Indigenous Court opens in Williams Lake

After several years in the making an Indigenous Court opened in Williams Lake on Friday, Dec. 11 at the Elks Hall on First Avenue South. (Rebecca Dyok photo)After several years in the making an Indigenous Court opened in Williams Lake on Friday, Dec. 11 at the Elks Hall on First Avenue South. (Rebecca Dyok photo)
Indigenous Court in Williams Lake opened at the Elks Hall on Friday, Dec. 11. (BC Gov Youtube image)Indigenous Court in Williams Lake opened at the Elks Hall on Friday, Dec. 11. (BC Gov Youtube image)
Esk’etemc First Nation Chief Fred Robbins helps lead a smudging ceremony at the Elks Hall which will house Indigenous Court in Williams Lake. (BC Gov Youtube image)Esk’etemc First Nation Chief Fred Robbins helps lead a smudging ceremony at the Elks Hall which will house Indigenous Court in Williams Lake. (BC Gov Youtube image)

B.C’s seventh Indigenous Court is now open in Williams Lake.

The specialized court, which provides sentencing for Indigenous individuals who accept responsibility for their actions through a restorative and holistic system of justice focused on healing and balance for the accused, opened Friday, Dec. 11.

Little Chiefs Primary School students led an opening song and prayer in Friday’s virtual soft opening of the court, housed in the Elks Hall, prior to speeches from local and provincial dignitaries.

Williams Lake First Nation Chief Willie Sellars said the legacy of the project and work put into its creation by the Yeqox Nilin Justice Society — a Williams Lake-based organization aimed at strengthening traditional approaches to justice and peacemaking — will be celebrated for many years to come.

Society executive director Samantha-Jo Dick called it a historic day celebrating a win for the four Nations surrounding the Williams Lake area, including the Tsilhqot’in, Northern Secwepemc, Southern Dakelh and Métis.

“From this point forward, we will have a space to incorporate our own traditional practices and healing,” Dick said after thanking everyone for helping to make the court become a reality, including Dave Dickson, Rod Hawkins and Jim World who initially started the groundwork.

“In the past 10 years that I’ve worked in our justice system, I’ve watched people succeed, but I’ve also watched them fail,” she said.

“My heart goes out to those who are still struggling with their past traumas, to those who are stuck in a revolving door of the justice system.”

Overrepresentation of Indigenous people in B.C’s criminal justice system is a product of inter-generational trauma, systemic discrimination, and communities’ challenges said Attorney General David Eby.

“That is is why it’s so vital to have elders participating in this process and ensuring that we’re talking about restorative justice, and addressing the roots of why the person is involved with the criminal justice system rather than ignoring those roots and just hoping things will get better on there own,” Eby said.

Elders who have completed training for Williams Lake Indigenous Court include Mary Alphonse, Sandra Dickson, Irvine Johnson, Charlotte Gilbert, Phyllis Rosette, Doreen Harry, Alex Norquay, Wayne Lucier and Joan Gentles.

All of the elders participated in traditional blanketing ceremonies last week to represent the work that they are doing and will do in the future.

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

“This court will focus on building supportive relationships with Indigenous leaders, elders and the community to bring Indigenous beliefs, culture and traditions in developing healing plans to support Indigenous people who come to the courts,” said Chief Provincial Court Judge Melissa Gillespie.

Friday’s virtual opening will be followed by the court’s first sitting in which all three accused —David Gibbons, Kylene Johnny and Derrick O’Connor have entered guilty pleas.

An Indigenous Court will open in 2021 in Hazelton.

Do you have a comment about this story? email:

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

IndigenousLaw and justice

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Williams Lake and the Chilcotin is part of a community cluster declared by Interior Health Jan. 20, 2021. (Angie Mindus file photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
53 more COVID-19 cases linked to ‘social gatherings’ in Williams Lake: Interior Health

Cariboo Chilcotin schools have seen a surge in COVID-19 exposures

Interior Health reported 79 new cases of COVID-19 and two new death in the region Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (Ben Hohenstatt/Juneau Empire)
79 new COVID-19 cases, two deaths reported in Interior Health

Both of Friday’s deaths were both recorded at long-term care homes

Esk’etemc First Nation (Alkali Lake) Chief Fred Robbins takes part in Secwepemc Health Caucus’s “Raising Our Spirits” ceremony Friday, Jan. 22. (Secwepemc Health Caucus Facebook image)
Secwepemc Nation raises spirits through song

More than 150 join virtual ceremony

Carla Bullinger says that sometimes keeping our language simple is the most efficient way to communicate with one another. (Photo submitted)
REACH A READER 2021: Literacy matters now more than ever

There is no way to tell just by looking at someone whether they have literacy challenges

Angus Wellburn, 4, and his sister, Ida, 1, with their mom, Jane Wellburn, read a children’s story posted on the window of the Williams Lake Library as part of an ongoing literacy week display. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
REACH-A-READER 2021: Family literacy – stretching the moment

What does Family Literacy actually mean and why is it so important?

Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021 is International Lego Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 24 to 30

Lego Day, Talk Like a Grizzled Prospector Day and Puzzle Day are all coming up this week

A video posted to social media by Chilliwack resident Rob Iezzi shows a teenager getting kicked in the face after being approached by three suspects on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (YouTube/Rob i)
VIDEO: Security cameras capture ‘just one more assault’ near B.C. high school

Third high-school related assault captured by Chilliwack resident’s cameras since beginning of 2021

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. A mythical, ape-like creature that has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades has now become the target of Rep. Justin Humphrey. Humphrey, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season, He says issuing a state hunting license and tag could help boost tourism. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes ‘Bigfoot’ hunting season

A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season

Economic Development and Official Languages Minister Melanie Joly responds to a question in the House of Commons Monday November 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal minister touts need for new B.C. economic development agency

Last December’s federal economic update promised a stimulus package of about $100 billion this year

FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2017, file photo, Larry King attends the 45th International Emmy Awards at the New York Hilton, in New York. Former CNN talk show host King has been hospitalized with COVID-19 for more than a week, the news channel reported Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. CNN reported the 87-year-old King contracted the coronavirus and was undergoing treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File)
Larry King, broadcasting giant for half-century, dies at 87

King conducted an estimated 50,000 on-air interviews

BC Coroners Service is currently investigating a death at Canoe Cove Marina and Boatyard in North Saanich. (Black Press Media File)
Drowning death in North Saanich likely B.C.’s first in for 2021

Investigation into suspected drowning Monday night continues

Kimberly Proctor, 18, was murdered in 2010. Her family has spent many of the years since pushing for a law in her honour, that they say would help to prevent similar tragedies. (Courtesy of Jo-Anne Landolt)
Proposed law honouring murdered B.C. teen at a standstill, lacks government support

Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions has concerns with involuntary detainment portion of act

Sunnybank in Oliver. (Google Maps)
Sunnybank long-term care in Oliver reports third COVID-19 death

The facility currently has an outbreak with 35 cases attached to it

Most Read