October 10, 2013 - 6:51 PM
"I CAN'T IMAGINE THE PAIN I'VE PUT YOU GUYS THROUGH."
KAMLOOPS - He tried to express his grief and remorse not just to the court, but to family, friends. He turned to face them and say he's sorry for killing his friend, but it was nowhere near enough.
Robert Bill, 32, pleaded guilty to a serious crime in Canada but an unforgivable one to the Kamloops Indian Band. He stood before a B.C. Supreme Court judge today, but he's already faced a worse punishment from the band itself. Banished. He cannot return to the land. Friends won't acknowledge him, leaving him alone.
His crimes are impaired driving causing death and failing to stop at the scene of an accident, but band members cannot recover. And it was all borne of a separate tragedy.
The murder of Jesse Seymour, 29, who was stabbed to death at a house party on Columbia Street July 15, 2012 was enough. Everyone grieved in their own way but Bill hit the bottle. He was on a two-day bender that ended around 11 p.m. July 30, 2012 when he struck and killed Jesse's uncle, 64-year-old David Seymour—a band elder—who was walking on the street.
Victoria Casimir, one of David's daughters, said she not only lost her father but the community has also lost an important part of their culture as well as a spiritual guide. David, known to the family as 'Papa' and to the community as 'Raven Dave,' taught the family's younger generation the Shuswap language—one that is disappearing quickly—along with other traditions such as art and storytelling.
"There's no way of getting that back," Casimir said. "He was the Keeper."
Defence lawyer Sheldon Tate said Bill is already serving a sentence.
"His sense of loss, of grief, of abandonment… is something he's going to have to carry with him for a great, long time," Tate said.
"I can't imagine the pain I've put you guys through," Bill said as he faced the victim's family, so many of them they needed a bigger courtroom. "This is something I have to live with for the rest of my life…. It's not easy to live with."
"It's not accepted," another of David's daughters, Veronica Seymour, said outside the courtroom. Several more family members agreed. Many donned memorial shirts, one with David's own self-portrait, today in court. The shirts, along with mugs and magnets, were distributed to family and community members in July—one year after David's death—in keeping with a cultural tradition to honour and remember.
The Crown seeks two and a half years imprisonment along with a 10-year driving prohibition. Tate told the court Bill suffers from a troubled history, citing family problems that stem from residential school abuse. Bill has ties to three separate indian bands. He said Bill has since completed a 40-day residential treatment program for drugs and alcohol. He also said Bill, who had lost Jesse, has now lost another friend—David's son—when he was banished.
Justice Dev Dley reserved his sentence until Oct. 16 though it may not matter to many here today.
"It's a tremendous loss that we're all going to live with," Casimir said.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013