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Peter Worthington

The Right Thing


Toronto Sun
November 29, 2002

Sometimes, something should be done just because it's right, and not because it will be successful or popular.

On a grand scale, perhaps that could apply to Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Some feel the right thing to do is remove him by force. Those who don't believe in force think the opposite.

On a lesser scale, a private member's bill tabled in the House of Commons last week by NDP justice critic Bill Blaikie urged Parliament to "condemn as unacceptable" how Leonard Peltier was extradited from Canada in 1976, and for the government to demand his return.

This isn't going to happen, but it's the right thing to do. What the bill does is raise, once again, Canada's complicity in ongoing outrages against Peltier - a Sioux-Ojibwa Indian sentenced to two consecutive life sentences for the 1975 killing of two FBI agents during a range war on South Dakota's Pine Ridge Reserve, near Wounded Knee.

Soon, Peltier will have spent more time in prison than Nelson Mandela - with far less justification. Mandela was never an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience, as Peltier is; during his whole incarceration, Mandela never disavowed violence as a means of achieving his goal.

Peltier was, is and forever will be a fall guy - extradited from Canada on the basis of a fraudulent affidavit by Myrtle Poor Bear, that the FBI concocted and fabricated. Poor Bear's affidavits were contradictory, but accepted as genuine by a B.C. court.

Her sworn affidavit said she was Peltier's girlfriend and that she saw him kill the agents - a fiction orchestrated by the FBI. It later turned out Poor Bear had never met Peltier, was nowhere in the vicinity at the time of the shooting.

When Peltier's extradition was examined by retired Justice Fred Kaufman of the Quebec Court of Appeal at a special hearing in 2000, it became embarrassingly clear the whole extradition was phony.

When Kaufman's findings were delivered to then-justice minister Anne McClellan, she rejected them and said other evidence at the 1976 hearing was sufficient to extradite Peltier. The flaw in that argument is that there was no other evidence - only the fraudulent Poor Bear affidavit. McClellan was not being candid.

Of course, Peltier is not going to be returned to Canada. But a Canadian protest might help free him before he dies in prison. Arguably, he is the most flagrant example of FBI revenge and American injustice gone awry. An Indian as fall guy.

Blaikie's bill is significant in that it is adamantly supported by the Canadian Alliance's John Reynolds, who argued on behalf of Peltier to Bill Clinton when he was president, and continues with George Bush.

Not only is the Alliance onside with Blaikie's bill, but so is the Bloc Quebecois under Gilles Duceppe.

And, it seems, Peter McKay of the Tories.

Those who've fought the injustice perpetrated against Peltier suffered a grievous blow when Clinton reneged on an executive pardon when he left office.

It was widely believed that Peltier was in line to be pardoned by Clinton who, when he was campaigning for the Democratic nomination, hinted that freeing Peltier was one of his priorities. On leaving office he chose to pardon one who was on the FBI's most wanted list; he pardoned his deadbeat brother, suspect drug dealers, and assorted campaign donors and unworthy people. But not Peltier.

Was it because Peltier wasn't a campaign donor? Maybe Clinton feared FBI wrath? The aging generation of bitter FBI agents and those who manipulated evidence against Peltier are periodically summoned to smear and distort the case.

One hopeful sign is that the case has been reviewed by one U.S. appeal judge, Gerald Heaney, who earlier damned the FBI evidence and urged the president to forgive Peltier. Judge Heaney must decide whether Peltier's "consecutive" life sentences can be made "concurrent," thereby enabling Peltier to apply immediately for parole.

Having repeatedly corrupted itself (false evidence, a mythical bullet, altered testimony, etc.), the FBI will fight adamantly to keep Peltier in jail. It dare not face its own perjury.

There is no logical or humane reason for Peltier not to be paroled, even if one considers him guilty of shooting when everyone else was also shooting.

Even a token gesture by the Canadian government might tip the scales in the U.S. But only opposition MPs seem to have the integrity and courage to do what's right. For shame.

Letters to the editor should be sent to [email protected].


Article sent
From: Frank Dreaver
To: [email protected]


Sunday, May 30, 1999

The Nelson Mandela of America: Imprisoned native leader Leonard Peltier finally allowed to meet Sun columnist in Leavenworth lockup

See Article By


The Nelson Mandela