UPDATED: Nov 6th 2021
Many local people are asking that question this morning after reading the article posted by the National Post.
The National Post must have had a reporter watching via a video link. We were not allowed inside so we have to base our views completely on what the article by the National Post contains. So we will break down what is in that article, and share with you what we read into this judgment.
The very first point of concern was the title “ ‘Deeply I apologize’: B.C. chief“ OK let’s set aside that is is not about the position of chief, or is it? Regardless we will set that aside and deal with the rest first. If John Ridsdale was truly sorry, why was the judge aware of it sooner than that of his victim? Meaning why did it take since February of this year, that is 8 months plus for his victim to hear that apology?
Only a few hours after his court appearance John appeared arrogant and assertive as the official voice of the Wet’suwet’en Nation in speaking on camera in a live interview with APTN. (starts at the 18 minute mark) His facial expressions were astounding for a man who just played the “I am sorry” role for the judge” clearly now off the hook, he went right back to his disregard for Canadian law. Accusing the RCMP of intentional harassment on roads leading to the CGL pipeline construction area. Is he sorry? Only as long as he was playing the role regarding his sentence is our interpretation.
Next the line from National Post “John Ridsdale is already in the midst of atoning for his actions according to the traditions of British Columbia’s Indigenous Wet’suwet’en people.“ Our reaction is seriously? Going back in time a bit, the victim mentioned being pressured by local Hagwilget band to drop charges against Ridsdale, was that atonement too? John Ridsdale has a history of inventing Wet’suwet’en rules and traditions at his own convenience, so what we are hearing is that taking a 6 week wilderness vacation in the summer is a satisfactory exchange for the jail time he would have received if he was a white man? No mention of if that location was a luxury resort, remote cabin or a tent, was this never disclosed to the judge or did the reporter simply omit that part?
Next part of that line “The hereditary chief spent six weeks by himself on the land in northern B.C. after shooting dead a neighbour’s dog while drunk and has planned a “shame feast” to further express his remorse.” No mention at all about an alcohol addiction, no mention about alcohol restrictions, and then the part about shame feast. All feasts are paid for by the clan hosting the feast, so will John bear the costs, or will his extended family (clan) simply buy exoneration for him?
Next line “He also must undergo anger management and violence counselling.“ So clearly we have a man who has anger issues, we grew up calling that temper tantrums, but when you add in violence, that is a dangerous recipe for disaster. This condition did not start with the killing of that dog or end when it was dead, obviously people all around him were exposed to it every time John was drunk, and that is an issue locals know more about than was talked about at that hearing. Our guess as we did not get to hear the conversation regarding John Ridsdale’s drinking problem, however no mention is made of it in this article or in the judgment.
Next from the article ““My actions were beyond what I have ever done in my life. Deeply and truly, I do apologize for all I brought upon them,” a sombre Ridsdale told court in Smithers, B.C., by video link. “Any such incident should never have happened and never will happen again.” So obviously John Ridsdale did not even have to attend court, how privileged is that?
Seriously John? We did grow up in the same community together, so you could have added, “beyond anything I was ever previously charged with or is on public record”, if your going to be honest.
Up till now its all small stuff compared to this next few lines by the National Post.
“A local Indigenous court led by elders had asked the outside courts to handle the matter because they considered it “too politically sensitive,” said defence lawyer Michael Murphey.
Prosecutor Kristina King said the Crown might normally have asked for a jail term because the circumstances were “so serious,” but mitigating factors justified the three-year suspended sentence instead.”
In my life I have heard a lot of good ones, but this one had me asking questions as I had never heard of a “A local Indigenous court” so it was time to investigate. Locals know that the Wet’suwet’en Nation extends from Hagwilget on the west to Burns Lake on the east, so we decided to ask well known and active Wet’suwet’en matriarchs about this local indigenous court and here is what we learned.
On the east side on the Wet’suwet’en Nation, the reply was they never heard of it, on the west side we learned something very interesting, let me post what we learned verbatim.
“The Wet’suwet’en Unlocking Aboriginal Justice Program (WUAJ) is a community-driven restorative justice project initiated and operated by members of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, in northwest British Columbia, Canada. The WUAJ was first developed in 1992, in response to the Wet’suwet’en people’s dissatisfaction with the Canadian judicial system and the disproportionate number of Aboriginal people involved in the federal and provincial court systems. The population of the Wet’suwet’en Nation is approximately 5,000. A matrilineal descent group, the Wet’suwet’en is made up of five clans: Laksilyu—Small Frog, Gilseyhu—Frog, Tsayu—Beaver, Gitdumden—Bear and Laksamishu—Fireweed, which are subdivided into 13 houses.”
