The Williams Lake Court House. Monica Lamb-Yorski photo.

COVID-19 delays opening of Indigenous Court in Williams Lake

A new opening date is unknown

The grand opening of B.C.’s long awaited Indigenous Court in Williams Lake has been postponed due to the novel coronavirus.

The May 1 opening of the Williams Lake Indigenous Court has been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s directions to limit gatherings at this time, said the Ministry of Attorney General.

Samantha Dick is the executive director of Yeqox Nilin Justice Society and has been an advocate for the Indigenous Court, which aims to reduce the over representation of Indigenous peoples in B.C. jails by providing meaningful, culturally appropriate alternative sentencing.

“When we first started hearing more about how serious the COVID-19 situation was I had no problems postponing it due to the safety and health concerns of our elders and anyone who wanted to attend,” said Dick.

“It is a shame that we have to postpone but there’s nothing we really can do about that. We just have to play it day by day, week by week, and then hopefully when we are able to start going back to work we can start planning again on when the new grand opening and first sitting will be in Williams Lake.”

Read More: Attorney General announces new Indigenous court for Williams Lake

The new opening date is unknown. The Ministry said the British Columbia Provincial Court Chief Judge will base this decision on information from the government and Dr. Henry.

Ten elders from across the Cariboo Chilcotin region received training in advance of the opening.

“I think when we do get the go ahead and the timeline of when the Indigenous Court will have its first sitting in Williams Lake I want to do a meet and greet with all the elders,” Dick said. “I know they all know each other but just so they can see the faces of who was chosen to sit on that table and we can discuss the ceremony and any questions or concerns that they may have.”

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