Date: Sun, 6 Dec 1998 15:50:40 -0600 (CST)
Gustafsen Lake: A classic coverup continues
By C. Morabito, University of Victoria Graduate Students' Society Newspaper <firstname.lastname@example.org>, December 1998
More than three years after the largest para-military operation in Canadian history, national and international support for an independent public inquiry into all aspects of the Gustafsen Lake standoff continues to grow. Federal NDP leader Alexa McDonough, National Campus/Community Radio Association (NCRA), Teaching Support Staff Union of Simon Fraser University (TSSU), the UVic Graduate Students Society, and Victoria's CUPE Local 50 are some of the latest groups to demand government accountability for the actions the RCMP and army took against 18 people, mostly native, to remove them from the Ts'peten Sundance site on unceded Shuswap territory in the summer of 1995.
Also, Democracy Street, a group comprised of APEC protestors has formally expressed outrage over the abuses of power at Gustafsen Lake. In an Oct. 29, 1998 letter to premiers Clark and Harris, and Prime Minister Chretien, Democracy Street demanded an independent public inquiry into Gustafsen Lake, Ipperwash, and APEC. They noted that: "Gustafsen Lake was the largest para-military action in Canadian history and a heinous abuse of force as 77,000 rounds, including [internationally prohibited] hollow point bullets, were fired into a small group of traditional Sundancers occupying unceded Shuswap territory. Armored personnel carriers and land mines were deployed. Yet according to Premier Glen Clark, in his response to CUPE Local 50 (shown below), the events at Gustafsen Lake were dealt with appropriately by the criminal justice system."
Anthony Hall, a Native Studies professor from the University of Lethbridge, disagrees. He wrote in the April 1997 Canadian Forum that: "The allegations of police and government wrong-doings are so serious that there is no question there should be a public inquiry into whether or not the rule of law was respected."
Bill Lightbown, co-founder of the United Native Nations and spokesperson for the Ts'peten Defence Committee, accuses the NDP of a massive coverup of the crimes alleged to have been committed by the RCMP at Gustafsen Lake. According to Lightbown, "The NDP provincial government cannot ignore its duty to the Canadian public by continuing to stonewall the requirement for an independent public inquiry into what happened at Gustafsen Lake." Even the federal government has placed the responsibility for an inquiry onto the province. Recently disgraced Solicitor General Andy Scott, in a Sept 15, 1998 letter responding to a demand for a public inquiry, wrote: "As you may be aware, the administration of justice is within the constitutional jurisdiction of provincial governments... Such matters fall outside the jurisdiction of the Solicitor General of Canada... I would like to point out that all levels of government who have responsibility for law enforcement concentrated their efforts toward a peaceful resolution of the events at Gustafsen Lake."
It seems, then, that stonewalling is precisely what premier Clark and the NDP are doing now. Last March, however, Andrew Petter, Intergovernmental Affairs Minister for BC, insisted that: "The provinces do not have the authority to make inquiries into the conduct of the RCMP. If there were to be such an inquiry, it would come more from the federal government." If both levels of government are going to play hot potato with Gustafsen Lake, then what body or commission, independent of state power, can British Columbians or Canadians rely on to hold governments and police accountable for crimes against humanity, whether committed domestically or internationally? Some people believe that if Canada is to progress as a rule-of-law nation, it must openly confront its past and present in some kind of Truth Commission.
South Africa, which has as dark and ugly a racist history as Canada, has recently subjected itself to a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to address the past criminal abuses of state power in the hope of preventing recurrence. Canada, however, is a settler state that still lives in denial of its genocidal past and present. As well, most Canadians know little about their government's Indian policies, or that the policies of the present are a continuation of those of the past; or even that this land is still being stolen from the Indian peoples, who remain jurisdictionally sovereign on territories not purchased by Canada through treaty.
A TREATY is a formal agreement between two or more sovereign nations. Since neither British Columbia or any Indian Act Band Council constitutes a sovereign nation, Canadians don't have to think too hard to understand that the modern treaty-making process is fraudulent and illegal. And in the face of what the Canadian and BC governments have admitted, both past and present, the treaty process isn't just fraudulent and illegal, but genocidal.
In 1920, Duncan Campbell Scott, of the Dept. of Indian Affairs, stated the Canadian government's intention toward Indian peoples with amazing honesty: "Our object," he said, "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."
