The trial for Alex Louie, also known as Senklip, over gun smuggling charges kicked off in earnest Tuesday morning. (Dustin Godfrey/Western News)

Justice rules B.C. courts hold jurisdiction over Indigenous man

Trial for Alex Louie, also known as Senk’lip, kicked off Tuesday with two border officers testifying

The B.C. Supreme Court has denied a man’s argument that the court does not hold jurisdiction over him.

Alex Louie, also known by his Syilx name Senk’lip, is facing nine charges related to an incident in which he allegedly attempted to smuggle two handguns across the border from the U.S. at the Osoyoos crossing.

Senk’lip has regularly claimed B.C. courts have no jurisdiction over him as an Indigenous man on unceded territory.

Details are covered by a publication ban, but Justice Arne Silverman addressed the matter briefly with the jury Tuesday morning.

Related: Alleged gun smuggler’s name disputed

“I will tell you that I have determined that this court has jurisdiction to hear this matter,” Silverman told the jury, without getting into the reasons for that judgement.

“You have absolutely no authority whatsoever to be getting involved in legal issues; that is a purely legal issue. So if you hear it raised again, I may or may not interrupt.”

Trial kicked off for Senk’lip Tuesday morning, with Crown lawyer Clarke Burnett providing a synopsis of his argument and calling his first two witnesses to the stand, both of whom were Canada Border Services Agency officers who were on duty at the time of the search of Senk’lip’s vehicle.

“In the course of that search, officer Christian will tell you about discovering two handguns that were wrapped in plastic and tied with wire to the undercarriage of the vehicle,” Burnett said.

Related: Man charged with smuggling handguns across Osoyoos border

That’s when an arrest was officially made, according to Burnett.

Officer Taylor Arseneault testified that the Osoyoos border crossing would be doing a basic search of all vehicles that crossed the night of Jan. 31 and the morning of Feb. 1 this year.

That was due to a “lookout” notification that alerted border officers of a person heading toward the border with firearms that are prohibited in Canada.

At around 1:30 a.m. on Feb. 1, Senk’lip reportedly approached the border crossing, meeting first with Arseneault, who asked if he had purchased any items, how long he had been in the U.S. and whether he had any weapons on him.

Senk’lip allegedly told Arseneault he had been in the U.S. for 12 hours, and that he had spent too much time at the casino. He also reported to have spent some time at the library to deal with paperwork and that he was only bringing small grocery items across the border.

Related: Courtroom rabble rouser granted internet access in jail

When she scanned Senk’lip’s identification, she said he also came up as a person of interest, which meant he would have been searched regardless of the lookout.

Arseneault reportedly told him the officers were conducting searches on all vehicles crossing the border that night.

She testified to directing Senk’lip to drive into the secondary area, where brief searches are conducted, putting him in the hands of CBSA officer Courtenay Inch.

Senk’lip, who is self-represented, briefly cross-examined Arseneault, asking her about her experience with the use of identification documents outside of driver’s licences, birth certificates, Indigenous status cards and passports, which she said she hadn’t.

He also asked her about her knowledge of treaty law, of which she said she did not have exceptional knowledge.

Inch testified that Senk’lip said he had been in the U.S. for seven hours before returning to the border. She also testified she had conducted an initial search of Senk’lip’s vehicle, with another officer present.

Related: Man calls for judge’s arrest, gets trial date

In his opening remarks, Burnett said Inch’s search would turn up a magazine believed to work with a handgun, which would lead to a more detailed search.

That search reportedly turned up two handguns wrapped in plastic, wired to the undercarriage of the vehicle, along with a spool of wire matching that which was used to strap the firearms to the vehicle.

A bag in the vehicle reportedly had documents with Senk’lip’s name, as well as an instruction manual on using the handguns.

Trial is slated to run all week.


@dustinrgodfrey

dustin.godfrey@pentictonwesternnews.com

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