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Publisher: Durvile & UpRoute Books, 2023
Editors: Lorene Shyba and Raymond Yakeleya
Foreword: Chief Justice Shannon Smallwood, NWT
Release Date: June 1, 2023
ISBN: 978-1-990735-26-4 (pbk) | 978-1-990735-28-8 (audio) | 978-1-990735-27-1 (epub)
Page Count: 288 Pages
Regular Price: 35.00 $
Excerpt: “Justice in Hazelton: One Family, Two Murder Trials, a Hundred Years Apart” By Joseph Saulnier. Pg. 147. [Footnotes omitted]
A hundred years ago, an Indigenous trapper went on trial for the murder of two men near Hazelton, British Columbia. He had been at a tavern when a burly packer named Alex MacIntosh insulted him. The two drunk men fought, and the trapper lost. He left the tavern, threatening to return and “fix” MacIntosh. The next morning, MacIntosh and another man, Max LeClair, were found dead, shot off their horses from behind. When the police went to arrest the trapper, they found he had already fled.
What followed was the longest manhunt in British Columbia’s history.
Thirteen years later, the trapper finally surrendered to police. He was a Gitxsan man from the isolated Kispiox/Hazelton area of northern BC. But he was put on trial at the New Westminster courthouse, near busy Vancouver, over 1,200 kilometres to the south. The manhunt was well known and the trial was front-page news. Witnesses testified about the trapper threatening MacIntosh. Others said that the trapper had confessed.
The all-white jury deliberated for only 15 minutes.
Then they acquitted him.
If the verdict is surprising, the story behind it is astonishing. Those with a historical bent may know the legend of Simon Peter Gunanoot, the skilled trapper who was put on trial. He was a prosperous businessman who became British Columbia’s most notorious outlaw. After the shootings, Gunanoot fled with his family into the forests and mountains near Kispiox, outrunning and outsmarting the police, posses and mercenaries who chased after him for 13 years.
But while Simon Gunanoot’s story has some local notoriety, you won’t know the story of his descendant ‘Johnny’, another Gitxsan man who was tried for a murder in Hazelton a hundred years later. (I have changed the names of Johnny and his immediate family, including the victim, to protect their identity.) Johnny’s trial was also moved from Hazelton to Vancouver. It also took place many years after the event, but in obscurity with little news coverage. Like Simon Gunanoot, Johnny was acquitted. I defended him.
But whereas the story of Simon Gunanoot tells of a prosperous Gitxsan trapper and shopkeeper who became an outlaw, then a celebrity, Johnny’s life and criminal trial tells a much different story of a plight of a young Indigenous man in modern times. Johnny’s story illustrates the impacts of a century of residential schools, colonialism, addiction, and generations of a family that was separated by government intervention.
Sadly, and disturbingly, a hundred years later, it seems some of Gunanoot’s descendants had it worse, not better.
Kispiox and Hazelton
Ancient Kispiox and newer Hazelton are small interior towns located in northwestern British Columbia, at the confluence of the Skeena and Bulkley rivers and next to the looming Rocher Déboulé mountain range, locally known as the Roche de Boule. This area is breathtakingly beautiful. For millennia, it has been home to the Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en First Nations. Indigenous villages like Gitanmaax, Hagwilget and Kispiox have been there for many centuries. This was traditionally an important region on an ancient trade route, with 60-foot cedar canoes transporting goods to and from the coast.
Pre-contact, the First Nations in this region had well-established political, economic, social, and legal institutions. Non-Indigenous people came to the area in the mid- to late-1800s during the gold rush. They brought in new institutions. Settlers, traders, prospectors, and missionaries interacted with the long-established Indigenous communities. Emily Carr famously painted the totem poles of Kispiox.
Hazelton was founded in 1866 and would soon grow and prosper as a town of Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike. Soon it would become important on newer trade routes—on an intercontinental train line, and as the northern terminus for riverboats that brought supplies and people from the south. The Gitxsan continue to assert the right to self-government and ownership of their territories, a region of 33,000 square miles.
Simon Gunanoot was born in the land of his ancestors at a time of change in the region as more and more non-Indigenous people arrived by steam train, pack train, horse, and riverboat.
