Holding out his birth certificate, the one which assigned him an English name, James Wadhams approached the bench and asserted the charge he’s facing has been laid against a fictional being, albeit one who exists on only paper.
“I’m not an aboriginal, I’m an Indian,” Wadhams said before taking a seat.
In court, he asked to be called “Gee-alas” – his Kwakiutl name, one which he refused to spell because Kwakwala is only spoken and has no alphabet.
Wadhams hoped the saga that began in July 2009 would finally end on Monday.
“It’s been too long,” he said before entering Port Coquitlam Provincial Court.
A resident of Port McNeill on Vancouver Island, Wadhams was found guilty last July of illegally selling halibut that had been caught under an aboriginal communal license for food, social, ceremonial purposes to the owners of two fish and chip shops in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows.
Wadhams and his “spokesperson,” Van Gale Dumont, or “Ste-emas,” continue to insist the province of British Columbia has no jurisdiction over them, much to the frustration of provincial court Judge Daniel Steinberg.
The Kwakiutl, he argued, had never ceded their land to the British and had every right to make a living through fishing.
“The federal jurisdiction does not exist here,” said Ste-emas, who tested Judge Steinberg’s patience repeatedly by demanding he produce his oath of office and persistently declaring neither the judge nor the Queen of England had power over him.
“You Europeans are the tenants of the land. This here is fraud.”
Although Judge Steinberg was scheduled to sentence Wadhams on Monday, he delayed imposing a penalty against the 61-year-old after Wadhams agreed to co-operate with a probation officer for a pre-sentencing report.
Judge Steinberg told Wadhams he wanted to learn about his background and the relationship he has with his First Nations community.
“There is a very strong impression I’m left with after a year of dealing with this is, that there is a mix of a good deal of band politics as well as a mix of Indian versus federal government,” Steinberg said.
“The community seems to have gone in one direction and Mr. Wadhams and his allies don’t like that.”
Steinberg told Wadhams he was being given bad advice by his supporters, who unlike him, bore no risk of being thrown in jail.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans began a year-and-a-half-long investigation into two fish and chip shop owners, as well as Wadhams after receiving tips from the public on Vancouver Island.
Surveillance was conducted on Wadhams, who was seen delivering fish to Amy Zhuo Hua Zheng and Michael Kam Fuk Ching, who have since pleaded guilty to the offences.
Ching, who owns Austin Fish and Chips in Valley Fair Mall in Maple Ridge, was fined $5,000 for three Fisheries Act contraventions, while Zheng, who owns Austin Fish and Chips in Pitt Meadows, got a $500 fine for two violations.
DFO officials seized Wadhams’ Ford Explorer and fishing boat as part of the investigation.
It is the third time Wadhams has faced charges under the Fisheries Act.
He has vowed take his fight to the federal court.