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Sexual assault charges stayed against native healer

By Keith Lacey It's time for Sudbury's native community to work together to ensure no one else has to suffer at the hands of "fake" native healers like Garth Percy Mousseau in the future.
By Keith Lacey

It's time for Sudbury's native community to work together to ensure no one else has to suffer at the hands of "fake" native healers like Garth Percy Mousseau in the future.

Those words from the husband of the complainant who alleged Mousseau repeatedly sexually abused her between July of 2000 and May of 2001.

Mousseau's trial came to a sudden halt Thursday after Justice Ian McMillan made a ruling he would not allow evidence from a 1998 sexual assault conviction against Mousseau to be admissible at this trial.

The woman and her husband testified they believed Mousseau to be a native "medicine man" and spiritual healer who was highly recommended to them through a mutual friend in early 2000.

The complainant testified Mousseau touched her sexually on several occasions without consent and forced sex on her twice.

She said she didn't tell anyone out of fear she wouldn't be believed and because she was raised with a blind faith in "medicine men" and native elders.

After the judge made his ruling, defence counsel Terry Waltenbury and assistant Crown attorney Marc Huneault gathered and began work on a plea bargain.

Two hours later, the Crown asked that four counts of sexual assault and six counts of breach of courts orders be stayed against Mousseau.

Mousseau then pleaded guilty to one count of breaching a 1998 court order to not practice native traditional medicine.

The judge accepted evidence from the trial and agreed Mousseau had breached the court order.

Mousseau is a free man today after McMillan accepted a joint submission that the six months Mousseau has spent in pre-trial custody is a sufficient penalty.

McMillan noted the courts almost always give credit for two days on any sentence for every day spent behind bars in pre-trial custody, stating Mousseau?s sentence is the equivalent of one year behind bars.

Before sentence was imposed, Mousseau told the court "I wish to apologize to (the complainant)...some of my behaviour was inappropriate and I apologize for any hurt I might have caused."

Mousseau is no stranger to the courts.

In 1998 he was convicted of sexual assault and given an 18-month sentence (time served) and he was also convicted of two counts of sexual interference and given a 12-month sentence. He was also found guilty of failing to comply with a recognizance in 1998 and given 30 days in jail.

In 1974, Mousseau received an 18-month sentence for being unlawfully at large. In July 1972, he was found guilty of robbery and given a two-year penitentiary term. Three weeks before that he was given probation for one year after being convicted of attempted break and enter.

After sentencing, the complainant and her husband said they are disappointed Mousseau was found guilty of only one of 11 charges, but considered the court proceedings "a moral victory."

When the judge refused to accept any evidence from the 1998 Parry Sound conviction, it was clear getting a conviction on the sexual assault charges wasn?t going to happen, said the husband.

However, getting Mousseau to admit in court he was falsely passing himself off as a native elder and medicine man is a huge victory, he said.

The couple say Mousseau "came very highly recommended" and they both trusted him immensely when they first met him in early 2000.

But being gullible isn't a crime, he said.

Mousseau now has to live with the consequences as much as they do, he said.

There's been tremendous support from the aboriginal community in Sudbury and their many friends at the N'Swakamok Native Friendship Centre will never be forgotten for their encouraging words of support through a very difficult ordeal, he said.

In large part because of the publicity surrounding this case, Mousseau and others who believe they can fool people and gain their trust by passing themselves off as elders and medicine men will be under very close scrutiny, he said.

"He was very good at deceiving people and not just us,? he said. "But this man is not alone and there are many others like him out there...hopefully they won?t be able to hide in the shadows any longer."

Any aboriginal person seeking spiritual help or relief from physical and emotional pain from a medicine man should do plenty of homework and talk to many others in the native community before placing any trust, he said.

The couple say they're now receiving spiritual counselling from a well-respected medicine man and elder from Manitoulin Island.

"We're back on our road to healing," he said. "We work on our marriage every day, one day at a time...this has made us stronger, healthier and very much wiser."

His wife agreed saying "this has made us stronger."