"We are Not Terrorists on Our Own Land"
Young Family Was The Target of RCMP
Anti-Terrorist Raid and Search
John Rampanen and Nitanis Desjarlais and Their Children
Pictured Here Following News Conference
at University of Victoria, October 3, 2002
( In photo above John Rampanen reads a statement at UVIC news conference.
To his left is Professor Taiaike -Gerald Alfred, to John's right is David Dennis, Westcoast Warrior, and
Cheam Chief June Quipp )
"This incident confirms the concerns expressed by First Nations when the Federal Government enacted their Anti-terrorism legislation which granted greater powers to the RCMP which we knew would be used against First nations peoples." (Hupacasath First Nation statement)
" I do not Possess Firearms"
"We are Not Terrorists on Our Own Land"
"We Support Self-defence of Aboriginal Rights" . . . 24 year old John Rampanen, a founding member of Westcoast Warriors
Click Here to Read the Statement From the News Conference Aboriginal community leaders rally behind young family
( This is a .pdf file )
that was target of excessive force
News and Comment
Tehaliwaskenhas - Bob Kennedy, Oneida
Publisher, Turtle Island Native Network
It was 6 o'clock Saturday morning, September 21st when members of INSET the Integrated National Security Enforcement Team arrived in the quiet neighborhood on the outskirts of Port Alberni.
They ordered the area evacuated and then they staged a raid on the home of a member of the Westcoast Warriors Society, and during the operation, the anti-terrorist investigative unit of the RCMP searched for illegal weapons for four hours . . . during this time they caused considerable damage to the house.
So what prompted them to raid the home? They received some kind of information suggesting weapons were being stockpiled. That's all they will say, other than whatever they were told, they had no choice but to take it seriously
A statement released at a Victoria, BC news conference said, "Ms. Desjarlais was taken outside of the house and asked if she knew that John Rampanen was involved in native issues. She replied that she did, and that she herself was involved and sarcastically asked if it was a crime to be involved in native issues."
The anti-terrorist Mountie said to her, "it would be a shame for (her) children to grow up without parents."
Police Force Futility
Did they find a stockpile of illegal weapons? Absolutely none!
Instead they only found the personal belongings of a man, a woman and their three children, including a newborn. No sign of anything to warrant the action by the anti-terrorist Mounties who called in support from the RCMP Emergency Response Team, local RCMP, the fire department and ambulance personnel.
At 9:45 a.m. Saturday members of INSET along with local RCMP officers visited the residence of the parents of John Rampanen, also located in Port Alberni where John and his wife Nitanis Desjarlais were visiting. That's when the police questioned, and tried to intimidate them.
"I'm not entirely sure what the reasoning is. I have sought legal counsel on this issue and I instructed my lawyer to obtain - the information to obtain the warrant to search. Unfortunately we haven't had a response back from the RCMP. We have had all of our requests for paperwork and documentation denied by the RCMP."
In an interview with Turtle Island Native Network, John Rampanen, one of the 'commanding officers' of the Westcoast Warriors, explained that it had been only a matter of days since he returned home with Nitanis Desjarlais to Vancouver Island from the Cheam First Nation reserve where he has become a familiar figure as a fishing rights fighter since 1999.
On the evening of September 21st and the next morning, "other members of the Westcoast Warrior Society and their families were also approached by INSET officers. Similar remarks regarding the safety and concern of their children, and suggestive statements regarding firearms, were also expressed during these visits."
A Home Away From Home
Just six days after moving into their new place, the raid was conducted. "I would have to assume that it was because of myself and my family moving off of reserve that we became more vulnerable and a target," said Rampanen reacting to the curious timing of the police action against him.
Law enforcement surveillance or the type of tactics used against him last Saturday hadn't been a big problem for him at Cheam, "Definitely there was a very strong sense of security and safety from the fact of living within a very strong and united community."
( In the film footage often used to depict the troubles BC First Nations face in asserting their Aboriginal fishing rights, John's the guy who got kicked in the head by a Department of Fisheries Officer. )
The Problem of Image
Often shown masked and dressed in military fatigues, members of the Westcoast Warriors, ( and the Native Youth Movement too ) all young Aboriginals, have made a name for themselves as defenders of Indigenous Rights.
Unfortunately, they also have been labelled by mainstream media as militants, and the stories of them receiving guerilla-type training ( John Rampanen describes it as 'security training'. ) have sparked many a fantasy of an army of weapons-laden and dangerous Indians.
This in itself may be enough to trigger nervous nellies within the police community. In addition, earlier this year Stephen Owen, Secretary of State for Indian Affairs - Robert Nault's sidekick, went public with a warning that included suggestions Aboriginal youth are waiting in the wings with an agenda of hostility, not unlike young Palestinians defending their rights in the Middle East.
As well, in recent years there have been RCMP and Security Intelligence Service reports warning of a growing militant Aboriginal youth movement across the country. This, along with the burgeoning business of Aboriginal street gangs in Winnipeg and Edmonton, are responsible for spawning perceptions of wicked 'warriors' on every street corner - or lurking in the shadows around every Canadian corner.
On Saturday morning when the anti-terrorist Mounties arrived, John Rampanen and his family were not there. However, later he said an INSET officer explained, " Allegations were made that I was stockpiling arms. They claimed they didn't know who made these allegations but they acted in accordance with the seriousness of those allegations."
Young Aboriginals Who Defend Rights and Tradional Territory
"We are Not Terrorists on Our Own Land", exclaimed John Rampanen when asked by Turtle Island Native Network to respond to those allegations.
Soon to celebrate his 25th birthday, he describes himself as a "Speaker", and someone who provides alcohol and drug rehabilitation programs for Indigenous youth.
As well, "I am involved politcally through the Union of BC Indian Chiefs and I provide educational workshops for empowerment and a sense of pride for young Indigenous people."
Authorities Worry Westcoast Warriors are Angry and Aggressive
Let's be clear, we are not talking about a Boy Scout troup. By way of comment, it's no secret that the Westcoast Warriors are an aggressive organization and that, notwithstanding the good work they do with Aboriginal youth, and their principles related to rights of Indigenous Peoples - the personna of the Westcoast Warriors is what has the Mounties edgy.
Co-commander Rampanen doesn't disagree with that, "Yes, I would agree that we have been very open and we have never hidden the fact that we support self-defence of Aboriginal Rights. We have assisted in many actions that have been considered direct action or as you mentioned - aggressive."
For sure, these are not a bunch of hotheads who unleash terror at every turn without rhyme or reason. He hastens to add that the actions they have been involved in "only existed with the support, guidance of the community members, from the chiefs and councils that have requested our assistance."
Weapons and the Westcoast Warriors - Armed With Knowledge and a Voice
If the Mounties had raided Rampanen's reserve home at Cheam, would they have found anything? "No sir, the possessions that I have within my house are all of the possessions, all of my worldy possessions I could possibly have. I do not possess firearms."
He was eager, not hesitant to answer any question about weapons and the Westcoast Warriors, "Throughout all of the actions that we have been involved in, on not one occasion have we ever carried or brandished firearms. The instigating force has always been law enforcement agencies who are fully armed and equipped."
Rampanen's recent return to Vancouver Island after three years on reserve at Cheam First nation, was a 'coming home' move for him and his young family. His First Nation ties are Nuu-chah-nulth - at Ahousaht and the west coast of the Island.
Reaction to Rampanen Raid - Rebuke for RCMP
Some leaders from the Aboriginal community have condemned the recent police action against Rampanen as "excessive use of force".
Support has come from Cheam Chief June Quipp, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, and Dr. Gerald -Taiake- Alfred, a professor and a Mohawk writer and community activist.
They attended a news conference at the University of Victoria to discuss their concerns.
In a printed statement, Hupcasath First Nation Chief Judith Sayers demanded " a full investigation into this matter to assess why this incident happened, the manner in which the search occurred, and that action be taken to correct this situation."
In an open letter to Rampanen and Desjarlais, Union of BC Indian Chiefs President, Chief Stewart Phillip called their detailed account of the circumstances surrounding the search of their house and the interrogation not only appalling but also extremely disturbing. "Your case confirms our worst fears concerning the high potential for such highly questionable gestapo-style enforcement techniques demonstrated by the RCMP INSET."
Click Here to read the complete protest statements issued by Hupacasath First Nation and the Union of BC Indian Chiefs
( This is a .pdf file )
Are John Rampanen and Nitanis Desjarlais concerned about more action by police against them and other members of the Westcoast Warriors?
When asked if this sort of action was to be expected every time a malicious allegation was made in regards to Mr. Rampanen, an INSET officer replied, "after today's actions, we would have to say yes".
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