Judge orders 'contract' with TIB after aboriginal sentencing circle
Emotions ran high inside a gymnasium on the Tk'emlups Indian Band reserve today (Sept. 20) as the band held its first-ever aboriginal sentencing circle.
Douglas Jensen was convicted earlier this year of six offences — including assaulting a peace officer, dangerous driving and possession of stolen property, all stemming from an incident on Valentine's Day 2011.
The 35-year-old, who is on the Kamloops RCMP's list of prolific offenders, drove a stolen Ford F-350 into a house on the TIB reserve prior to a high-speed chase with police, during which he drove the truck at a constable.
Jensen was in custody for 19 months following his arrest after that incident, prior to being released on bail earlier this week.
During opening remarks at the start of the sentencing-circle ceremony, Jensen broke down in tears while describing his past — which includes more than 50 criminal convictions.
"I'm sorry for what I've done," he said.
"I know I was wrong for what I've done, and I take responsibility.
"They [the police] could have shot me or something, because of the way I was acting."
The sentencing circle was made up of 21 people, including Jensen, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Ian Meiklem, defence lawyer Sheldon Tate, Crown prosecutor Iain Currie, Kamloops rural RCMP Staff Sgt. Doug Aird, TIB lawyer Linda Thomas and TIB Chief Shane Gottfriedson.
The chief stressed the importance Jensen succeed in his sentence, given the fact his is the band's first sentencing circle.
"The province is working with us and the justice system is working with us so we can provide our own justice in our own community," he said.
"I know the public is not very keen on us having our sentencing circle, they're not keen on us having our own justice.
"But, you know what? That's them. We need to have our own Indian governance."
Crown and defence had agreed Jensen's 19 months behind bars were sufficient, so the circle sentencing was essentially to determine probation length and conditions.
Aird, the lone RCMP representative at the ceremony, suggested a two-year term, while most others thought 18 months was appropriate.
"You spent a lot of your life in jail," Aird said to Jensen in making his probation recommendation.
"What I'd like to see is an extended period of community [service] hours — in this band, not in Kamloops, not downtown — maybe 300."
Gottfriedson, meanwhile, suggested a condition requiring Jensen to put some thought into his future.
"My recommendation is you put a goal-setting plan in place with timelines," he said.
"Your personal goals, your educational goals, your cultural goals, your family goals, your goals with your child, your wellness goals, your physical goals."
Other recommendations were for Jensen to undergo counselling, anger management, addictions treatment and traditional native ceremonies, in addition to coaching band youth in sports, creating First Nations art and writing letters of apology to the Mounties whose lives he endangered.
By law, any probation order imposed by Meiklem cannot extend longer than three years. However, Gottfriedson suggested Jensen enter into a contract with the band to cover a four-year set of conditions over and above his probationary term.
He said that term has special significance in native life.
"In our culture, our traditions, our customs, it's four seasons, four years," he said.
"You don't learn it in one year, you don't learn it in two years, it's a four-year cycle."
Currie made no recommendations on behalf of the Crown, but did speak to the "power" of the sentencing circle.
"Mr. Justice Meiklem has a certain power and the court system has a certain power, enforceable by Staff Sgt. Aird and the RCMP," he said.
"But, I think what I've experienced and what we've all experienced in this circle is a certain power as well."
After a full day of discussions, Meiklem imposed a 22-month probation term with a number of conditions — including an order requiring Jensen to enter into a four-year contract with the TIB.
He must meet with band council before Oct. 20 to complete the contract, the details of which are up to TIB officials — not the court.
Jensen will also have to abstain from drugs and alcohol until he's completed a residential treatment program, and will be bound by a 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. curfew for nine months.
Before leaving the ceremony, Gottfriedson wished Jensen good luck.
"Dougie, it's up to you, buddy," he said.
"That's all I can say. There's a lot of haters out there.
"You're our first person to go through this process — let's make it a success."