Simon Gunanoot: BC’s most notorious outlaw
In 1874, Simon Peter Gunanoot was born in Kispiox, 15 kilometres from Hazelton. He was a member of the Gitxsan First Nation and the son of two hereditary chiefs. Gunanoot personified the co-existing Indigenous and non-Indigenous worlds of the Kispiox region at the time. His father taught him about the land, and Gunanoot became a skilled trapper and hunter, at home in the forests and mountains of the area, known for being a crack shot with a rifle. But he also received a Western education, at a residential school. Eventually as an adult, he wore suits and kept a moustache, “like a white man.”
Gunanoot was a savvy businessman. If someone offered him a poor price for his furs, he would tell them to “shit in your hat” and would take his wares to the next town. Gunanoot had a successful store in Kispiox, reportedly with $3,000 worth of goods at the time of his flight following the murders. Gunanoot also had a ranch and shares in a lumber business. He was prosperous and respected by Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike.
The Murders of MacIntosh and LeClair
In the morning of June 19, 1906, the bodies of Alex MacIntosh and Max LeClair were found, separately, on different trails near the Two Mile House tavern. Both men had been ambushed and shot in the back.
The tavern served a mix of Indigenous and white people (even though Indigenous People were not meant to be permitted in taverns)—farmers, prospectors, packers. It was a rough place. The night before he was killed, MacIntosh, a local tough guy with a bad reputation, was drinking in the Two Mile House tavern. He had just been released from jail that day, and would have been heading out on a pack train the next morning.
Gunanoot had been out buying fish. He stopped at the tavern on his way home with his brother-in-law Peter Himadam. That night, Gunanoot and MacIntosh got in a fight, reportedly after MacIntosh claimed to have slept with the trapper’s wife. Gunanoot cut MacIntosh’s finger with a knife, but MacIntosh was a huge man and got the best of Gunanoot, leaving him bloodied. The two men shook hands after, but Gunanoot was still angry. He left the tavern, threatening to get a gun and “fix”MacIntosh.
Gunanoot was seen riding away from the tavern around four in the morning, then returning soon after. Later that morning, MacIntosh’s body was found on a trail near the tavern. The one police constable, James Kirby, was called out. Not surprisingly, Gunanoot became the top suspect. Many years later at trial, Cst. Kirby admitted Gunanoot was the only suspect he considered.
Constable Kirby gathered a posse and headed for Gunanoot’s ranch. On the way, they found LeClair’s body. Both men had been shot in the back. Now, Gunanoot was suspected of two murders. When they arrived at the ranch, Gunanoot was already gone, apparently killing four horses before he left. His wife Sarah said her husband and Himadam had come back in a hurry, angry and drunk, killed the horses, then fled. She also said her husband had confessed to killing multiple men, including Cst. Kirby and “two half-breeds.” (MacIntosh and LeClair were, in fact, of mixed race.) But Cst. Kirby was very much alive, and only two men were dead. The confession was inaccurate, and at the time, a wife could not be compelled to testify against her husband. Nonetheless, the so-called confession confirmed the police suspicions.
Constable Kirby thought he saw Gunanoot on the other side of the river, but members of his own posse convinced him he was wrong. In fact, those members of the posse were helping Gunanoot escape. When they went looking elsewhere, Gunanoot and Himadam returned to the ranch, collected their families and supplies, and fled into the wilderness for good. This started both the longest manhunt in BC history, and the legend of Simon Gunanoot.
The Hunt for Simon Gunanoot
The stories about the search for Simon Gunanoot are straight out of a spaghetti western. It was the wild west in British Columbia: a time of gold prospectors, fur trading, horses, guns, and posses. After Gunanoot fled, rewards were issued and wanted posters were put up. Early on, police arrested Gunanoot’s father, hoping that his son would try to rescue him, but Simon Gunanoot didn’t come. Several days later, Gunanoot’s father escaped through some loose boards in the jail’s outhouse. It is rumoured the authorities let the father escape, hoping he would lead police to Simon, the fugitive. But this also failed.
For three years, the police continued to pursue the Gunanoots. Finally, the superintendent of provincial police hired the Pinkerton’s Detective Agency in Seattle. Pinkerton’s was a private police force, famous for tracking down train robbers and for having thwarted an assassination attempt on Abraham Lincoln. They sent two mercenaries, well-provisioned and well-armed, who disguised themselves as prospectors and pursued Simon Gunanoot for a year.
