In a trial over charges of driving while prohibited, a man’s conviction will depend on his name.
Alexander Morgan Louie is charged with two counts of driving while prohibited and one count of driving while prohibited/licence suspended, after he was believed to be spotted driving across the U.S. border near Osoyoos Feb. 1 this year.
Const. Randy Herman with the Osoyoos RCMP detachment said he recognized Louie as the driver of the vehicle as he was being handled by Canada Border Services Agency officers, and believed he didn’t have a driver’s licence.
Herman said he had dealt with Louie “at least five times” in the past, and said he recognized the man in the vehicle as “Alexander Louie,” and recognized the driver of the vehicle as the defendant in court.
But there was one small issue that will determine Louie’s fate on this matter.
While the charges are for “Alexander Morgan Louie,” the driving prohibition and other records refer to “Alex Louie.” The defendant in court goes by the name Senklip, his Indigenous name, with his official name in records as “Alex Louie.”
At the same time as his run-in with Herman, Louie was also allegedly found to be attempting to carry guns across the border, and for that incident, he will be facing a trial in the Supreme Court of B.C. On that file, his name is listed as “Alex Louie.”
Louie is well-known in court for his claims that, as a Syilx man on unceded territory, the Crown has no jurisdiction over him. He also declined to agree that he had been prohibited from driving.
During his trial appearance on the driving matters, he repeatedly made similar claims, which Judge Gregory Koturbash was quick to knock down.
“You are bound by the laws of British Columbia,” he said, noting the matter had been decided at the Supreme Court of Canada. “I can’t change the law; I can’t change what the Supreme Court of Canada said.”
Among his own witnesses, Louie called his mother Maria Wilson, who said when she gave birth to Louie at the St. Martin’s Hospital in Oliver, she named him Senklip. But she told the court she was not allowed to bring him home until she gave him a “Christian name.”
Under pressure, Wilson said she named her son Alex Louie.
“Not Alexander, not anything else, but Alex Louie,” Wilson said. “And I don’t know what you guys are talking about, ‘Alexander this.’ I never did have a son named Alexander, so who do you guys got there? Who is that?”
In her closing arguments, Crown lawyer Ann Lerchs noted driving prohibitions filed for Louie, but Koturbash stopped her short.
“The issue as I see it is the information has a person charged as Alexander Morgan Louie, and the driving prohibitions are for a person by the name of Alex Louie,” Koturbash said, giving Lerchs some time to come up with a legal argument to account for the discrepancies in name.
Upon returning to the courts, Lerchs argued that Louie had been identified by Herman as the man seen driving on Feb. 1, and as Alex Louie, adding that he has been attending the court dates since his arrest — though Koturbash noted that wasn’t of his own will.
“I don’t have any doubt in my mind that the documents of Alex Louie is prohibited, but the person that’s charged is Alexander Morgan Louie, and the question is: is that the same person, and what is the law with respect to that?”
Koturbash turned back Lerchs’ argument that the similarity of name and Herman identifying Louie was adequate, noting it was a “technical legal issue that needs to be adequately addressed, and not just simply the Crown’s submission.”
After he asked for case law on the issue, Lerchs asked for more time to do more digging on the subject.
The matter is going to the trial co-ordinator to fix a date on Wednesday.