Svend Robinson, NDP Member of the Canadian Parliament, has refused to support a public inquiry into the 1995 armed siege by provincial and federal authorities against the Ts'peten Sundance camp at Gustafsen Lake. The state actions there constituted the largest paramilitary operation in Canadian history and included armoured personnel carriers, .50 calibre machine guns, land mines, and massive human rights violations directed against a small number of Shuswap traditionalists who cited constitutional and international law protections for their resistance to the attempted invasion.
Mr. Robinson recently spoke to students at the University of Victoria regarding the "police state tactics" employed against Apec student protesters in Vancouver a year ago. Shortly after he was introduced as "never avoiding a human rights issue," Mr. Robinson did just that. When one audience member pointed out that "Spraypec" demonstrators currently appearing before the RCMP Public Complaints Commission had themselves repeatedly urged support for a Gustafsen inquiry and asked Mr. Robinson for his own support, Mr. Robinson declined to give it.
Several audience members pointed out the obvious "disgusting double standard" of Robinson's position. One Indigenous student called for the students to pay attention to "the genocide going on right outside your back gate." Though Robinson has been quick to condemn the actions of Prime Minister Jean Chretien and the federal Liberals regarding the pepperspraying of Apec protesters, both Mr. Robinson and his associate, BC NDP member of Parliament Nelson Riis, vocally supported the far more violent actions of the BC NDP provincial government during the month long 1995 Gustafsen Lake standoff. Riis urged the BC government to order a "state of emergency" at the time. Robinson publicly defended the provincial government while he was campaigning for the NDP federal leadership during the standoff. He still appears to be standing by that dubious support of his NDP brethren, including BC's Attorney-General/Human Rights Minister Ujjal Dosanjh. This puts him at odds with current federal NDP leader Alexa Mcdonough, who committed herself to supporting a public inquiry into Gustafsen Lake on the CBC national call-in program Cross Country Checkup on September 6, 1998. BC's NDP government continues to refuse the inquiry call.
Some of those already calling for a public inquiry into both Gustafsen and the killing of Aazhoodena (Stoney Point) activist Dudley George, include Lil'Wat Estken; Moloqhil Tinamat; Defensoria Maya (Guatemala); Te Ropa Maori; Canadian Alliance in Solidarity with Native Peoples (CASNP); The Green Group of the European Parliament; The Black Community Collective; Black Autonomy International; The Afrikan Frontline Network; ARA (Kingston); North West Leonard Peltier Support Network; Aboriginal Rights Coalition (ARC); Council of Canadians; Building Bridges to Chiapas; The National Green Party of Canada; Ramsey Clark, Former US Attorney General and Council to Leonard Peltier; Ts'peten Defence Committee; Incomindios; Kola; Kwia; For Mother Earth (Belgium); National Campus/Community Radio Association (NCRA); SFU Teaching Support Staff Union (TSSU) and many other groups and individuals, including a resolution by the Assembly of First Nations.
"The current actions of the BC government and the RCMP toward the Ts'peten Defenders, as well as the negligence of the Canadian national government to intervene and put a halt to these actions, unambiguously qualify as genocide."
- KOLA; letter to Prime Minister Jean Chretien, April 25, 1997
"I'm trying really hard to expose the double standard...students get pepper-sprayed and there's a public uproar. Indigenous sovereigntists get thousands of bullets aimed at them, are victims of a smear campaign, and they're systematically ignored."
- Jaggi Singh, Apec demonstrator and defendant
According to Member of Parliament Svend Robinson, November 1997 marked the existence of a police state - not in Malaysia, China or Indonesia - but in Canada. He was speaking of the pepper spray fiasco at UBC last year, in which RCMP officers pepper-sprayed student protesters during the APEC summit. Robinson's Tuesday lecture on the implications of the pepper spray incident was part of the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) and student society's contribution to the national Week of Action on student issues.
But while Robinson was on hand to defend human rights within Canada, he met a mixed response from the nearly packed Cinecenta audience, who criticized the MP's conduct during the follow-up to the Gustafsen Lake affair.