The longer Gunanoot evaded capture, the more his legend grew. The truth is, the police and the mercenaries were never going to capture him. Firstly, Gunanoot was at large in the enormous Gitxsan territory, a land he knew well from hunting and trapping. He knew the area well. His pursuers did not. Secondly, Gunanoot was well-armed, he was a good shot, and he wasn’t alone. It would have been dangerous to try to arrest him. Last and most importantly, he had support. Gunanoot was well-regarded by the local Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities alike. They helped him, may have hidden him, and certainly didn’t turn him in. Many people had heard the story of MacIntosh and felt the murder was justified. The same could not be said for poor LeClair, who had not done anything.
Gunanoot was probably never far from Kispiox and Hazelton. He even went into these towns to sell furs, check on his business interests, and collect money. One time he went to Hazelton to see a silent film. He got a haircut, bought a new suit, and either wasn’t recognized or, if he was, no one was going to turn him in. In some ways, he was hiding in plain sight.
Gunanoot was never captured, but after 13 years, he finally turned himself in. He was tired of being on the run, with his family not having a home. His lawyer Stuart Henderson arranged for his surrender. Gunanoot had been negotiating for a year, both about his surrender with police, and about his lawyer’s retainer. They considered trying to collect the $1,000 reward money to use for legal fees. Instead, they put off surrender so that Gunanoot could trap for a further season to pay Henderson’s retainer. Gunanoot might have been a fugitive for 13 years, but he was still a businessman, and in the end he managed to retain Henderson, then regarded as the best criminal lawyer in BC. Soon Henderson would prove that this reputation was well-founded.
Simon Gunanoot’s Trial
Gunanoot was put on trial in 1919 for the murder of Alex MacIntosh. Henderson quickly arranged to transfer the trial from Hazelton to the New Westminster Courthouse, near Vancouver. Given the timing of the assize court, the Crown prosecutor would have little time to prepare. Further, in the newspapers of the big city, Gunanoot was portrayed as a romantic figure, a Robin Hood of the North.
There was huge public interest in the trial. The gallery was full, and the evidence was reported in the Vancouver papers daily. Witnesses testified about the fight with MacIntosh and Gunanoot’s threats afterward. They described Gunanoot riding to or from the tavern. An old prospector told the jury that a Gitxsan hunter named ‘Simon’ confessed to killing a man. But many of the witnesses were either unprepared, or after 13 years, had forgotten details. In cross-examination, Stuart Henderson was able to challenge their stories and raise doubts.
At the close of the trial, the prosecutor asked the jury to ignore Gunanoot’s celebrity status and focus on the evidence. For the defence, Henderson implored: “I ask for no mercy, only plain justice.”
As noted, the all-white jury took only 15 minutes to find Gunanoot not guilty. The trapper returned to the North, to his ranch and business, and lived surrounded by his children and eventually grandchildren. A century later, one of Gunanoot’s progeny was himself involved in a murder trial.
A Hundred Years Later: A Tragedy in the Family
On June 3, 2009, a distraught grandmother called 911. She claimed her 20-month-old grandson had fallen down an embankment. The paramedics rushed there, too late. He was dead. But the details didn’t add up. Police suspected the grandmother had lied to protect her 15-year-old son ‘Johnny’, who was an angry young man with significant cognitive difficulties. He was the obvious suspect. He was also Simon Gunanoot’s descendant. Eventually, I would represent Johnny at his murder trial.
I work at a Vancouver criminal law firm which has, for many years, represented ‘wards’ or ‘children in care’ of the province when they are charged with crimes. So I have defended many teenagers throughout the province—too often Indigenous—charged with serious crimes like murder .
The over-representation of Indigenous children in the province’s ‘care’ is a legacy of residential schools. Indigenous children continue to be taken from their parents and raised in foster care or at group homes, away from their family and culture. My ‘ward’ clients have often been subjected to trauma and have significant cognitive and addiction problems. They may have been raised in poverty and had limited educational opportunities. Children in care are more likely to go to jail than to graduate high school. Many times the victims of the crimes are themselves Indigenous and have also experienced neglect and trauma.
So it was that my firm came to represent a 15-year-old Gitxsan boy in Hazelton, charged with murdering his 20-month-old nephew.
