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Letter of support by the former Yukon Territorial Minister of Justice, Margaret Commodore

December 16, 2003

Margaret Commodore
202-8980 Mary Street
Chilliwack, B.C.
V2P 4J3


I am writing a letter of support for the bail hearing for John Graham set for December 17, 2003. I lived in the Yukon Territory for 32 years and I have known John Graham for approximately 25 of those years. I moved to the Yukon in 1965 where I began work as a residential supervisor at Yukon Hall, which is a dormitory for First Nations students who were required to live in Whitehorse for their schooling. After this I worked as a Practical Nurse and then moved on to politics. I was a founding member for the Yukon Association of Non-Status Indians and then later served as the vice-president for seven years. I also sat on several boards which included, the Yukon Indian Womenís Association and the Skookum Jim Friendship Centre. In 1980, I was appointed as a Justice of the Peace and served as the Executive Secretary to the Yukon Justice of the Peace Council.

In 1982, I decided to get involved in territorial politics. I won the constituency riding of Whitehorse North Centre in 1982 and I served as the New Democrat Party Member of the Legislative Assembly from 1982 to 1996. For the first three years of this career, the NDP were in the opposition. In 1985, when the N.D.P. won the election, I was appointed the Minster of Health and Human Resources and Minister responsible for Juvenile Justice. While I was the Minister, the Womenís Directorate, which was formerly under the Labour Branch of the Department of Justice was created.

When the N.D.P. were re-elected in 1989, I was appointed the Minister of Justice, Womenís Directorate, Public Service Commission, Yukon Liquor Corporation and the Workerís Compensation Board. During my term as Minister, the Aboriginal Justice in the Yukon Program was implemented, as well as various programs In 1990, I lobbied with then federal Justice Minister to hold an Aboriginal Justice Conference in the Yukon. In 1996, I decided to not run in the riding of Whitehorse North Centre and moved on to another stage of my life. Since then I have returned to the Fraser Valley where I have gotten involved in contract work for the British Columbia Government, Sto:lo Nation, as well I currently sit on the Indian Residential School Survivors Society.

In the 32 years that I lived in the Yukon, I have known John on a personal and professional level. John is from the traditional territory of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations which is located in the South-western Yukon. He has a large immediate and extended family which reside in the Yukon. This family includes eight children, his mother, brothers, sisters and many relatives, therefore he has strong family ties and support in the Yukon. Culture is an important aspect of Johnís life and he has passed this knowledge on to his children.

John has been living in Vancouver since 1999 where he has been actively working and attending technical school. In 1999, he had to rely on social assistance for two months but since then, he has been self-sufficient and able to support himself through part-time work at his trade of underground pipe laying. While in technical school he has obtained four certificates which are related to his trade. Since his move to Vancouver, John has maintained his own identity and not tried to conceal his name or identity in any way. He has not tried to go into hiding nor has he tried to flee the country. I firmly believe that John is not a flight risk and that granting bail until the extradition hearing is in the best interest as the cost of keeping a person in custody is extremely high. With the exception of a minor offence in 1977, John has never been in trouble with the law and the likelihood of him committing an offence while out on bail is unlikely.

I have known John for 25 years and I know that he is a good citizen and a kind person with a generous heart. His family and his culture are extremely important to him and I believe that he would never sever those ties by fleeing or committing an offence if he is granted bail. If there is anyway that I can be of assistance to John Graham, I will offer my support to him in any way.


Margaret Commodore