Wagamese enters surprise guilty pleas
The celebrated native author facing a pair of drunk-driving charges stemming from incidents in Kamloops last year entered surprise guilty pleas in court on Friday (May 20).
Richard Wagamese, known legally as Richard Gilkinson, pleaded guilty in Kamloops provincial court to two counts of care or control of a vehicle while impaired.
The 56-year-old was charged after a pair of incidents in Kamloops on March 1 and March 6, 2010.
He was slated to stand trial on one of the counts on Friday.
In court, defence lawyer Michelle Stanford said Wagamese hopes to be sentenced with "circle sentencing," which is a First Nations' ceremony in which the offender confronts his victim.
Stanford said the Criminal Code sentencing standards will still apply, and the ceremony, if it goes through, will be overseen by a judge.
Because there are no direct victims of Wagamese's impaired driving, she said he hopes community representatives will take the place of the victims to show that drunk driving has an impact on the community as a whole.
Kamloops provincial court Judge Terry Shupe gave Stanford one month to research circle sentencing and figure out how to arrange for it to take place.
Shupe also noted it must be approved by the community — in this case the T'Kemlups Indian Band.
Stanford said outside court she's never seen a circle sentencing take place, but she's familiar with their effectiveness.
"It's a restorative process, so everybody has the opportunity to be heard," she said.
"From what I understand, it's supposed to be very effective and emotional."
Wagamese is the former host of the CFJC-TV7 series One Native Life, and is considered one of Canada's foremost aboriginal authors and journalists, with a career spanning 30 years.
He has published several books, including the award-winning novels Keeper 'n Me, Dream Wheels and Ragged Company.
Last summer, he was recognized with an honourary doctorate from Thompson Rivers University.
Wagamese is scheduled to return to court on June 23.