Johnny and Hercules
Johnny was born suffering from the effects of his mother’s heavy drinking. He was soon given the same labels as many of my clients, things like: Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), an extremely low IQ, and ‘mental retardation.’ Johnny had difficulty controlling his impulses, got into trouble, and wasn’t going to school. At 15, he was functionally illiterate and struggled to print his first name. He had been in and out of foster homes and the ‘care’ of the province his entire life, since he was a baby, usually when his mother was drinking too much to be able to care for him.
Johnny had a 20-month-old nephew, ‘Hercules’. After Hercules’ mother was charged with stabbing her boyfriend, he and his siblings were taken away from her and given to his grandmother Mary. So it was that, in the summer of 2009, Mary, her half-blind partner, her cognitively challenged son Johnny, and three grandchildren under the age of 5 were living in a small rundown house in Hazelton. Mary had her hands full.
Hercules was a bright and rambunctious young boy. He loved his grandmother. He loved cartoons. He loved to get into mischief. As his name portended, Hercules was big and strong for his age, and he was smart. His grandmother would try to keep him contained while she cooked or tended to the baby. But Hercules would climb out of his crib; he’d manage to open the front door; he’d explore.
In the weeks before his death, Mary brought Hercules to the hospital several times with minor injuries. She said he had fallen off a swing or down the front steps. At Johnny’s trial, Crown would lead this evidence, arguing that it was Johnny who kept hurting his nephew.
On June 3, 2009, a panicked and sobbing Mary called 911, using a neighbour’s phone since she did not own one. She told the operator that her grandson Hercules wasn’t breathing. She had taken him for a walk in his stroller, she said. He had managed to unbuckle his seatbelt, crawled out, and fell down a steep embankment not far from their house. She climbed down and got him and returned to their house.
Paramedics arrived quickly. But Hercules’s body was already cold and hard. He was dead and had been for a while. The police were immediately suspicious. They asked the grandmother to show them the spot where he fell and had her re-enact what happened. Her story was not believable.
Police investigators believed Mary was lying about the fall down the embankment in order to cover up for Johnny. It was easy for the police to infer that the troubled teenager with FASD and ‘mental retardation’ had killed his nephew.
About a week after Hercules died, the police brought Mary to the police station. They told her she was a suspect in the murder, but they understood she might be covering for someone else. Undoubtedly scared, Mary told police that on the morning in question, she had seen Johnny walking out of a bedroom with a smirk on his face. Suspicious, she entered the room and found Hercules, lying beside his crib, dead. On the basis of this statement, Johnny was arrested and charged with second-degree murder. Youth trials are supposed to happen quickly, but this trial would not take place for five and a half years.
Before Trial: Johnny’s Years in a Psychiatric Hospital
Brock Martland KC, my law partner, was retained by the BC Ministry of Children and Family Development to defend Johnny. Johnny would quickly be found unfit to stand trial. With his IQ and severe cognitive challenges, he could not understand the charges against him or hope to competently instruct counsel.
When an accused is found unfit to stand trial, the Review Board takes over from the court, holding regular fitness hearings to monitor the accused until they become fit and can be tried, or the charges are dropped. Rather than stay in jail, Johnny would stay at the high-security ‘Crossroads’ unit of the youth forensic hospital near Vancouver, to be monitored.
Prior to his trial, Simon Gunanoot had been a fugitive for 13 years, but at least he was with his family. In contrast, after his arrest, 15-year-old Johnny was very much alone. The Crossroads was far from Hazelton. As far as I know, Johnny only ever had one visit from family, when the government paid for his grandparents to fly to Vancouver for a fitness hearing.
At Crossroads, youths got their own rooms and could put up posters. There were televisions and mismatched sofas all around. Johnny liked to wear his iPod and headphones, listening to rap music and pretending to be a gangster. When I visited Johnny, he was excited to see me—not as a lawyer, but as someone he knew. He invariably asked if I had brought him alcohol or pornography. (I had not.)
