Court hearing for Ed John on historic sex charges postponed

Chief's hearing pushed back

An arraignment hearing for Indigenous leader Ed John on sex-related charges dating back more than 40 years was adjourned Wednesday at the request of Crown counsel.

John faces four counts of rape, alleged to have occurred between March 1 and Sept. 15, 1974 in Prince George, Cluculz Lake and Fraser Lake, and involving one person, whose name is protected by a court-ordered publication ban.

During a brief hearing in Prince George provincial court, Crown counsel Michael Klein told the court he is waiting for a piece of information that may advance discussions between Crown and defence counsels and asked for more time.

Judge Michael Gray agreed to adjourn the matter to March 25 but in the process urged Klein to have the matter ready for the hearing on that date, noting the charges were first sworn on Nov. 8, 2019, meaning the case is now four months old.

He also made note of a Supreme Court of Canada decision that sets a ceiling of 18 months from charge to end of trial for criminal cases going through the provincial court system or 30 months for those heard in Supreme Court or after a preliminary inquiry.

John did not appear for the hearing and Klein and defense counsel Tony Paisana, who made no comment on the matter, participated by phone. It's the fourth time a hearing on the matter has been postponed since the charges were sworn in.

The B.C. Prosecution Service appointed Klein special prosecutor in February 2019 to look into the allegations.

At arraignment hearings, the accused tells the court whether they will plead guilty or not guilty to the charges and how they wish to proceed.

If the offence is indictable - which carries a more serious sentence - the accused has the right to choose his or her mode of trial. The choices are trial by provincial court judge, B.C. Supreme Court judge alone or B.C. Supreme Court judge and jury.

If the accused chooses to be tried in Supreme Court, a preliminary inquiry is held in provincial court to determine if there is enough evidence to order the accused to be tried in Supreme Court.

If the accused pleads guilty, the sentencing may happen that day or be adjourned to a future date while a pre-sentence report and victim impact statements are prepared for the hearing.

John is a former leader of the First Nations Summit and former B.C. cabinet minister. He is also a hereditary chief of Tl'azt'en Nation in northern B.C. and a lawyer who holds honorary doctor of laws degrees from the University of Northern British Columbia and the University of Victoria.

John completed his eleventh consecutive term as an elected leader of the First Nations Summit's political executive in June 2019. He did not seek re-election but continued as an advisor on contract with the organization, one of the largest Indigenous organizations in the province.

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