Robinson spoke at length about the implications of the pepper-spray fiasco, which is currently playing itself out at public hearings in Vancouver. Robinson not only outlined the details of the student arrests, but also their broader implications for the state of the Canadian system. "The RCMP's actions not only were morally bankrupt but also without legal reason," he said. During the APEC protests, 49 people were arrested, but only one was charged with a crime. Robinson defended the student protesters appearing before the RCMP Public Complaints Commission for their anti-APEC demonstrations.
Robinson said while Indonesian guards at the conference were armed and ready to shoot at protesters if they became a security risk, many of the students were simply armed with signs condemning dictatorial leaders, including past Indonesian president Suharto and Chinese President Jiang Zemin - who was nearly honoured with an honorary degree from UVic in 1997. "Why were those [Indonesian security] thugs allowed into Canada in the first place?" Robinson asked his audience. Robinson answered his own question, saying the "thugs" were let into Canada because of APEC's lack of respect for human rights. Canada's "bootlicking" welcome of the APEC leaders during the conference, he said, spells out "APEC's fundamental agenda - trade liberalization, deregulation of labour standards and assault on the private business sector."
Robinson also criticized Chretien's most recent public comments regarding the pepper spray incident - "When we come to the west we have steak, sometimes pepper steak" - calling the prime minister's comments on the incident "profoundly arrogant." As for the future of APEC and Canada's involvement, Robinson does not think next year's conference, which will be held in Malaysia, should take place because of the human rights violations that have already occurred. "We should never again allow this kind of assault on our constitutional human rights and freedoms to occur again."
In order to solve human rights issues within other countries, Robinson said we must first take care of our issues. While Robinson expanded on the virtues of trying to solve Canada's human rights violations, his audience raised questions regarding his own alleged support for the "police state" that occurred during the Gustafsen Lake blockades. Robinson decided to stick with the issue at hand and claimed that the Gustafsen Lake situation was different because "the people involved were armed as opposed to the unarmed protesters at APEC". Although allegations that Robinson was buying into a smear campaign rose from the crowd, he refused to debate the issue during the question period.
[S.I.S.I.S. received the following report of NDP MP Svend Robinson's speech at Simon Fraser University near Vancouver on October 14, 1998.]
I heard that the folks in Victoria had a decent protest against Svend Robinson's speech on Canada's Police State, pointing out the hypocrisy that he is supporting an inquiry into APEC but not Gustafsen Lake. Well Svend was at SFU yesterday so I quickly made up posters and put them around campus. The text of the posters is below.
A handful of us also attended his talk. The first question after he was done was "what can we do?" So he "challenged" us to get involved. I asked the next question and put a challenge to him. After outlining briefly the hypocrisy of his position and the fact that APEC protesters we treated lightly compared to Gustafsen Lake defenders I challenged him to call for an inquiry into Gustafsen Lake. He refused. I clarified and asked "So you will not call for an inquiry." He categorically said no, and went on a spiel about how they had guns. His bottom line is that they had guns therefore no inquiry is necessary. I left the meeting after calling him a social democratic hypocrite. He made a joke that he was also a running dog lackey of the bourgeoisie. Another person who stayed behind pointed out the difference between APEC protesters and Gustafsen Lake defenders. He was shut down and he and another left the meeting as the rest of the attendees got back to an NDP love fest.
"Gustafsen Lake and the NDP:Mr. Robinson has been invited to speak on the inquiry into APEC and the RCMP's actions towards student protesters.
British Columbia's Police State?
Guest Speaker: Svend Robinson
MBC 2290 12:30 today (Thursday October 15)
However, the NDP government in BC has refused to strike an inquiry into the RCMP siege at Gustafsen Lake in 1995. Despite the fact that it was the most expensive police operation in Canadian history. Over 70,000 police rounds were shot into the camp.
This is about more than pepper spray! Many defenders were jailed, one remains in jail three years later. The RCMP admitted they used a smear campaign to discredit the Gustafsen Lake defenders legitimate claims. Why are they not made accountable?
Why the double standard?
What role does race and class have to play?
Why is the NDP supporting an inquiry into APEC but not Gustafsen Lake?
Come and ask Mr.Robinson these questions.
MBC 2290 Today (Thursday October 15)
So not much, but at least there was a presence.
That's all for now
TELL SVEND ROBINSON TO STOP SUPPORTING THE NDP COVERUP
OF GUSTAFSEN LAKE!
Please cc your letters to S.I.S.I.S., at SISIS@envirolink.org