Firearms prohibition waived for work purposes

A provincial court judge has agreed to vary a prohibition against a Lake Babine Nation man so he can use a firearm while working as a security guard.

As part of a August 2016 sentencing for a series of assaults and probation breaches, Edward Herbert Williams, 41, was issued a 10-year firearms prohibition.

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As of that point, Williams had a criminal record consisting of 22 convictions showing an unbroken pattern dating back to December 2002. The record included 10 convictions for assault and one for assaulting a peace officer.

However, in deciding in favour of Williams' application, judge Judith Doulis noted none of the convictions were for firearms offences and that while many were violent and alcohol fueled, Williams' offending has abated since he attended residential treatment. Doulis also found that when he is not abusing alcohol, Williams is a contributing member to both his family and community.

Given his lack of formal education - Williams has only Grade 10 and has difficulty reading and writing - Doulis also found he has limited career options and working as a labourer will become increasingly difficult as he ages.

With help from Lake Babine Nation, Williams has enrolled in a security services training course with the College of New Caledonia and seeks to obtain work on the LNG Canada pipeline at Kitimat as a security guard.

The Criminal Code allows a judge to lift an order if the person needs a firearm to hunt for sustenance or if the order would "constitute a virtual prohibition against employment in the only vocation open to the person."

The 2016 prohibition includes an exemption for sustenance hunting and a restriction on that activity from a five-year prohibition issued in 2014 is set to expire in August.

While Doulis found that on strict reading of the provision, she doubts Williams' is being denied access to the only vocation open to him, he would still have access to a firearm by virtue of the exemption for sustenance hunting.

"I do not see how Mr. Williams having access to firearms for employment purposes would significantly increase the risk to the safety of himself or others," Doulis said in the decision, reached on April 23.

Doulis also made note of Williams' aboriginal background, saying he has "suffered much of the adverse impacts of colonialism endemic to Canada's indigenous population."

Two of his parents and both of his grandparents attended residential school and Williams was removed from his biological family and raised in foster homes between the ages of seven and 15. Although some of those foster homes were good, others were horrific, Doulis said, and added his home life was rife with alcohol abuse and domestic violence.

Since his August 2016 conviction Williams has been "working on [himself] quite a bit." Along with twice going to residential treatment, Williams has taken anger management and healthy relationship counselling.

Williams "appears to have taken positive identifiable steps to distance himself from his criminogenic past."

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