Chief charged with sex­ual in­ter­fer­ence of mi­nor

Long­time leader of Tsil­hqot’in com­mu­nity in­flu­en­tial in land­mark land rul­ing

The Province - - NEWS - STEPHANIE IP sip@post­media.com twit­ter.com/stephanie_ip — With files from The Cana­dian Press

A First Na­tion chief has been charged with sex­ual in­ter­fer­ence of an un­der­age per­son.

The B.C. Pros­e­cu­tion Ser­vice an­nounced Wed­nes­day that a charge has been ap­proved against Roger Wil­liam, elected chief of Xeni Gwet’in First Na­tion, in re­la­tion to an in­ci­dent that oc­curred in May of this year in Wil­liams Lake.

Spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor Brock Mart­land was ap­pointed to the case ear­lier this week. The ap­point­ment of a spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor is meant to avoid any po­ten­tial for real or per­ceived im­proper in­flu­ence in the ad­min­is­tra­tion of jus­tice.

Mart­land pro­vides le­gal ad­vice to RCMP in­ves­ti­ga­tors, con­ducts charge as­sess­ments, and will han­dle the pros­e­cu­tion now that the charge of sex­ual in­ter­fer­ence of a per­son un­der the age of 16 has been ap­proved.

Wil­liam de­clined to com­ment but re­ferred ques­tions to his lawyer, David Rosen­berg.

Rosen­berg de­scribed Wil­liam as a “tremen­dous leader and de­voted com­mu­nity mem­ber” who was “greatly sad­dened” when he heard the ac­cu­sa­tion.

“Roger is go­ing to ve­he­mently de­fend against these charges,” Rosen­berg said in an in­ter­view. “It takes a life­time of good work to build a rep­u­ta­tion like his, and it just takes one un­founded al­le­ga­tion to de­stroy it.”

The Xeni Gwet’in First Na­tion is one of six Tsil­hqot’in com­mu­ni­ties form­ing the Tsil­hqot’in Na­tion.

Wil­liam first ran for band council upon grad­u­at­ing high school; he lost. He ran for council again just three years later and was elected.

At the age of 25, he was elected chief and has been ever since save for a brief stint in the mid 2000s. Most re­cently, Wil­liam was elected in Fe­bru­ary 2013 for a five-year term.

Wil­liam, 51, was be­hind the game-chang­ing 2014 Supreme Court of Canada law­suit that granted the Tsil­hqot’in Na­tion ti­tle to 1,750 square kilo­me­tres of Crown land in the cen­tral In­te­rior. That suit re­quired Wil­liam to rally all six Tsil­hqot’in com­mu­ni­ties to sign on be­fore the claim could go to court.

A per­son who an­swered the phone at the Xeni Gwet’in band of­fice said there was no one avail­able to com­ment on the story.

— LARRY PYNN/POST­MEDIA FILES

Xeni Gwet’in First Na­tion chief Roger Wil­liam is fac­ing charges of sex­ual in­ter­fer­ence of an un­der­age per­son.

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