Hereditary Chief of Tl’azt’en Nation and former B.C. minister Edward John charged with sex assault

EDWARD John, Hereditary Chief of the Tl’azt’en Nation and former B.C. minister, has been charged with four counts of sexual assault dating back to 1974.

According to a statement from the BC Prosecution Service on Thursday, senior Vancouver lawyer Michael Klein was appointed special prosecutor on February 22 following receipt of a report to Crown Counsel relating to sexual offences alleged to have occurred in and around Prince George in 1974.

Klein has now approved four counts of having sexual intercourse with a female person without her consent. The incidents are alleged to have occurred between March 1 and September 15, 1974. John’s first appearance on this matter is scheduled for December 10 in Prince George Provincial Court.

The BCPS said: “The appointment of a special prosecutor is intended to avoid any potential for real or perceived improper influence in the administration of justice considering the nature of the allegations and the identity of the accused as a prominent Indigenous leader.”

It added: “Announcement of the appointment of the special prosecutor was initially postponed pending completion of the charge assessment and approval of charges. Following consultation with the special prosecutor and considering the specific circumstances of the case, the BCPS concluded that issuing a media statement announcing the appointment was appropriate at this time.”

John served 11 consecutive terms until June 2019 as an elected leader on the First Nations Summit Political Executive. “He is a former Expert Member of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (January 2011 – December 2016) and was involved in the development of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in September 2007,” according to the First Nations Summit website.

He was B.C. minister for children and families from November 2000 to June 2001.

THE Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) said in a statement that it “was deeply disappointed to learn today that there are reports of historic sexual violence carried out by Grand Chief Ed John, and criminal charges have been laid based on incidents that are reported to have occurred in 1974. The UBCIC does not have a direct employment relationship with Grand Chief Ed John.”

It added: “The UBCIC acknowledges the depth, emotion and complexity of the issue of sexual assault and harassment, violence against Indigenous women, healing, and women’s safety.  The UBCIC supports victims of sexual abuse to come forward and have reports addressed through the proper forums and channels, based on what is most supportive and protective of the rights of women and girls to safety. The UBCIC has consistently worked with like-minded organizations to take action and bring attention to the critical and devastating issue of violence against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people, including joining the call for a National Inquiry. Further, the UBCIC Chiefs Council has devoted substantial time and advocacy to addressing sexualized violence against Indigenous women and girls, and acknowledges that at the heart of the issue is the need to address sexual assault, violence and healing in our communities and organizations.”