Williams Lake First Nation holds a blanketing ceremony for Indigenous Court elders Mary Alphonse (left) and Sandra Dickson (right). (Faith Myers photo)

Williams Lake First Nation holds a blanketing ceremony for Indigenous Court elders Mary Alphonse (left) and Sandra Dickson (right). (Faith Myers photo)

Soft opening scheduled for Williams Lake Indigenous Court

First sitting to take place Friday, Dec. 11

Williams Lake Indigenous Court will have its first sitting at the Elks Hall following a virtual soft opening Friday, Dec. 11.

“We’ve reached the finish line,” said Yeqox Nilin Justice Society executive director Samantha-Jo Dick. “I’m excited.”

Yeqox Nilin Justice Society has worked towards establishing such a court within the Williams Lake area for the past six years.

The specialized court does not conduct trials, but provides collaborative and holistic sentencing to assist offenders in rehabilitation while reducing their tendency to re-offend and acknowledging and repairing the harm done to victims and the community, noted B.C’s Provincial Court.

Friday’s soft opening on Youtube will feature prerecorded videos of the nine court elders taking part in blanketing ceremonies held last week.

Here it is!! Yeqox Nilin Justice Society invites you to the virtual soft opening ceremony for Indigenous Court!!
6 years in the making!

Posted by Yeqox Nilin Justice Society on Tuesday, December 8, 2020

“I’m happy to assist in whatever way I can to see our people continue healing,” said Tl’esqox elder Joan Gentles who wore a ribbon skirt and cowboy hat while she was blanketed at the Tsilhqot’in National Government’s South Lakeside office in Williams Lake.

Surrounding First Nations chiefs will also provide a speech on how they believe the court will benefit their membership.

The only part of the virtual ceremony that will not be prerecorded will be a prayer and welcome to the Williams Lake First Nation’s traditional territory livestreamed from Elks Hall.

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

After the soft opening, four elders, including Gentles, will participate in the court’s first sitting.

“At this time, it will be closed to the public,” Dick said, noting COVID-19 provincial guidelines. “But we’re hoping that once things get better, we will more than welcome anyone who wants to sit in and see how the process works,” she said.

A grand opening will take place at a later date.

Starting January, sittings will be held at the Elks Hall every first Thursday of the month. The nine elders will be rotated every three months.

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