Skip to main content
Canada’s most-awarded newsroom for a reason
Enjoy unlimited digital access
per week
for 24 weeks
Canada’s most-awarded newsroom for a reason
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

Edward John (seen here in February, 2015), who is one of British Columbia’s highest-profile Indigenous leaders, has been charged with four counts of having sexual intercourse with a woman without her consent.

DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

Prominent B.C. Indigenous leader Edward John has been charged with sexual offences dating back more than 40 years, following an investigation by a special prosecutor that began in February.

In a statement Thursday, the B.C. Prosecution Service said Mr. John has been charged with four counts of having sexual intercourse with a woman without her consent. The incidents are alleged to have occurred between March 1, 1974, and Sept. 15, 1974, in and around Prince George, B.C., about 800 kilometres north of Vancouver.

Mr. John’s first court appearance is scheduled for Dec. 10 in Prince George.

Story continues below advertisement

A special prosecutor, Michael Klein, was appointed in February to look into allegations of sexual offences related to Mr. John.

The announcement of the special prosecutor’s appointment was postponed to allow for charge assessment and approval, the prosecution service said. Special prosecutors are appointed in cases where there may be potential for real or perceived improper influence such as, for example, cases involving public officials.

Mr. John is one of British Columbia’s highest-profile Indigenous leaders, having served as children’s minister in the early 2000s and as a long-time executive member of the First Nations Summit, an umbrella group for about 150 First Nations in the province.

In a statement Thursday, the First Nations Summit said Mr. John’s elected position with the group ended in June, 2019, when he did not seek re-election, and that he had since been working with the group on contract as an adviser.

That contract has been suspended pending the outcome of the legal matter, the group said.

Attempts to reach Mr. John were unsuccessful.

He is a hereditary chief of Tl’azt’en Nation in northern B.C. and a lawyer who holds honorary doctor of laws degrees from the University of Northern British Columbia and the University of Victoria.

Story continues below advertisement

He has been an outspoken champion for Indigenous rights, including through support for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which B.C. implemented in October.

As special adviser on Indigenous children in care, he wrote a 2016 report that decried the over-representation of Indigenous children in the childcare system and included 85 recommendations, including help for youth who are aging out of the system and incorporating culture and language into care plans.

Grand Chief Doug Kelly, president of the Sto:lo Tribal Council, said he was shocked by the news but wanted observers to allow the court process to play out without rushing to judgment.

"The court of public opinion should hold off judgment until there is a judgment,” Mr. Kelly said.

The allegations are coming at a time of raised awareness of violence and abuse against women, the #MeToo movement and following a national inquiry into missing and murdered women, Mr. Kelly said.

Complaints need to be taken seriously and investigated properly, and if there has been criminal conduct, it needs to be treated accordingly, Mr. Kelly said.

Story continues below advertisement

Bernie Williams, a women’s advocate who testified at the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in 2018, said it can be difficult for First Nations women to report alleged abuse, especially if they live in small communities.

“Whoever this person who has come forward 40 years after the fact ... that takes a lot of courage,” said Ms. Williams, who is based in Vancouver.

In a statement, the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs said it was disappointed to learn of the allegations and encourages victims of sexual abuse to come forward so their reports can be addressed.

With a report from The Canadian Press

We have a weekly Western Canada newsletter written by our B.C. and Alberta bureau chiefs, providing a comprehensive package of the news you need to know about the region and its place in the issues facing Canada. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to
Comments are closed

We have closed comments on this story for legal reasons or for abuse. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies