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Premier's Statement - Gustafsen Lake Sept. 5, 1995

Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs, Province of British Columbia

I want to confirm my government's position with respect to the situation at Gustafsen Lake.

We continue to support the RCMP's patient efforts to peacefully resolve this armed and illegal occupation.

It's important that the RCMP have all the time they require, and that we respect the patient efforts to end this armed occupation as peacefully as possible.

But let no one confuse our patience with a lack of resolve.

There is no place in British Columbia where threats of violence, and acts of violence will be tolerated.

The Criminal code applies to every square inch of British Columbia, and we will uphold that law.

To this end my government has a clear stance - a position the Attorney General has repeated, both to the public and to the RCMP:

bulletthere is only one law in British Columbia and the police have a responsibility to apply the law equally and fairly to all;
bulletthe police enforce the law in a manner that minimizes the danger to the public and themselves;
bulletthe use of weapons to resolve differences is intolerable and a challenge to the very fabric of our society;
bulletwe will not negotiate or make deals with people who use or threaten violence;
bulletand, the armed occupation of Gustafsen Lake is the action of a handful of violent extremists, without the participation or support of a single band or tribal council.

This is our position and we remain firm in our commitment to it.

We have full faith in the professionalism of the RCMP. We have not, and will not, bow to pressure to second-guess them on how to enforce the law.

It has been said that the armed occupation of Gustafsen lake is a symptom of deep frustration among Canada's aboriginal people.

I am well aware of frustrations in aboriginal communities - and in non-aboriginal communities as well.

It is for this reason that my government has made an unprecedented effort to address these issues.

After a hundred years of neglect we have established a British Columbia treaty process to ensure an open, just and practical settlement of aboriginal claims.

I understand the frustrations of all British Columbians that these issues cannot be resolved quickly. Yes, it is a slow, frustrating process for everyone - but it is a necessary process.

Far from being the problem, the treaty process is the solution.

There are political opportunists and extremists in both communities who will always say negotiations are going too fast, or too slow, too far or not far enough, to justify their own political agendas - narrow and selfish political agendas that do a disservice to the future of this province.

My government remains committed to negotiations, not confrontation, as the way to address aboriginal concerns and bring certainty and justice to all British Columbians.

I am aware we pay a price for confronting the nay-sayers. But it is necessary and we accept the political cost.

We reject the efforts of those who frustrate the treaty process.

And I call on aboriginal leaders to join us with renewed vigor to challenge the opportunists and extremists in their community in the same manner.

I ask all British Columbians to continue to show patience in the efforts to find long-term solutions to difficult issues. It is hard, but just and equitable treaties are the only way to achieve justice and certainty.

I also confirm our position that violence and confrontation is not the answer and will not shake our resolve - at Gustafsen Lake or anywhere else.

We are committed to the rule of law and the security of all British Columbians.

We are committed to fair and just treaty settlements with the aboriginal peoples of British Columbia.

On both of these commitments we will be patient. And on both of these commitments we are unshakable.