Court hearing for Ed John on historic sex charges adjourned

The novel coronavirus pandemic has forced a further adjournment of an arraignment hearing for Indigenous leader Ed John on sex-related charges dating back more than 45 years.

Set for Wednesday, March 25 at the Prince George courthouse, it was adjourned to June 24, B.C. Prosecution Service communications counsel Dan McLaughlin confirmed.

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John faces four counts of rape - the term then used for what is now known as sexual assault -alleged to have occurred between March 1 and Sept. 15, 1974 in Prince George, Cluculz Lake and Fraser Lake, and involving one person, whose name is protected by a court-ordered publication ban.

It was the fourth time a hearing on the matter has been postponed since the charges were sworn in. A special prosecutor was appointed in February 2019 to look into the allegations and the charges were first sworn on Nov. 8, 2019.

McLaughlin said the latest adjournment was made in accordance with the directive of the Chief Judge of the Provincial Court to suspend regular court operations to help contain the pandemic.

The case is subject to a Supreme Court of Canada decision that sets ceiling of 18 months from charge to end of trial for criminal cases going through the provincial court system or 30 months for those heard in Supreme Court or after a preliminary inquiry.

McLaughlin said it would be inappropriate to speculate on whether delays caused by the crisis would count towards those totals.

John is a former leader of the First Nations Summit and former B.C. cabinet minister. He is also a hereditary chief of Tl'azt'en Nation in northern B.C. and a lawyer who holds honorary doctor of laws degrees from the University of Northern British Columbia and the University of Victoria.

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