Woman accusing ex-NDP MP Roméo Saganash of sexual assault in Winnipeg goes public

OTTAWA — The woman accusing former New Democrat MP Roméo Saganash of sexual assault is going public, saying she wants to support others.

Carmen Roy, who works for the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, alleges that she was sexually assaulted on May 1 in Winnipeg.

Police said they arrested Saganash, who represented a northern Quebec riding for eight years, on June 27.

None of the allegations have been tested in court. Ethan Pollock, the Winnipeg-based lawyer representing Saganash in the case, says that his client is presumed innocent and requested that his privacy be respected.

In a written statement to The Canadian Press, Roy said she has had a "traumatic experience," but thanked those who have supported her through it.

"I don't want to be silent, and I think it is important to use my voice to help other victims of sexual trauma," Roy wrote in the statement sent Monday through her lawyer, Kathryn Marshall.

"I am exploring my legal options and I look forward to achieving justice and accountability," she wrote. Marshall confirmed her client is considering a civil suit.

Marshall said Roy was at work when the alleged incident happened, but that she is not able to provide more details. Roy is the executive assistant to Stephanie Scott, the head of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.

Scott issued a written statement on Thursday, saying she supports the "courage" of Roy in deciding to allow her identity to be revealed.

"We are deeply concerned that an incident took place at an off-site event, where (centre) staff were present. That incident is now before the courts," Scott said in the statement.

The centre "does not tolerate or condone any form of violence, including sexual violence," she added. "We remain committed to upholding the highest standards of integrity and supporting survivors of trauma and violence in dignified, culturally appropriate and trauma-informed ways."

Manitoba Crown prosecutors said they had intended to seek a publication ban, a common mechanism in sexual-assault cases that prevents media from reporting identifying information about complainants.

But prosecutors revised their plan after Roy said she did not want such a ban. On Wednesday, a Winnipeg judge agreed to have the case proceed without one.

Pollock, the defence lawyer, wrote in a statement Wednesday night that there has been "hatred disseminated online" about Saganash. He noted the court process is still underway.

"My client is a 10-year residential school survivor, and lives with debilitating trauma resulting from this horrific experience," Pollock wrote. "Mr. Saganash has been a valuable member of the Indigenous and Canadian political community for a considerable period of time."

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

In July 2022, Saganash was named as one of the residential school survivors working with a national advisory committee on how to address missing children and unmarked burials. The committee was set up by the federal government and the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.

Earlier this month, a spokesman for the centre said Saganash no longer holds that role, and did not say why or when he ended that position.

Saganash, a Cree lawyer, 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 Aug. 31, 2023.

— With files from Steve Lambert in Winnipeg.

Dylan Robertson, The Canadian Press