134 THE ADVOCATE
VOL. 78 PART 1 JANUARY 2020
he pleaded guilty before the local lay magistrate from Ocean Falls on board
the RCMP vessel Tofino after being questioned by the RCMP for four hours.
My client said that he was told by an RCMP constable that if he told the
police “what happened you will get off easy”. He confessed, and his sister
returned $18 to the RCMP, which his mother had borrowed from a neighbour,
my client said.
The Ocean Falls magistrate promptly elevated the accused from juvenile
court to adult court and sentenced him on the same day to eight months’
definite and eight months’ indefinite to the provincial young offenders
prison system. He was found guilty of breaking and entering, an indictable
The prison guards at the Pierce Creek Forestry Camp felt that his sentence
was high for a person that age and there were doubts in their minds
that the accused had committed the offence for which he was charged.
They typed up his notice of appeal and filed it six days late.
It was at this stage that I was asked to help. I had never appeared in the
Court of Appeal, but as lawyers know, a young lawyer is probably better
equipped to appear in the Court of Appeal than he is drafting a will or
appearing in trial court. That is the way he is trained at law school.
I gathered whatever evidence I could. The Department of Indian Affairs
gave me a report on the matter. I was given a copy of a pre-sentence report
that was prepared after the boy was sentenced. The court registry provided
me with a copy of the magistrate’s report to the Court of Appeal. Finally, I
found time to drive up to the Pierce Creek Forestry Camp late one evening
in the early autumn gloom.
It was about 100 miles from Vancouver. I left Sardis and Vedder Crossing
on a narrow gravel road climbing into the Cascade Mountain Range. I kept
meeting forks in the road with no signposts of any kind. I always took the
right fork. The camp was close to Mount Slesse.
It was dark when I arrived at the prison camp. There were 40 inmates
with only two guards in charge. I was expected. A guard met me and told
me to lock my car. Apparently four prisoners had escaped while stealing a
car a few days prior. The guards were helpful. They knew I needed privacy
to interview my client, and they had cleaned out a broom closet without
windows. My client and I were given two chairs and ushered into the closet.
The door was shut.
My client was young, handsome, unbearably shy and frightened. I was
supposed to be helping him, but he never had met me, and I had never met
him. He was so painfully shy that I really never knew what happened at
Bella Bella so that my appeal would have to be one of law rather than fact.