On the evening of May 22nd the North Vancouver Indigenous Court (formerly First Nations Court) held a celebration to mark the Court’s 7th anniversary and honour some of the people who have contributed to its success. During the event, the importance of the participation of the elders who sit with the court was recognized. In addition, a graduate, Melvin Jacobs, was honoured as someone who had been before the Court and was supported in his successful efforts to pursue a healthy life travelling on the Red Road, his healing path inspired by Indigenous teachings.
The evening began with a delicious salmon dinner. Pastor Eugene Harry and Andrew Van Eden were the speakers. The ceremony began with the honourees being blanketed and provided with headbands.
Dave Vallance and Anca Lubinetti (B.C. Corrections) donated ten of the blankets used in the ceremony. The blankets were sewn by clients in the tailor shop at Surrey Pretrial Services Centre. Ms. Labuneti is a Correctional Instructor from Surrey Pretrial Services Centre and Dave Vallance is the Vancouver Regional Director for Community Corrections. They shared the story of the blankets and how they are made with those in attendance.
The blankets symbolize the arms of ancestors wrapping around you and whose teachings will guide you on your path. The headbands are used to hold your thoughts together to help you to remember the ceremony. They also serve to remind us who was present and stood by us.
The honourees were led into the hall by six females in traditional regalia who drummed and sang a song blessing the path of the honourees. The procession went three times around a circle of cedar laid on the floor which symbolized stepping into a new life or taking a new path. Pastor Eugene Harry then led everyone in a prayer following which the people in attendance were welcomed and the purpose of the ceremony was described.
The honourees were asked to introduce themselves and tributes were made to them by the speakers. The elders who sit with the court - Doris Paul, Eugene Harry, Linda Williams, Darryl Baker and Karen Lewis - were introduced and acknowledged.
Melvin Jacobs was specially honoured by his uncle George Jacobs and presented with a certificate of achievement by Judge Joanne Challenger.
The traditional name of the Court “Chet wa nexwníw ̓ ta S7eḵw’í7tel” (We are giving family good advice) was introduced by Aaron Williams, a speaker and teacher of the Squamish language who assisted in developing the name.
Judge Challenger and Judge Alexander Wolf who sit in the Court, Ariana Ward (Crown counsel) David Walsoff and Mike Smith (defense counsel), Robert Clydesdale (Native Court Worker), Fardad Angha (Sheriff), Colleen Johnson (Court Clerk), Karen Carney (Registry Clerk), Sergeant Mike Ashcroft (Integrated First Nations Unit), Corrine Hunt (Aboriginal Victims Assistance Worker and unofficial Indigenous Court Facilitator), Nicole Binnie (Community Corrections) and Denise Billy (Legal Services Society intake worker) were the honourees along with graduate Melvin Jacobs and Squamish Nation elder George Jacobs.
The ceremony was attended by Provincial Court of BC Chief Judge Melissa Gillespie, Assistant Deputy Attorney General Peter Juk Q.C. , Local Manager of North Shore Community Corrections Rob Gregoire, North Vancouver Court Manager Shelia Nevin, Inspector Bhatti of the North Vancouver RCMP, Rhea Bailey, Lynn McBride and Gail Murray from the Legal Services Society, Grant Wong and Adrienne Lee, senior Crown Counsel and Lara Condello from NVIT. There were many others present representing the Chief and Council from the Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations as well as many friends, family members and community members.
Thanks go to Doris Paul, Eugene Harry, Linda Williams, Darryl Baker and Karen Lewis (Court Elders), Andrew Van Eden and Julie Wright, (Justice Workers for the Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish Nations respectively), Corrine Hunt and Nicole Binnie (Community Corrections) who volunteered their time and energy to organize the celebration and to develop a traditional name for the Court.
Thanks also go to the Squamish Nation who provided use of the Chief Joe Mathias Centre at no cost and also donated salmon for the dinner, the cedar boughs and pin money for miscellaneous expenses.
Others who contributed include Pastor Eugene Harry, the Tsleil- Waututh Nation, the Legal Services Society, the Office of the Chief Judge of the Provincial Court and the Ministry of the Attorney General. Kevin Rivers provided the catering on a cost only basis; Sheriffs Craig Wilmott and Ashley Mathieson provided security; and many other members of both Nations volunteered to assist with parking, welcoming, seating and other tasks.
The wide range of contributors and people attending the anniversary celebration was a testament to the support in both the First Nations and wider communities for the North Vancouver Indigenous Court