The Gustafsen Lake standoff was the biggest RCMP operation in the history of British Columbia. Maybe even Canada.
Now the verdict is in on the 60 charges faced by the defendants following the 1995 standoff over a Native land claim. After a $1-million, 10-month trial, most of the charges have been thrown out. All but four of 16 defendants were acquitted of the charge of mischief endangering life, which carries a possible life term.
The jury came back with 39 acquittals and 21 convictions, mostly on less serious charges like mischief to property. Joseph Ignace, an Elder also known as Wolverine, was one of those convicted of mischief endangering life. His son, Joseph, who suffers from fetal alcohol syndrome and has a 6-year-old mentality, faced 12 charges, including attempted murder. He was acquitted on all counts.
There were tears on the faces of many on the 12-person jury as the verdicts were read. The jury included three Native jury members who held eagle feathers and asked to make a statement. They were cautioned they could be held liable for anything they might say. And so they decided not to read their statement.
The trial heard disturbing testimony about how the RCMP provoked violent incidents with the protesters and lied to the media about what was really happening at the standoff.