Ex MP Romeo Saganash referred to restorative justice program in sexual assault case

OTTAWA — The Manitoba government says former NDP member of Parliament Romeo Saganash, who was charged with sexual assault earlier this year, has been referred to a restorative justice program.

A provincial spokesperson confirmed late Friday that the matter has been sent to diversion, and the Manitoba Restorative Justice Centre has accepted Saganash and “placed him in programming.”

The province said it had no further comment.

The complainant in the case alleges that she was sexually assaulted on May 1, and Winnipeg police say they arrested Saganash on June 27.

Saganash’s lawyer, Ethan Pollock, said in an email on Friday that he was not at “liberty to discuss this matter until there is finality.”

None of the allegations have been tested in court, and Pollock said in August that his client is presumed innocent and requested that his privacy be respected.

Carmen Roy, who works for the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, decided to go public about the case in August. She said in a written statement at the time that she did not want to be silent, but instead use her voice “to help other victims of sexual trauma.”

Her lawyer, Kathryn Marshall, said at the time that the alleged incident happened while Roy was at work, but that she was not able to divulge more details.

Marshall said on Friday that she and her client learned last week that the case was being diverted to a restorative justice program.

She said her client does not feel that this is an “appropriate resolution” to the charge.

“She was prepared to go to court and she wanted to see accountability,” said Marshall. “She’s upset … and I agree this is not justice being served.”

Restorative justice is an approach used in the criminal justice system to allow an accused person to accept responsibility for the hurt they have caused to someone. Its programs and processes take different forms.

The Manitoba government’s website says one of the goals of its criminal justice modernization strategy is to use restorative justice options to “improve public safety, reduce delays in the court system and ultimately reduce reliance on incarceration.”

It says such an approach “may be used at any stage of a case” by police or prosecutors.

A court clerk said Saganash’s next slated appearance is Dec. 15.

“My client is a 10-year residential school survivor and lives with debilitating trauma resulting from this horrific experience,” Pollock said in an August statement.

“Mr. Saganash has been a valuable member of the Indigenous and Canadian political community for a considerable period of time.”

Saganash, a Cree lawyer who helped negotiate the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, represented the northern Quebec riding of Abitibi-Baie-James-Nunavik-Eeyou from 2011 to 2019.

In July 2022, he had been named as one of the residential school survivors who would work with a national committee struck by the federal government on how to address possible unmarked graves and missing children.

The committee was set up by the federal government and the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.

A spokesperson said in August that he no longer holds that role, and did not say why or when he ended the position.

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