David James ID'd as man behind Lillooet attack
Cuts to welfare funding has created an impossible situation on reserve, chiefs say
The man who died following an attack at the Xwisten/ Bridge River Indian Band near Lillooet Wednesday has been identified as David Allan Patrick James.
James, 22, died after being restrained following a vicious attack that sent 11 people to hospital. Three victims remain in serious condition.
James was a member of the band community, and had been identified as someone needing help, according to a statement released by a coalition of First Nations organizations Friday.
"Our band office staff had been working with this young man to develop a realistic plan for stable housing, and a way for him to pay his rent," Xwitson Chief Susan James said.
She said front-line band office staff are not trained social workers or counsellors, but low-paid financial clerks who find themselves forced to deal with situations beyond their control.
"He had complex social and health needs that our staff did not have the resources or training to adequately respond to. And when the situation became overwhelming for him, he lashed out," she said.
The president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs (UBCIC), Grand Chief Stewart Philip, called the attack a "horrifically brutal assault", but said that, given the current conditions on-reserve, it was not surprising that it occurred.
"Under the guise of transparency and belief of rampant misuse of federal funding, band offices across this country have been compelled to administer the Harper government's increasingly strict controls on social assistance and employment programmes on-reserve while funding for band operations and programme resources were being severely cut," he said.
Philip goes on to say, "racist government policies contribute to the deliberate economic marginalization and poverty of First Nations."
Regional Chief Shane Gottfriedson adds that what happened on Wednesday could have happened in almost any band office in Canada.
"Access to trained and skilled social workers who can support complex hard-to-reach families has been carved out and dismantled by decades of government cuts to social spending," he said.
Access to services
Interior Health and the First Nations Health Authority said they couldn't comment on James's health records, for privacy reasons, but said they work "collaboratively" with the band to fund and provide health services.
"Community members have access to a range of health services and we will continue to work together to ensure these services are accessible to anyone who may need them," said the health authorities in a written statement.
According to unconfirmed reports from members of the close-knit community, James attacked one person with a hammer, and when others in the office went to help, they were also beaten.
RCMP officers who first arrived at the band office found James restrained, unconscious and unresponsive.
He was identified by the BC Coroners Service which, with the RCMP, and the Independent Investigations Office (IIO), continue to investigate this death and the surrounding circumstances.