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Since we went on line in 1998, we have gained an exquisite contempt for the legal profession. Almost everything we hear about lawyers and their practice polishes this contempt. Every once in a blue moon, someone within the ranks wades out of the swill and states some truth. -- Sheila Steele, injusticebusters.com

Bruce Clark

Firebrand former lawyer spars at reinstatement hearing

Bruce Clark

TORONTO -- An Ontario lawyers' disciplinary panel had barely sat down yesterday when it was blasted for being "willfully blind" to a continuing policy of genocide against native Indians.

Bruce Clark -- firebrand lawyer, radical friend of aboriginals and raging scourge of the legal system -- was back in town.

When last heard from in 1999, Mr. Clark was disbarred after criminal convictions for contempt of court -- related to his repeated raising of the genocide argument -- and assaulting a police officer in British Columbia during an aboriginal uprising.

Yesterday, the 59-year-old man asked the Law Society of Upper Canada to let him back into the fold -- and pledged not to raise the genocide issue again if he is reinstated.

"I want to practice law so that I can get off welfare," Mr. Clark said.

He is arguing that his disbarment is invalid because the Law Society did not consider his defence at the time. However, he was anything but contrite as he faced the three panel members who will decide his fate. Mr. Clark's submissions were occasionally deft, invariably passionate and often breathtakingly rude. He taunted the panel and virtually commandeered the hearing room, shouting down law society lawyer Maureen Helt and the panel if they tried to protest.

"Genuinely and truly, you have utterly misconceived the point of this proceeding," Mr. Clark lectured panel chair Alan Silverstein in a typical exchange.

"All procedural requirements will be followed, Mr. Clark," Mr. Silverstein replied grimly.

"That would be such a pleasant surprise," Mr. Clark shot back.

"We don't need snide comments," Mr. Silverstein said, visibly seething.

Mr. Clark has battled for aboriginal rights since 1971, including a long-running Ontario land claims case known as Bear Island and a volatile 1995 standoff at Gustafson Lake in B.C.

No less a figure than former Chief Justice Antonio Lamer has denounced his invective, once telling Mr. Clark he was "a disgrace to the bar."

To the law society, the Clark case is a unique test. Can obsessive, ill-mannered conduct be enough to short-circuit a career? Does muting Mr. Clark's voice simply lend credence to his accusations against the legal establishment?

Mr. Clark pointed out yet another distinguishing characteristic of his case yesterday. He noted that most lawyers are disbarred for sins such as theft, incompetent practice or breach of trust. "In this case, a lawyer was disbarred for being honest," Mr. Clark said.

However, Ms. Helt insisted that he was disbarred not for his beliefs, but because his convictions amounted to professional misconduct. Disbarments are generally meant to be permanent, she added.

Even Mr. Clark's sporadic apologies yesterday were laced with contempt. "May I apologize for the manner of my delivery," he said at one point. "It's just that this whole process is so profoundly obscene."

Mr. Clark also demanded an adjournment to recover from being "harassed" by Mr. Silverstein. Later, he pointedly left the hearing room during Ms. Helt's closing submissions. At the root of Mr. Clark's quest is his claim that no court has ever properly addressed a 300-year-old British proclamation that he says is capable of proving that Indian land was stolen.

This "blatant judicial chicanery" proves that judges at every level have furthered the genocide of aboriginal people, he said.

Mr. Clark accused the law society of twisting its rules to drum him out simply because he had refused to let "imperial" judges sanctify the theft of native land.

The panel reserved judgment late in the day on the application.


Handcuffs greet Indians' lawyer

Controversial aboriginal rights lawyer Bruce Clark was arrested Tuesday on an outstanding warrant minutes after his flight from Toronto touched down at Vancouver International Airport.

As two dozen native Indian and non-Indian supporters waited for Clark inside the airport terminal, four RCMP officers boarded the Canadian Airlines flight, handcuffed the lawyer and took him to the Richmond detachment.

Margaret Clark, who travelled with her husband, said she did not know when he would be released. But she said that he hoped to represent his clients, several defendants in the Gustafsen Lake trial, in court today.

She said her husband knew he could be arrested if he returned to B.C., but came anyway because "he had to make the attempt" to defend his clients against charges related to the 1995 armed stand-off with police.

"Bruce speaks the truth, he can prove the truth," she said. "Bruce is a brilliant lawyer. That's the reason he's a threat."

The Mounties waited on the tarmac for the plane to arrive. After the other passengers had disembarked, they boarded to arrest Clark. He was led to a marked police car parked beside the terminal building.

When news of the arrest reached the protesters, gathered around a buckskin drum near a baggage carousel, they broke into song and chanted: "Free Bruce Clark, No Jurisdiction" -- a reference to Clark's argument that Canadian courts don't have jurisdiction over Indians.

The lawyer's arrest stems from an incident in 1995 when Clark left his home in an upscale Ottawa neighborhood and flew to B.C. to represent several Indians who were encamped near Gustafsen Lake.

After refusing for weeks to surrender to police to face charges of shooting an officer, the protesters finally gave up. During a bail hearing that September, Clark accused a 100 Mile House judge of running a "kangaroo court" and struggled with police.

Rather than facing the charges -- contempt of court and assaulting a police officer -- Clark fled to the Netherlands. But he returned to Canada and last month appeared before the Supreme Court of Canada on behalf of aboriginal groups in Ontario and New Brunswick.

Supporters gathered at the airport said they believed Clark was arrested because the government is afraid of him. "He's the best there is in Canada," said Glenn Deneault, a defendant in the Gustafsen Lake case.

Bill Lightbowm questioned whether a "judicial conspiracy" was behind Clark's arrest.

"Why are the RCMP, on orders from the governments, so determined to intercept and stop Dr. Bruce Clark from attending and participating as the lawyer of choice of most of the defendants as their defence attorney?" Lightbowm [sic] said.

"Is the B.C. law society and the judiciary complicit in a conspiracy to use illegal and immoral tactics to block Dr. Bruce Clark from presenting his legal arguments in the B.C. courts? If it is, this is the worst case of chicanery in Canadian legal history."

Clark, once a small town Ontario lawyer, has spent most of his career arguing that Canada is engaged in a campaign of "genocide" against Indians and that conflicts between aboriginals and the Crown should be settled by an international tribunal.

His theories have been largely dismissed by the courts and by mainstream aboriginal groups such as the Assembly of First Nations. But that has only fueled accusations by his supporters that they are victims of a government conspiracy.

Adding to conspiracy theories are a series of embarrassing scenes captured on an RCMP training video, and raised as evidence in the trial, in which police refer to a "smear and disinformation campaign" against Clark and the protesters.

Flo Sampson, the wife of Jones (Wolverine) William Ignace, appeared briefly before reporters at the airport to say she wanted Clark freed so he could represent her husband in court in Surrey today.

In a letter to the attorney-general's ministry dated Feb. 13, and released Tuesday by his supporters, Clark offers to apologize for his actions in 100 Mile House, but says he will not "acknowledge any criminal intent to show contempt."


Lawyer arrested when he lands at airport

Controversial lawyer Bruce Clark was arrested at Vancouver International Airport yesterday after flying from his New Brunswick home.

He was taken into custody on outstanding warrants for contempt of court and assaulting a police officer.

A familiar figure, with his bald head and imposing eyeglasses, during the 1995 Gustafsen Lake standoff, Clark was escorted by three RCMP officers to a police car and driven to the nearby Richmond RCMP detachment.

Police spokesman Sgt. Willy Laurie said Clark would be held overnight and likely taken today to Williams Lake to appear before the judge who issued the warrants in October 1995.

Clark was returning to B.C. to make submissions today when the defence opens its case in the B.C. Supreme Court trial of 18 people accused in the one-month standoff that pitted natives against the RCMP.

The Gustafsen Lake trial is now in its ninth month, with 14 native and four non-native defendants on trial for weapons and mischief charges. Two defendants are also charged with attempted murder. Clark acted for many of the accused.

After he was taken away yesterday, native and non-native supporters held a protest, chanting and beating drums in the domestic-arrivals terminal.

Clark was detained on outstanding warrants that stem from an incident at the 100 Mile House provincial courthouse in 1995.

He was wrestled to the ground by deputy sheriffs following an outburst and charged with contempt of court and assaulting a police officer. Clark fled the country and later returned to live in New Brunswick.


Gustafsen Lake Defendant asks for imprisoned lawyer

One of the people on trial for his part in the Gustafsen Lake standoff told B.C. Supreme Court Justice Bruce Josephson he wants an imprisoned native-rights lawyer to appear on his behalf.

"He's the only one who can do the job and he's my counsel of choice," Jones (Wolverine) Ignace said Wednesday. Ignace is charged with weapons offences and attempted murder for allegedly firing at police during the month-long standoff in 1995 at Gustafsen Lake near 100 Mile House.

"If I don't have Bruce Clark as my counsel, then I'm being denied justice in this country," he added.

Clark spent the day in custody after returning to B.C on Tuesday to represent Ignace and other defendants in the Gustafsen Lake case.

The controversial lawyer was arrested at Vancouver International Airport on two outstanding warrants and was transferred to Williams Lake. He will be taken to 100 Mile House today to make his first court appearance.

Defence lawyer Don Campbell suggested the court could issue an order to allow Clark out of jail so he could appear as a witness for Ignace on Friday.

