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Elders give drug trafficker a scolding in Indigenous court

Shawn Brian Omark Whaling faces sentencing on two drug-related counts and for possessing a restricted firearm

Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct information about Whaling's employment status.

A man who faces sentencing in Indigenous court after pleading guilty to drug and gun-related charges received a scolding Tuesday with one elder questioning whether it is the appropriate venue for the case.

Shawn Brian Omark Whaling, 31, has pleaded to two counts of possessing cocaine for the purpose of trafficking and one count of possessing a restricted firearm from a pair of arrests in July 2019.

The gun seized was a loaded .357 magnum, prompting one elder to say she had "mixed feelings" about whether the matter should dealt with through Indigenous court. The number of homicide investigations that have been opened in Prince George so far this year was also noted in her comments.

Whaling, a member of the Takla First Nation, was also admonished for selling illicit drugs. "You're killing your own people," another elder commented.

Whaling's lawyer, Rob Climie, received some blow-back when he urged elders to "consider" that the charges involved cocaine and rather than fentanyl and methamphetamine. In response, elders said they've seen first-hand the damage cocaine has created, particularly as a gateway to more addictive drugs.

In his defence, Whaling said he's "no longer that person," due to his faith. Whaling is not employed but has earned a class one driver's licence.

Offenders dealt with through Indigenous court are typically sentenced to terms served in the community with conditions and with periodic follow-up appearances to give elders a chance to assess their progress.

The appearance acted as an introductory session. A second hearing is scheduled for the first Tuesday in September when elders hope to hear from Whaling's mother and the mother of his child as well as more from Whaling himself about who he is and what his plans and goals may be.

One of the possession charges comes from a July 5, 2019 arrest when RCMP executed search warrants on two homes in Prince George as part of an investigation into a dial-a-dope investigation.

Following a lengthy trial in B.C. Supreme Court, co-accused Marshall Luther Cade and John Jacob Ceal were found guilty of various drug-related charges and face sentencing in November.

The gun charge and the additional drug-related count stem from a July 26, 2019 arrest.