In 1998, the information used to sell the Nisga'a Final Agreement completely and proudly affirms this genocidal intention by declaring that the sovereign Nisga'a nation will be reduced to the equivalent of a municipality, still effectively controlled by BC and Canada. Since most British Columbians are unaware of the international and constitutional laws that guarantees Indian sovereignty, they cannot appreciate the genocidal triumph of the Nisga'a Final Agreement (NFA). Even the right-wingers, either for appearance or their own ignorance (or bottomless greed), are complaining that the Indians are getting too much. And the left-wingers, through their own ignorance, insist they must support the Nisga'a Final Agreement (i.e.demise of the Nisga'a nation), because the right-wing appears to oppose it. Regardless, few non-Indians understand the severity of it all; however, many Indians do and their opposition to the NFA has been effectively silenced by mainstream media.
Saul Terry is the past president of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs. Recently he wrote an open letter to all Indian peoples and Canadians to explain the real purpose of the BC treaty process. Terry wrote: "Treaties and their certainty provisions are really about TAKING OUT (extinguishing) the Indian Nations. Changing Nations to mere delegated village council or federal municipalities. In some parts of the world it is now called ethnic cleansing...It is practised to a much more subtle level upon our people but it is still genocide."
Understood in this context: extinguishment, the simplicity of the Gustafsen Lake siege burns right through the propaganda and misinformation that criminalizes any native resistance to Canadian genocide. Don't natives, like all other human beings, have the right to resist policies that seek to destroy them quickly through violence, or slowly through legislation? Hasn't the United Nations declared decolonization and self-determination an internationally recognized right of all peoples?
Before the RCMP began their assault at Gustafsen Lake, they were informed their attempts to evict the Indians from the Ts'peten Sundance camp would be illegal according to international and constitutional law. In a letter Aug. 8, 1995, the lawyer for the Indians, Dr. Bruce Clark, wrote to RCMP Staff Sgt Sarich that: "The domestic courts from the Supreme Court of Canada on down are just refusing to address the law because it finds them personally guilty of complicity in treason, fraud and genocide. Those courts have assumed a jurisdiction that clearly and plainly they do not lawfully enjoy, and have exercised the usurped jurisdiction to implement domestic laws which are in fact not laws but crimes." Dr. Clark, an internationally renowned authority on international and constitutional law pertaining to Indian peoples, went on to write: "My clients and I now turn to you, the police, for protection against a legal establishment that in willful blindness has set its face against the rule of law. There is no middle ground. You may choose just to follow orders that are criminal or, alternatively, to defend the rule of law against those orders."
The RCMP responded by just following the orders of the BC government, namely BC Attorney General and Human Rights Minister, who at the time of the standoff said he was "in constant contact with the RCMP."
The RCMP would soon declare war on the Indians and proceed, with massive force, to attempt to kill the men, women, children and elders at Gustafsen Lake, and to set an example for Indians in general about the dangerous consequences of challenging the continuing colonialism and genocidal control of the Canadian settler-state. The federal and provincial governments both rejected any involvement by an impartial, independent, international adjudication process to settle the conflict at Gustafsen Lake. They even rejected the presence of neutral peacekeepers because both the BC and Canadian governments know BC has been in violation of international and constitutional law for most of its history. This is why Ujjal Dosanjh responded to the possibility of outside observers with the infamous declaration: "There shall be no alien intervention into the affairs of this state."
Dosanjh, like all other politicians, knows that in an independent court, the legal arguments of the Indians could not be suppressed. The domestic system has effectively silenced these arguments for decades, and in the subsequent court processes relating to the Gustafsen Lake siege, the BC judiciary revealed that it is capable of anything. Irregularities, not believed possible in any jurisdiction, were legion in the barely reported 8-month trial. Irregularities such as denying several defendants their counsel of choice, Dr. Bruce Clark. Though this is an internationally recognized human right, virtually nobody in Canada said anything about this violation. Surely it is worth asking why this was so.
But before the trial, Dr. Clark was assaulted in judge Nick Friesen's court for attempting to represent his clients: the first Indians who came out of Gustafsen Lake. He was also subjected to an RCMP smear campaign in an effort to discredit his legal arguments; and in the spring of 1997 he was imprisoned for three months by Judge Friesen for refusing to recant his jurisdictional arguments and indictments of the domestic crown courts. Dr. Clark recently called BC, "A theatre of the absurd operating totally outside the rule of law."