Then Johnny turned 18 and was immediately moved. Johnny had allegedly been violent with staff at Crossroads, and they said it wasn’t safe for him to be there. So Johnny went to Colony Farm, the adult forensic hospital in Coquitlam, a suburb of Vancouver, not far from the infamous, now-shuttered Riverview Hospital. The grounds are actually quite serene, next to the Fraser River. But not for Johnny. Now an adult charged with murder, he was placed in the highest security unit, with other dangerous adults. The first time I visited, I was given an emergency button to press at any time for help. It was not a nice place to visit and was obviously a worse place to live. Johnny might have had a low IQ and many cognitive challenges, but he was a teenager, and he wasn’t psychotic. I didn’t think he belonged there.
As long as Johnny was unfit to stand trial, he might stay at the forensic hospital forever, at least as long as he was still charged with murder. But then, on June 3, 2013, four years to the day that Hercules had died, Mary died of heart failure. She was a grandmother, and had been in poor health from years of alcohol abuse, but she was only in her early 40s. One of the Crown’s key witnesses was now dead, and their case was getting weaker. From my perspective, it was time for trial.
Staff at the hospital worked to make Johnny fit to stand trial. They tried to teach Johnny about court, using a sort of diorama of a courtroom with a judge, two lawyers, and an accused. Eventually Johnny was able to recite, in simple terms, the roles of the different people in court. He knew he was charged with killing his nephew. He knew his lawyer helped him and that the judge decided if he went to jail or not. And with that, the Review Board found Johnny, “fit but fragile”, meaning he could stand trial, but he was too mentally fragile for jail. He would continue to stay at the forensic hospital, where he would be medicated and monitored.
As a result, as with Simon Gunanoot’s trial a century before, I was able to move the trial from the BC Supreme Court in Smithers (near Hazelton) to Vancouver. This was to ensure that Johnny could stay at the psychiatric hospital and remain fit to stand trial. For me personally, it meant the trial was held mostly across the street from my office, in my backyard instead of the Crown’s.
Johnny is Abandoned by the Province
Before I turn to Johnny’s trial, I must contrast Gunanoot’s legal representation with Johnny’s. Even as a fugitive, Gunanoot had been able to earn and save enough money to privately retain the best criminal defence lawyer in BC. On the other hand, Johnny had grown up in poverty, and there was no way his family could pay a private retainer for a murder trial.
When Johnny was first charged, as a ward of the province, the Ministry of Children and Family Development paid Johnny’s legal fees. They were his legal guardian after all. But as soon as Johnny turned 19, around the time he was finally found fit to stand trial and really needed representation, the Ministry turned off the tap. Johnny had ‘aged out of care’, so he was no longer their problem and they would no longer pay his legal fees. Fortunately, because Johnny was a young person who had been charged under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, he qualified for legal aid, which would fund Johnny’s defence for the next year. Then, just at the time Johnny most needed his lawyers, legal aid would also turn off the tap.
I was mistaken about the Crown’s case getting weaker. Shortly after his arrest, Johnny had allegedly confessed to a jailhouse informant. I already knew this, but I didn’t know of three additional confessions allegedly made by my client to staff at the Review Board and hospital. The Crown told me about these confessions and that they intended to lead them at trial. Further, the Crown was applying to lead the videotaped statement of my client’s deceased mother Mary, implicating Johnny. If it was admitted, I wouldn’t even be able to cross-examine.
My associate Jenny Dyck and I suddenly had a lot more work on our hands. A few months before the trial, we had to conduct several applications to challenge whether this evidence would be admissible at trial. We successfully excluded the three new confessions and Mary’s statement. Our client’s chances at trial were now much better, due to the weeks of court applications and preparation we had done.
Our reward was for the provincial Legal Services Society to cut off our legal aid funding, a month before the trial. They said the case had been funded to capacity. They would only pay for me to sit in court, but they would no longer pay for me or my associate to do any trial preparation. And there was much preparation left to do. They were willing to let an Indigenous, cognitively disabled young man go on trial for murder, seemingly indifferent to whether he was properly defended.
I considered adjourning the trial. If it had been to the client’s benefit, I would have done so. But I was confident we could get Johnny acquitted. If we adjourned, Johnny could spend another six months or more in that terrible, maximum security unit at the adult forensic hospital. A lawyer’s ethical duties do not allow us to do a half-hearted job. A criminal defence lawyer must defend their client fearlessly and to the best of their ability. So my associate and I marched on and continued to prepare for trial, unpaid.
Johnny’s Supreme Court trial started in November 2014, before the Honourable Mr. Justice A. Silverman. In the end, the trial was held in both Vancouver and Smithers, and the judge and lawyers flew back and forth.