Now that said I spoke with one of the members who created this program, and learned that the last time they ever heard about this program was back in 2014 and it became part of the Office of Wet’suwet’en (seriously you cannot make this stuff up) Application form is still here in PDF format.
Our contact was on the WUAJ team locally and based on this comment from the National Post story “Also known as Chief Namoks, he believed the dog, though it had not bitten anyone, was dangerous and had frightened many of the village’s children, said Murphey.” came to the following conclusion. Let me quote verbatim “he didn’t meet the criteria eighth from the beginning cause he didn’t take full responsibility, and still doesn’t by the sounds of his statement in court, he minimized it and tried to claim the dog attacked him”
This leaves a massive hole in this judgment, who is running the Wet’suwet’en Unlocking Aboriginal Justice Program? Is that the same group the “Local Indigenous Court” who are these people, why does no one appear to know about their existence? Has the proverbial wool been pulled over the courts eyes?
If you know the answer, Please enlighten us so we can enlighten the Wet’suwet’en Nation, as they do not seem to know of its existence either, if its not the same as the Wet’suwet’en Unlocking Aboriginal Justice Program (WUAJ)
We are not done yet.
From the National Post verbatim.
“Prosecutor Kristina King said the Crown might normally have asked for a jail term because the circumstances were “so serious,” but mitigating factors justified the three-year suspended sentence instead.”
So “mitigating factors justified“ let me interpret that, my opinion only, that if you were white, you would have gone to jail, and because of your campaign against the pipeline, you are exonerated from the same punishment others would have received. Does that mean the judge believes that the Wet’suwet’en Nation as a whole support John’s vision of no pipelines?
From the National Post verbatim.
She also requested that the dog-killing weapon not be confiscated as normally would be the case, saying the gun is a family heirloom and integral to traditional hunting practices. It will be safeguarded by another family member.”
Seriously? I get it the weapon is a family heirloom, but was that the justification for not losing the gun? Is this a new president on gun crimes for all Canadians? Or was this decision totally based on John being aboriginal?
I fail to understand why a family heirloom is required to protect his traditional hunting practices? In every case in history that I am aware of, the gun used in a crime is confiscated, why is John the exception?
I also question how will the victim be assured that John will not be able to get that gun, the family heirloom any time he so wishes?
OK then, in our uneducated opinion, we/I feel the judge was duped, so where do we go from here?
Not so long ago John Ridsdale was the mastermind behind the blanket removal of three Wet’suwet’en women for the crime of supporting the LNG pipeline, none of these three women ever had a criminal record. By blanket we need readers to know that this means the loss of rights and title to their lands.
The question the Wet’suwet’en Nation needs to be asking is, does this offence that should have garnered jail time, result in John Ridsdale having his blanket removed? If not then clearly the legitimacy of all Hereditary Chiefs will be called into question.
Does being a Hereditary Chief place you above the law, if so how can any Hereditary Chief disrobe another? If justice is to be served, then John must be disrobed and the legitimacy of the women’s titles restored. at very least they committed no criminal offence.
Addendum: Nov 6th 2021
Since the writing of this article we discovered that John Ridsdale claimed to have consulted the other hereditary chiefs in regards to what he should do in regards to atoning for his actions. The other hereditary chiefs were members of the Gang of Five that were led by Ridsdale who ousted other hereditary chiefs over a political issue. No hereditary chief east of Smithers, and there are a number of them, were consulted or are ever recognized by the Gang of Five. The first one that comes to mind is Hereditary Chief Helen Michelle of Skin Tyee Nation who also speaks out against the Gang of Five. At best this was a collaboration, and not an atonement at all, well played indeed, the judge bought it.
Then an outright lie
“The lawyer also noted that his client’s suffered the effects of having one parent who suffered horribly in residential schools and another who was dispatched to a farm at an early age to provide what was likely free labour. Ridsdale himself escaped being sent to one of the schools because his parents had the children hide in the bush when authorities came to collect them, said the lawyer.”
John Ridsdale is 63 years old, compulsory attendance at residential school ended long before John was born, compulsory attendance ended in 1948. John would have had to be older that 73 years of age in order for his story to be true. Yes residential schools did operate here the Lejac Residential School closed in 1976, however contrary to the claims made in order to get him off the hook for his criminal offences his parents would not have had to hide him as per his claims, unless he lied about his age and he is actually over 73 years of age. Seriously John went to the same elementary school I did only many years later.
How is it possible that the crown lawyer could have missed something so blatantly obvious?
It makes me have to ask is the lawyer seriously qualified to work on behalf of the crown if they make serious oversights like this one? Is there no need to fact check what people say in a courtroom any more? I did not dig those facts about residential schools out of a hat, they are available to every lawyer including crown counsel.
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