Saint-Charles man charged after hit-and-run death of Brady Francis chooses trial

A 56-year-old Saint-Charles man charged after the hit-and-run death of Brady Francis of Elsipogtog has chosen a trial by judge and jury.

Francis family calls for Mi'kmaq interpreter, but Justice Department says service doesn't extend to observers

About 50 people from Elsipogtog were at Moncton provincial court when Maurice Johnson chose trial by judge and jury on the charge of failing to stop at the scene of an accident. (CBC)

A 56-year-old Saint-Charles man charged after the hit-and-run death of Brady Francis of Elsipogtog has chosen a trial by judge and jury. 

Maurice Johnson, who was not in Moncton provincial court on Tuesday, is charged with failing to stop at the scene of an accident.

A preliminary hearing was set for Jan. 14 and 15 of next year.

Johnson's lawyer, Gilles Lemieux, spoke on behalf of Johnson and said his client has also chosen to be tried in French.

Under the Official Languages Act, people charged with offences can have proceedings conducted in the language of their choice.

Brady's family responded with a call for interpretation services in Mi'kmaq but the provincial government suggested they won't be provided.

Francis, of Elsipogtog First Nation, was found dead by the side of the road in Saint-Charles, about 12 kilometres north of the reserve and about 100 kilometres north of Moncton.

Brady Francis was 22 when he was struck and killed Feb. 24 by a driver who fled the scene. (Facebook photo)

It's believed Francis was waiting for a ride home Feb. 24, when he was struck on Saint-Charles South Road.

Johnson was issued a summons in late June, 115 days after the 22-year-old Francis was killed.   

Family asks for Mi'kmaq interpreter

Friend Patty Musgrave said the Francis family will push for a Mi'Kmaq interpreter for the preliminary hearing in January. The province says people not directly participating in the trial aren't eligible for interpretation services. (Photo: CBC)

Francis's family and friends in the courtroom were unable to follow the proceedings Tuesday because of a language barrier. 

Patty Musgrave, a family friend, said the decision to proceed in French was disrespectful to the family and the Elsipogtog community.

"It's just a true disrespect to the calls to action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report," she said, referring to the report on the former residential school system and its survivors.

"We are on Mi'kmaq territory right now."

She said the people of Elsipogtog don't mind if the hearing is in French, but it needs to be translated into their first language. 

Language service limited

Musgrave is pushing for a Mi'kmaq interpreter to be present at the hearing in 2019, and she's hopeful New Brunswick's justice minister will provide one.

"There is no respect here today," she said. "We don't even know what they said."

The Department of Justice and Public Safety says its obligation under the Official Languages Act is to meet the needs of the parties directly involved in a case. They include the defendant, applicants, respondents and witnesses, but not people simply listening to proceedings.

In an email, communications officer Alexandra Davis said if there is a request from one of these parties for services in a language other than English or French, simultaneous translation will be provided.

"Translation services are not provided to members of the public or the gallery in New Brunswick courts."