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Woman accusing ex-MP Saganash of sex assault files suit after criminal case diverted

OTTAWA — A woman accusing former New Democrat MP Romeo Saganash of sexual assault has filed a civil suit, saying she never wanted prosecutors to divert his criminal charge to a restorative justice program.

Carmen Roy, who fought to have her name released in the case, alleges she was sexually assaulted a year ago, and now lives with “psychiatric, psychological, emotional and physical injuries.”

In a statement of claim filed Tuesday, Roy publicly details the specifics of her allegations for the first time.

None of the allegations has been tested in court and no statement of defence has been filed. Saganash’s lawyer declined comment, but Ethan Pollock has previously said that his client is presumed innocent. He has also requested that Saganash’s privacy be respected.

“My client is determined to seek justice and stand up not only for herself but for victims everywhere,” Roy’s lawyer, Kathryn Marshall, said in a statement.

“She is a fighter and she is brave.”

Winnipeg police arrested Saganash, who represented a northern Quebec riding for eight years, late last June and charged him with sexual assault over an incident that took place in Winnipeg on May 1, 2023.

In October, officials diverted the case to the Manitoba Restorative Justice Centre.

The provincial government describes its approach to restorative justice as one that “focuses on ‘restoring’ relationships, fixing the damage that has been done and preventing more crimes from occurring.”

The effort to reintegrate the offender can include victims and community members “when appropriate,” it says.

Saganash is next scheduled to be in court May 17 for an administrative appearance.

“Manitoba Justice can confirm programming is still underway in this case and may be completed by the next court date,” a provincial spokesman wrote.

Roy is the executive assistant to Stephanie Scott, the head of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.

In July 2022, the federal government appointed Saganash as a member of a group of residential school survivors that would work in tandem with a national advisory committee on missing children and unmarked burials.

The committee and survivors’ circle are co-administered by the federal government and the national centre led by Scott.

Saganash’s membership was suspended after Roy’s allegations came to light.

The statement of claim alleges that on the day the events took place, the two both attended a breakfast meeting at the Four Points Sheraton Winnipeg, at which Saganash arrived late and “smelled strongly of alcohol.”

After lunch, he “appeared highly intoxicated and was having difficulty maintaining his composure,” the document says.

Saganash stared at Roy, the statement says, before “sniffing her in a sexually provocative manner.”

“Mr. Saganash proceeded to grab Ms. Roy underneath her breasts on the left side of her upper torso,” the statement reads, at which point Roy’s boss Scott told Saganash not to touch Roy.

“Saganash simply murmured something under his breath and chuckled,” the document alleges.

Shortly after that, the statement alleges that Saganash “grabbed and touched Ms. Roy on her inner left thigh.”

The document says Roy “was frozen in fear” and texted Scott, who came over and switched seats with Roy after seeing Saganash touching her hands.

Madeleine Basile, another residential school survivor who serves on the advisory committee, sat beside Roy, according to the statement. It says she witnessed the events and said Saganash should not be present at the meeting.

The statement of claim alleges that Saganash at one point told Basile, “I love you,” before Scott had him driven home.

It goes on to say that Scott called a meeting about the incident the following day, and Saganash did not show up for it.

When Roy went with Scott to report the matter to Winnipeg police on May 4, the document says, officers initially said they were too busy to meet and requested that she give a statement online.

They eventually reneged and asked her to write a statement on the spot, the statement of claim says.

The Winnipeg Police Service did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The service has previously insisted it is undertaking reforms to better serve Indigenous women.

On Aug. 15, the statement of claim says, Roy met with a prosecutor who characterized Saganash’s offence as being on the low end of the spectrum, making him a likely candidate for the restorative justice program if he accepted responsibility for his actions.

But Roy was never consulted on the actual decision to put Saganash in restorative justice, the statement of claim alleges, saying that prevented her from having an opportunity to provide a victim impact statement.

When asked about this criticism, Manitoba Justice confirmed that “the Crown had discussions with the victim prior to the decision to divert the case to restorative justice” but did not address whether she had weighed in on the decision.

The statement of claim describes the incident as “sexual battery” that has caused psychological harm and a loss of income.

Previously, Roy convinced Manitoba Crown prosecutors to not seek a publication ban, a common mechanism in sexual-assault cases that prevents media from reporting identifying information about complainants.

Roy said at the time in a statement that she wanted to “to use my voice to help other victims of sexual trauma.”

Saganash’s lawyer has previously lamented “hatred disseminated online” about his client, noting that he suffers “debilitating trauma resulting from” a decade in residential school, which was a “horrific experience.”

Saganash represented Abitibi-Baie-James-Nunavik-Eeyou from 2011 to 2019, serving as the Indigenous affairs critic for the NDP.

As a Cree lawyer, Saganash helped to negotiate the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. As an MP, he put forward proposed legislation to implement it in Canada.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 1, 2024.

Dylan Robertson, The Canadian Press


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