But Clark, an Ontario lawyer, is not licensed to practice in B.C and would need to get approval from the Law Society of B.C. and the trial judge in order to represent Ignace.

In the fall of 1995, Clark appeared at a raucous bail hearing in 100 Mile House, where he accused a judge of running a kangaroo court. The lawyer also got in a scuffle with police officers.

Those incidents led to charges of assaulting a police officer and contempt of court. Clark fled Canada before he could be brought to court to face them.

He said in an interview this week that he wants to challenge the jurisdiction of the courts with an argument that cases involving native Indian claims to land must be dealt with by an independent, third-party tribunal, not by a court appointed by the state.

To date, no Canadian court has accepted that the argument has any merit.

The expectation of Clark's appearance Wednesday at the Gustafsen Lake trial attracted about a dozen members of the media to the high-security courtroom in Surrey. But when it quickly became evident Clark would be a no-show, most of the media lost interest and left before the lunch break.

The trial involves 14 native Indians and four non-Indians who were charged mainly with weapons offences and criminal mischief at the end of the armed standoff, which came during a summer of native Indian unrest in B.C.

Up to 400 RCMP officers and military personnel were employed at Gustafsen Lake. It became the largest police operation in B.C. history, costing taxpayers more than $5 million.

Ignace's son, Joseph, 25, is charged with two counts of attempted murder for shooting at RCMP Constable Ray Wilby on Aug. 18, 1995, and at a number of other officers during an alleged gun battle on Sept. 11, shortly before the armed standoff ended.

His lawyer, George Wool, said in his opening address to the jury Wednesday that he plans to prove his client was not at Gustafsen Lake when Wilby was shot at.

He said a defence witness, Danny Ford, will testify he phoned the Ignace home in Chase that day and talked to "Jo-Jo," as the young man is called by his family.

Outside court, Wool said he estimates the defence may wrap up its case in three weeks.

That would be welcome news for the jury, which was originally told the case would take two months -- it is now in its 29th week.

One former defence lawyer, Harry Rankin, estimated the trial is costing taxpayers about $50,000 a day. Part of the cost is the $60 a day paid to the accused, who are mostly from out of town, to cover food and accommodation expenses.

The standoff during August and September 1995 was triggered by rising tensions between a rancher and native Indians who took part in an annual religious sundance ceremony that had been held since 1989.

The ceremony was held on remote land near 100 Mile House owned by cattle rancher Lyle James. But James served an eviction notice on one of the sundancers after the Indians erected a fence, saying the area was a sacred site.

The standoff escalated when shots were allegedly fired at a forestry worker and police.

Jones Ignace, who is charged with weapons offenses and attempted murder, says he is being denied justice if Bruce Clark cannot represent him.


Notorious lawyer out of court

Everyone was there except the man they'd all come to see.

Television crews from local and national stations, newspaper and radio reporters and native supporters lined the steps of the Surrey courthouse yesterday to see if lawyer Bruce Clark would make it to the Gustafsen Lake trial.

But the flamboyant lawyer, easily recognizable with his shaved head and space-age eye-glasses, was due to leave for 100 Mile House, courtesy of the RCMP.

Clark is to face charges there today of contempt of court and assaulting a police officer.

He was charged after a fracas at 100 Mile courthouse in September 1995 and was wanted on B.C.-wide warrants. He was arrested Tuesday when he returned to B.C. from New Brunswick.

Clark was representing many of the natives charged after the 30-day Gustafsen Lake standoff ended Sept. 17, 1995.

Camp leader William Jones Ignace (Wolverine) told B.C. Supreme Court Justice Bruce Josephson yesterday that preventing Clark from representing him showed there was no justice in Canada. Ignace, who is defending himself, said if Clark can't be his lawyer he will call him to testify as early as tomorrow.

George Wool, defending five of the protesters, told the jury, which has been hearing Crown evidence for the past 128 days, that one of his clients, Joseph (JoJo) Ignace, was not at the Gustafsen Lake Camp on Aug. 18, the day he is alleged to have fired at a Mountie.

Wool said Joseph Ignace, William Ignace's son, was at home at the time. He said two medical experts will testify that Joseph suffers from severe fetal alcohol syndrome, which can impair brain function.

Defence witness Barry Holden, who has been fishing at Gustafsen for almost 40 years, testified that he was visited by RCMP officers every day while camping at the lake in June, just before the standoff.

"(A Mountie) said there may be trouble," said Holden.

"He said that shots had been fired at a forestry officer, or something, in the weeks prior."

Not long after one of the visits, Holden heard and saw a cowboy ride into the native camp and scream at the occupants. The cowboy then rode to Holden's camp.

"He said you guys better get out of here," Holden testified.

"There is going to be trouble and shooting around here."

The trial continues.