During his rabble-rousing career Bruce Clark was hailed as a brilliant lawyer and a scholarly leader in the area of aboriginal rights in Canada. He was also called a “disgrace to the bar” by former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, Antonio Lamer.
Clark distinguished himself by attaining a law degree, a masters in law, as well as a doctorate. He had a general practice in small-town Ontario, Canada, and acquired all the accoutrements of success including wife and children, a lovely home and farm, multiple motor vehicles, a private plane and a very comfortable lifestyle.
He gave up his gentleman-lawyer life to become an outspoken advocate for native rights in Canada and around the globe. During his doctoral studies he developed a proposition of law based on a Privy Council decision in 1704 that concerned an indian band in the British colony of Connecticut.
England’s Privy Council (the highest court in Britain) decided there was an intrinsic bias in the British courts against native land claims and a special constitutional court should be convened to deal with the issue of the expropriation of land owned by the Mohegan Indians. That court was never convened and the natives lost their lands. The decision was long-forgotten until Clark resurrected it arguing that most of North America belonged to the natives who had been stripped of their land by imperialist governments, contrary to the legal decision in 1704.
In his journey to notoriety, the 1995 Gustafsen Lake stand-off in British Columbia proved to be life changing for Mr. Clark. The Gustafsen Lake property in the Okanagan was owned by Lyle James, who was a 70 year old farmer at the time of the controversy. For years, the Shushwap aboriginals has received permission from Mr. James to hold annual ceremonial rituals on his land, which to the natives was sacred ground.
In 1995 a group of natives overstayed their welcome and were apparently offended by ranch hands who sought to remove them from the James property. Under Mr. Clark’s tutelage, the aboriginals staged a protest on the site which turned into a month long armed siege against authorities.
Hundreds of armed police officers with intimidating military equipment, helicoptors and vehicles ended the stand-off in a hail of bullets. Fortunately, no aboriginals were seriously injured, but multiple arrests were made including charges of attempted murder.
Mr. Clark acted for several of the defendants before he was cited for contempt of court for referring to the criminal trial as a “kangaroo court” while engaging in a scuffle with a courtroom sheriff.
It is reported that he made his 1704 Privy Council argument at least forty times but was never successful. He finally had a chance to argue the proposition in the Supreme Court of Canada but spent most of his sixty minute time allotment disparaging the learned judges of the court as “treasonous, fraudulent and perpetrators of genocide”. It was not well received.
In the meantime, after Clark’s contempt conviction, he fled Canada and resided in Europe, returning to Canada eighteen months later.
It was as a result of the Gustafsen contempt order and his tirade in the Supreme Court of Canada that the Ontario Law Society disbarred him on the basis that he was “unfit and ungovernable”.
Mr. Clark’s unbridled passion for native rights and his undisciplined court room tactics did nothing to enhance his professional reputation or his personal circumstances. It was reported that he spent many years thereafter drifting from one native reserve to another, far removed from the life of prosperity he once enjoyed.
In the end, his legal argument was referred to as “a legal proposition in search of a client.” He was a legal maverick who lost his way.
Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang