lake] who said that there was a plan to kill Wolverine with a sharp shooter if the stand-off was still happening on the 17th and that there were high fives among R.C.M.P. who greeted the sharp shooter. They said they would take care of the media angle later. Can you substantiate this?

John: Well, we know that police had targeted the "hardliners" which would "require killing". That is straight from the notes of senior officers. In court, Shelaugh Franklin asked if that meant those who were committed to standing on what they saw as their legal right to be there... and the officer said, 'yes... that was an accurate description of a hard liner'. So, yes, they very likely did have him on their hit list. These people are thugs, and he pissed in their cornflakes by daring to survive everything they threw at him from residential school on up. And he is kicking their ass in that court room, and they know it. Look, a lot of people aren't so stupid. We are learning who our friends are and we are learning who our enemies are. And often those we were told were our "friends," turn out to be our enemies, while those who we were told were "enemies," turn out to be our closest friends. Anyway a big pat on the back for alternative media for telling the story, and don't take anything for granted. Check it out. And demand of your elected representatives a public inquiry. Freedom!

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