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Lake St. Martin chief declares innocence after being charged with sex assault 

By Dave Baxter

 Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

WINNIPEG, MAN- A First Nations chief charged with sexually assaulting a child is proclaiming he is innocent and said he has no plans to voluntarily walk away from his leadership position.

Charges of sexual assault, sexual interference and child pornography charges against Chief of Lake St. Martin First Nation Christopher Traverse were announced Wednesday.

The Winnipeg Police Service (WPS) confirmed the chief of the community located in the Interlake, about 200 kilometres north of Winnipeg, was arrested in February and court records say alleged offences happened on Dec. 29, and involve an elementary-school-age child. Traverse was released on bail.

Traverse took to Facebook on Wednesday to state his innocence and said that he has and will continue to be cooperative with police, even now that criminal charges have been laid.

“Concerning the accusations made against me that were reported in the media: they are not true,” Traverse wrote. “I have maintained my innocence from day one, and I will continue to do so. I willingly participated with the Winnipeg Police Service on this matter, including requesting a polygraph to prove my innocence.”

A provincial court hearing is scheduled for July 3.

“As the investigation of this matter is ongoing, I am unable to disclose details. However, I can confirm that I will continue to cooperate with the authorities and I am anxious for the truth to be exposed: that I am innocent,” he wrote.

“This is a serious matter with a devastating impact on my personal and professional reputation. I am grateful to have the support of my family, friends and colleagues as I address this issue going forward.”

He added he believes he can continue to serve as the leader of his community, despite the allegations.

“I want to ensure my fellow community members of the Lake St.

Martin First Nation I will overcome this obstacle and continue to work for our community,” he said.

The Interlake Reserves Tribal Council, which consists of seven First Nations including Lake St. Martin, became aware of the allegations last week. Traverse is a board member of the organization.

Lake Manitoba First Nation Chief Cornell McLean, who chairs the

tribal council board, said on Wednesday there will be an emergency meeting sometime next week to determine its next steps. They may ask Traverse to step down or suspend him until the case is resolved.

Police said they did not put out a public notice regarding the charges after Traverse was first arrested.

“Investigators did not believe that the accused’s position of trust/authority was a factor in committing this particular offence,” WPS spokesperson Dani McKinnon said in an email. “The WPS communicated with the community regarding the nature of the arrest at the time.”


_ With files from the Canadian Press


-Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.



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