STATEMENT BY THE HONOURABLE RON BASFORD
December 17, 1976
OTTAWA----Ron Basford, Minister of Justice and Attorney General for Canada today issued the following statement in connection with the extradition of Leonard Peltier:
Leonard Peltier was charged in the United States with:
1. November 22, 1972, Milwaukee, Wisconsin: attempted murder
2. June 26, 1975, near Oglala, South Dakota: murder of Ronald A. Williams, Special Agent, F.B.I.
3. June 26, 1975, near Oglala, South Dakota: murder of Jack R. Coler, Special Agent, F.B.I.
4. November 14, 1975, near Ontario, Oregon: attempted murder; and
5. November 15, 1975, near Nyssa, Oregon: burglary
A provisional arrest was made in Hinton, Alberta, on February 12, 1976; this was followed by a diplomatic note from the Embassy of the United States to the Department of External Affairs on February 18, 1976 requesting formally the provisional arrest and extradition of Mr. Peltier. Extradition was requested by the Government of the United States, joined by the states of Wisconsin and Oregon. Following his arrest, Mr. Peltier was transferred to Vancouver to await his extradition hearing.
Extradition matters involving Canada and the United States are governed by the Canada-U.S. Extradition Treaty, by the Extradition Act and by the case law on the subject. Under the Extradition Act the role of the courts and the role of the Minister are quite different. Each has distinct and separate duties.
The court’s function is generally:
to determine whether the offences charged are extraditable offences within the treaty; to determine, on the basis of the evidence adduced, whether there is sufficient evidence that if the offence had been committed in Canada the judge would order the accused person to stand trial in Canada; to receive evidence on the question whether the offence involved is an offence of a political character or that the proceedings are being taken with a view to prosecute or punish the fugitive for an offence of a political character. (Note that the judge’s duty is only to receive this evidence; it is not his duty to adjudicate upon the question.)
A hearing was held in Vancouver before Mr. Justice Schultz of the Supreme Court of British Columbia, from May 3-28, 1976 and a decision was rendered on June 18, 1976. Mr. Peltier was found extraditable on four of the five alleged crimes. With respect to the Oregon attempted murder, the court held that the evidence produced at the hearing would not, according to the law of Canada, justify committal for trial if the crime had been committed in Canada.
The decision of the judge who has conducted the extradition hearing may be reviewed by the Federal Court. An application to set aside the decision of Mr. Justice Schultz was made to the Federal Court of Appeal pursuant to section 28 of the Federal Court Act. A hearing was held on October 25, 26, and 27. At the conclusion of the hearing October 27 the application was denied.
Having decided that Mr. Peltier is extraditable on four of the five offences upon which his extradition has been sought, the courts have thus exercised their responsibility under the Extradition Act.
The separate and distinct role of the Minister of Justice is clearly set out in section 22 of the Extradition Act which states that :
"Where the Minister of Justice at any time determines
a. that the offence in respect of which proceedings are being taken under this Part is one of a political character,
b. that the proceedings are, in fact, being taken with a view to try to punish the fugitive for an offence of a political character, or
c.that the foreign state does not intend to make a requisition for surrender, he may refuse to make an order for surrender…….."
Subsequent to the decision of the Federal Court of Appeal, counsel for Leonard Peltier indicated that they were instructed by their client not to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. I then agreed to receive a written submission from counsel for Mr. Peltier and to receive oral submissions from two of his lawyers and four native people from the West Coast. These submissions were directed to the issue of the political character of the offences in question.
One of the matters referred to in the submissions was the alleged inconsistency in the affidavits of Myrtle Poor Bear.
This is a legal matter for the courts which have dealt with it in Canada and will undoubtedly do so in the U.S.
Submissions were also made concerning the conduct of the F.B.I. and the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs. It was suggested that Indians in general and members of the American Indian Movement in particular are subject to persecution by the Government of the United States, and that Mr. Peltier might very well be killed upon his return to the United States. Without commenting upon the soundness of these views, I want to emphasize that it will be the courts, and not the F.B.I. or the B.I.A., who will be trying Mr. Peltier. Moreover, the evidence does not show that Mr. Peltier will be denied his constitutional rights as an American citizen or that "due process" does not prevail in the courts in which he will be charged. It should be noted that two other Indians, Darelle Dean Butler and Robert Eugene Robideau were accused with Mr. Peltier in the alleged murder of the two F.B.I. agents in South Dakota, and that both of these co-defendants have been tried and acquitted on these charges in the United States. Mr. Butler and Mr. Robideau are presently in custody serving sentences for other offences. There is no evidence that either individual is in any physical danger. This appears to apply as well to several other leaders of the American Indian Movement. Dennis Banks is presently living in California. He is not in custody. Federal charges against him relating to the illegal possession of weapons were dismissed in Oregon; the United States government is now appealing.
Carter Camp is one of three A.I.M. Leaders who were convicted in South Dakota on December 10, 1975 of assaulting a federal officer following the Wounded Knee incident. He received a three year sentence. On September 2, 1976, the judgment was reversed due to a technical defect in the warrant for arrest. Camp is not presently in custody.
It is my conclusion after considering all the evidence that is before me that it has not been demonstrated that the two murders, the attempted murder and the burglary with which Mr. Peltier has been charged were offences of a political character. Nor has it been established that the proceedings in question are being taken with a view to try or punish Mr. Peltier for an offence of a political character.
Consequently, I have signed an order which calls for Mr. Peltier to be delivered into the custody of the U.S. officials.
In addition, in response to a request from me, the Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division of the United States Department of Justice, has advised that if Mr. Peltier is convicted of murder under the indictment in relation to which he is surrendered, he cannot be sentenced to death.
I should also add that under our Extradition Treaty with the U.S.A., Mr. Peltier cannot be tried for any past offences, other than those upon which he has been ordered extradited.
- 30 -For further information please call Allan Lutfy (613) 992-4621
| Letter to me from Anne McLellan
Letter from Anne McLellan to Janet Reno
Canadian release of extradition information
Summary of Canadian extradition information
File review of the extradition
News release Dec. 17, 1976
Comments from Dennis Banks ref: Leonard
CNN/Time "show" about Leonard
LPDC comments about the CNN "show"
News article By PETER WORTHINGTON
Myrtle Poor Bear affidavits
SEND YOUR CLEMENCY REQUEST TO THE PRESIDENT
International Office of the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee