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Woman questions court’s authority in incident involving VicPD chief

Kati George-Jim is charged with obstructing police as they tried to arrest a person believed to have thrown water on the police chief at a memorial.
The Victoria courthouse. TIMES COLONIST

A T’Sou-ke woman on trial for obstructing Victoria police officers trying to arrest another person believed to have thrown water on the chief of police told court Monday she is representing not just herself, but other Indigenous people who will come after her.

xʷ is xʷ čaa, pronounced wis-waa-cha, who is also known as Kati George-Jim, faces a charge of obstruction in relation to a Sept. 18, 2021 incident at the B.C. legislature. Her arrest followed a march seeking justice for Chantel Moore, a 26-year-old Tla-o-qui-aht woman shot to death by New Brunswick police in 2020. VicPD Chief Del Manak was invited to the memorial by Moore’s mother and was honoured in a blanket ceremony.

After the ceremony, Manak, who was not in uniform, was approached by a woman who poured liquid on him from behind.

A description of the suspect as an Indigenous woman wearing a cast was broadcast to officers at the legislature.

Const. Cody Lapierre testified Monday he was working at the legislature with the public safety unit, which he described as dealing with protests and public disorder.

Lapierre said he didn’t wit­ness the incident ­involving Manak but he received a description of a suspect in a radio broadcast. He saw a woman with a leg cast and walked toward her group.

Video played for the court showed a chaotic scene after police approached the group and attempted to arrest the woman wearing a cast.

About five people formed a circle around her, linking arms to prevent officers from reaching her. Lapierre identified George-Jim as one of the people in the group who had linked arms. Officers can be heard on the video saying the woman is under arrest.

“She’s absolutely not,” someone responded. “Not happening. This is absolutely not OK,” another person can be heard saying.

The video showed Lapierre grabbing the arm of one woman, in a move he called an “arm lock,” to remove her from the group and get to the woman in the middle. People in the group can be heard in the video screaming for help and yelling that the officers are attacking them.

Officers told them they’re all obstructing an arrest. Video showed George-Jim handcuffed, swearing and screaming at officers to get off of her, before she was carried by four officers into a police vehicle.

Representing herself in Victoria provincial court Monday, George-Jim was wearing blue jeans and a black hoodie with the words: “Canada is an illegal occupation built on genocide.” She introduced herself with her given name, xʷ is xʷ čaa.

“I am of this land,” she said. “These are my homelands. This name derives its meaning, its purpose and its history from these lands.”

George-Jim intends to mount an argument against the charge based on Charter issues and her rights as an Indigenous person.

“If people don’t bring these things up, the system will be continuously working for stealing land and removing Native people from it to weaken the ability for Native people to continue living on their homeland,” she said in a courtroom filled with her supporters.

George-Jim and her supporters remained sitting, instead of standing as is custom in court, when provincial court Judge Lisa Mrozinski entered and exited the room.

At times during George-Jim’s cross examination of police witnesses, Mrozinski said she couldn’t see the relevance of her line of questioning and asked her to remain on topic.

The atmosphere turned briefly tense when George-Jim dropped a question, saying, “Never mind.”

Mrozinski asked her to remain civil.

“Civil? As a Native person you’re asking me to be civil? In this court where I’m being criminalized?” George-Jim responded.

The trial continues Tuesday.

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