British Columbia

B.C. First Nations chief charged with sexual offence involving minor

Roger William, elected Chief of the Xeni Gwet’in First Nation, to appear in court on Wednesday.

Roger William, elected chief of the Xeni Gwet’in First Nation, to appear in court Wednesday

Xeni Gwet’in Chief Roger William has been charged with sexual interference in relation to an alleged incident in May. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

An elected First Nations chief in B.C. has been charged with sexual interference after an alleged incident in May.

Xeni Gwet'in First Nation Chief Roger William, 51, was due in Williams Lake court on Wednesday.

The First Nation is a member of the Tsilhqot'in Tribal Council located in the southwest Chilcotin in B.C.'s Central Interior. On Thursday, a statement from the council said William has been placed on a leave of absence.

He faces one charge of sexual interference of a person under the age of 16.

William was elected chief of the Xeni Gwet'in First Nation more than 20 years ago. He was also a council member for five years.

"Without comment on the specific matter before the courts, the TNG affirms that the safety and well-being of children and families is of paramount importance to the TNG and to the Tsilhqot'in Nation," said a statement issued Thursday.

Supreme Court case

William began a case focused on the Tsilhqot'in First Nation's claim to aboriginal title over 440,000 hectares of land around Williams Lake in 1989.

The case was settled 25 years later, when the Supreme Court of Canada granted declaration of more than 1,700 square kilometres to the First Nation.

The ruling marked the first time in Canadian history aboriginal title was confirmed outside of a First Nations reserve.

Special prosecutor Brock Martland approved the sexual interference charge this week. A statement said assistant deputy attorney general Peter Juk appointed the lawyer to the case on Monday because he believed it was "in the public interest" to do so.

William's next court appearance is scheduled for Sept. 20.