In February, 1976, Leonard Peltier, an American Indian Movement [AIM] activist, was arrested and brought to Vancouver for extradition to the United States. The charges were the murders of two FBI agents as a result of a shootout that occurred on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation on June 25, 1975. [The Pine Ridge shootout has been the subject of a book by Peter Matthiessen called In the Spirit of Crazy Horse and a film by Robert Redford called Incident at Oglala.]
Peter Grant worked as an articled student and then as a lawyer as part of a defence legal team fighting Mr. Peltier’s extradition and taking the case to appeal in the Federal Court of Appeal. The legal team consisted of two counsel and four articling students and was a seminal experience for Peter Grant in working on a major case as part of a legal team.
It was also a seminal experience in learning of the efforts by the state in endeavouring to appropriate lands from aboriginal peoples. In the case of Pine Ridge, one of the longstanding issues has been the protection by the Oglala Sioux of the Black Hills which had been protected for them under the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty.
Mr. Grant, upon his call to the bar, commenced a lawsuit against British Columbia for cruel and unusual punishment as Mr. Peltier had been kept in solitary confinement for almost the entire time that he was awaiting extradition at Oakalla Prison in Burnaby, British Columbia. That case did not go to trial as Mr. Peltier was extradited prior to the matter being heard by the Courts.
Leonard Peltier was extradited on the basis of fabricated evidence of a supposed eye witness. The United States government has subsequently acknowledged that the affidavit evidence was fabricated.