November 22, 2014 - 2:34 PM
OKANAGAN - Native court workers are standing up against the government asking for equal pay after being cut out of a deal five years ago that increased the wages of others but not court workers.
Jack Kruger, a veteran native court worker and counsellor, has spent the past two days outside the Penticton and Kelowna courthouses protesting for pay increases that would keep his and his colleagues’ salaries on par with people in similar careers, such as probation officers.
Kruger’s job is to help his clients—native and non-native persons facing criminal and civil charges—understand the court process, why they are at court and what is going to happen to them once a ruling is made.
“My main objective (is) to keep natives from falling through the cracks,” he said Thursday outside the Kelowna courthouse.
Kruger has held his position since 1974 and was one of the original eight people in Canada who thought of this idea of a non-lawyer representing clients in court. Currently in B.C., 52 per cent of the prison population is native people, he says.
It was much higher before the role of native court worker and counsellor was created— a lot of natives weren't represented in courts so they pleaded guilty because they didn't feel they had any other choice, Kruger says.
Five years ago, the provincial government created a social services agreement with aboriginals, but court workers were neglected, he says. Court workers haven’t had a raise since then, and they want to be a part of the agreement, which is why they are out protesting, he says.
After the first protest stint in Penticton in September, Kruger had a conference call with the union but he says he is still waiting for a response from the government.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014