by The Honourable Judge Steven Point
On February 25, 1999, 650 people crowded into the Evergreen Hall in Chilliwack to witness an Honouring Ceremony for Chief Steven Point. Those who were present witnessed an incredible evening full of tradition, colour, dance and sound. Everyone who attended the ceremony was there by special invitation. The invitation read: “TL’ATL’E’AXYATHOM TE STO:LO NATION” Sto:lo Nation Invites You... and “AMICHAP TH’EXWMETOXW” Please Come.
In March of this year, Judge Point will be receiving the National Aboriginal Achievement Award from the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation in recognition of his appointment to the Bench.
What an interesting experience it has been for me to become a Provincial Court Judge. It has been one year since my appointment and in that time, I was lucky enough to have already attended the so called “dumb judges school”. Although this short course is very valuable, my judicial education really began on the day I entered the court room as a judge. All of the seasoned members of the bench have been very helpful and as a result, time has passed by quickly. I have been asked to write a few words on my experiences in the North and more particularly in Prince Rupert since this is my post.
This is a community of just over 17,000, people. They seem to come from every corner of the world and at times Prince Rupert seems to be the end of the road. I have learned to see it, however, as the beginning of the road and here is why. The people at first are quiet and distant. But once they get to know you as a newcomer, their welcome is overwhelming. I like small town people. They still walk the streets at night. They still go from house to house at Christmas, singing carols to one another. The younger crowd attends a local pool hall, called the Fuzzy Monkey. At a recent swearing in ceremony of the newly elected city council, I met the Mayor and Councillors. Various delegations have come to my door with pamphlets explaining their role in the community.
Once per month, I get to travel to other inland communities such as Kitimat, Terrace, Smithers, Burns Lake, and New Ayanche. New Ayanche is a very interesting place to sit, because court is held in the local community hall with its bingo equipment on the walls. Everyone comes out to watch the court sittings. I get to change in the doorless, furnace room with the Sheriff acting as doorman. Lunch is sometimes made and sold by a local justice committee, which is fund raising for youth initiatives.
I also get to visit the Queen Charlotte Islands, also known as Haida Guai. At Skidagate the local chief and council invited me to a meeting to discuss their youth problems and some solutions. At Masset, on my last visit we were fortunate to be able to hold court in their community centre on a family matter in which the Band council wanted to be heard. The Chiefs and elders appeared in traditional blankets and a prayer and a song preceded their many speeches.
What is also very interesting of course is the float plane ride over to the island from Prince Rupert which takes about half an hour to 40 minutes. It can be very bumpy at times and cold. The ferry ride is eight hours on a good day. At the Masset registry I am usually welcomed by Linda the clerk who not only runs a very efficient ship, but bakes the best cake in town. Life on the judicial trail is never better. I am now anxiously awaiting the arrival of the whales this spring.
Well I should sign off as my time and space are quickly running out. Much thanks to Judge Dennis Schmidt, for asking me to prepare this article which has been my pleasure to write.
This article was published in the April 2000 issue of BarTalk. © 2000 The Canadian Bar Association. All rights reserved.