Chief charged with sexual interference of minor
Longtime leader of Tsilhqot’in community influential in landmark land ruling
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.
Xeni Gwet’in First Nation chief Roger William is facing charges of sexual interference of an underage person.