The lead trial prosecutor was Declan Brennan, a long-time Crown lawyer in northern BC who specialized in prosecuting major crimes, like murders. Working with him was Nina Purewal, now Madam Justice Purewal of the BC Supreme Court. Both prosecutors were excellent, experienced lawyers. They did the most they could with the evidence they had left, but by trial, much of the important evidence had been excluded.
For the defence, it was me and Jenny Dyck. Dyck is now an experienced prosecutor in Vancouver, but at the time she was my junior associate, and she did yeoman’s work on the case. Her work ethic was incredible and I could not have successfully defended Johnny without her.
Crown’s case wasn’t completely gutted. They still had evidence of motive, propensity, and opportunity. There was evidence that Johnny was jealous of his nephew, had previously assaulted him, and was in the house when Hercules died. The most important witness at trial was a young man who had briefly been in the youth jail with Johnny after his arrest. This witness claimed my client confessed, in detail, to killing his nephew. However, ‘jailhouse informants’ are treated with skepticism by the courts. They are inherently unreliable, often trying to barter confessions for leniency in their own case. It can be easy for informants to turn details about the case learned from the news, or from normal conversation, into the details of a supposed confession.
By trial, the informant was again in jail, this time as an adult. Prior to trial, I interviewed him, at the jail, with his lawyer’s permission. I didn’t need to ask about the confession; I just needed the informant to talk. In my research, I found that he had once been declared missing, so I asked him about it. He explained that drug dealers had kidnapped him, held him in a basement for days, and broken his leg. He managed to escape out a window, used a piece of the broken window frame as a splint for his leg, then ran a mile to escape his captors. He added additional outlandish details. I knew I had him.
At trial, I cross-examined the informant about the so-called confession and how he tried to reduce his sentence by cooperating with police. But the most effective part of cross-examination was simply having him re-tell his wild stories. Yes, he testified that Johnny made a chilling confession to him, in detail. But under oath, the informant told other detailed stories that were obviously false. He was a good storyteller, and he was a liar. In the end, the judge agreed that he could not accept anything this witness said, unless it was corroborated.
The most emotional part of the trial was when the mother of Hercules, my client’s sister, testified. She and Johnny had not spoken since his arrest. Now she faced her cognitively disabled younger brother, who was accused of killing her son. After she testified, Mr. Justice Silverman, always compassionate, allowed their request to speak privately. Johnny and Hercules’s mother could not speak alone, so I was left in the room. I won’t divulge their conversation, but there were a lot of tears. It was one of the most emotional scenes I have ever witnessed.
Justice in Hazelton
Closing submissions in Johnny’s trial took place in December 2014. I was not as rhetorical as Gunanoot’s lawyer Stuart Henderson had been a hundred years earlier; nonetheless on January 9, 2015, Johnny was acquitted.
Unlike Simon Gunanoot, Johnny did not have a ranch and store to return to. And either his family didn’t want him, or somebody thought it was a bad idea for him to return to Hazelton. A year after the trial, Johnny asked me to visit him at the care home where he now lived with several full-time caregivers, near Vancouver. They told me they couldn’t leave Johnny unattended and followed him everywhere. He proudly showed me his room, video games, and backyard. He seemed happy, but it all made me sad. Johnny had been through so much, but talking to him was still like talking to a child.
Simon Gunanoot had lived until his 60s. After his acquittal, he continued his business and was surrounded by family. A century later, many of his descendants were wrecked —from addiction, from residential schools, and from babies being taken from their parents. Johnny’s mother drank herself to death. Hercules died at 20 months, possibly killed by a family member. And Johnny spent five and a half years in a mental institution and still lives in a care home.
Simon had a fair trial and was acquitted. Johnny had a fair trial and was acquitted. Arguably the legal system worked the way it is supposed to. But somehow this family did not get justice.
Joseph Saulnier studied law at the University of Victoria. He serves on the Advisory Committee to the British Columbia Judicial Council. He was a member and then president of the Advocates Club and served as a board member and chair of the Vancouver Criminal Justice Subsection of the Canadian Bar Association (BC). Along with Brock Martland KC, he is partner at Martland & Saulnier, a leading Vancouver criminal law firm.