Historically, the BC judiciary, when dealing with Indian issues, has lied outright and contradicted itself repeatedly in order to stonewall the challenges to its jurisdiction. This was clear again during the Gustafsen Lake trial when William Ignace, known better by his Shuswap name, Wolverine, challenged the jurisdiction of the BC courts. Ignace cited the Indian Provision of the Royal Proclamation Act of 1763 (partially shown below), which clearly states that until an Indian territory has been purchased by the Crown, non-Indians cannot legally occupy land, never mind subject Indians to the jurisdiction of the Crown. The Gustafsen trial judge, Bruce Josephson, eventually disallowed all defence arguments before sequestering the jury.
Months later, the BC Court of Appeal would respond to Ignace's legal challenge by maintaining: "The Royal Proclamation has never applied to this Province, the appellants cannot rely upon the Royal Proclamation as support for their position."
On November 11, 1998, the Vancouver Sun reported that Prime Minister Chretien, after promising to quickly implement the Nisga'a Final Agreement, said: "It [the NFA] is an important thing.... I believe in it personally and it is an obligation of the government and it is a constitutional obligation [the Royal Proclamation]. . . that the King of England gave us in 1763." This from a man, who in his 1985 autobiography, Straight from the Heart said that his time as Minister of Indian Affairs [under Trudeau in 1969] was "like being one of the last emperors of North America." No wonder the Indians have demanded their cases be argued in an independent court.
In a Report from the Federal Minister of Justice to BC, dated January 19, 1875, in which BC was informed of the illegality of its policies toward Indian lands, Canada quoted to BC the entire Royal Proclamation Act and then said: "Considering then, these several features of the case, that no surrender or cession of their territorial rights, whether the same be of a legal or equitable nature, has been ever executed by the Indian tribes of the Province, that they allege that the reservations of land made by the Government for their use have been arbitrarily so made, and are totally inadequate to their support and requirements, and without their assent, they are not averse to hostilities in order to enforce rights which it is impossible to deny them...."
Apparently, over the last century BC has found it pretty easy to deny Indians their constitutional rights because Canada, legally obligated to guarantee such rights, and to protect Indian territories from encroachment by its provinces, has treasonably assisted and collaborated with the genocide in BC instead of stopping it.
In an Aug 24, 1995 interview on CHNL Radio, Kamloops, RCMP Sgt. Peter Montague, who was the media liaison during Gustafsen Lake, said: "Basically the very foundations that Canadian society are built on, are threatened here and the RCMP is well aware of that."
The RCMP were created 125 years ago for the express purpose of putting down Indian resistance to settlers spreading west, so the seriousness of Montague's statement cannot be disregarded. Genocidal policies are never accidental but they are rarely as openly celebrated by politicians as they are in Canada.
So now, here we are, three years after Gustafsen Lake. Indian peoples are still under siege by British Columbia through a fraudulent treaty process that seeks to legitimize the theft of sovereign Indian lands. And William Ignace, a 67-year-old organic farmer, remains a political prisoner for opposing Canadian genocide. And the existing constitutional law with which he, and many other Indian people have challenged BC's jurisdiction in the past decade continues to be stonewalled by all levels of government and judiciary, national and provincial.
In the face of growing national and international demands for a public inquiry into the Gustafsen Lake siege, the BC NDP continues to stonewall. It must be, then, that they oppose an open and independent inquiry into Gustafsen because such an inquiry would reveal their crimes while also potentially uncovering the dirty deeds and dirty history that guides Beautiful BC in its quest to extinguish the rights of Indian nations forever.
The following quotes appeared as graphics on the pages of the article
POLICE WANTED 4000 TROOPS AT GUSTAFSEN
Vancouver Province, Jan 8, 1997. Pg A4
"There is a line and that line is that there shall be no alien intervention in the affairs of this state."-BC Attorney General and Human Rights Minister Ujjal Dosanjh,
This letter was in response to the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) endorsement of a resolution from the Assembly of First Nations calling for a public inquiry into "all aspects of the Gustafsen Lake matter. [This was also the verbatim premier's response to my own personal query.]
BRITISH COLUMBIA, OFFICE OF THE PREMIER