AMC says Lake St. Martin chief ‘not welcome at assembly’ or any events

Chris Traverse is facing a number of sex related charges.

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) says a chief who is facing several sex related charges stemming from December 2023 isn’t allowed to attend events by the organization until the matter is resolved.

“Given the severe nature of the charges, the Executive Council of Chiefs has directed that this Chief shall not be welcome to attend our Chiefs-in-Assembly or any AMC events until these charges are resolved,” said a statement from Cathy Merrick, grand chief of the AMC that represents 62 First Nations in Manitoba.

“Once resolved, our Chiefs will give further direction.”

While not named, the chief mentioned in the statement is likely Chris Traverse from Lake St. Martin who is charged with several sexual offences involving a child.

According to Winnipeg police (WPS), Traverse was charged on Feb. 1 with sexual assault, sexual interference, and making and possessing child pornography.

In a Facebook post on April 11, Traverse denied the allegations.

“Concerning the accusations made against me that were reported in the media: they are not true. I have maintained my innocence from day one, and I will continue to do so,” he wrote.

“I willingly participated with the Winnipeg Police Service on this matter, including requesting a polygraph to prove my innocence.”

According to police, the charges allege the offences took place on or about Dec. 29, 2023.

The charges have not been tested in court.

Traverse was later released to await his next court date.

He’s been the chief of the Ojibway community 225 km northwest of Winnipeg since July 2022, after serving on council for many years.

In the same April 11 Facebook post, Traverse also talked about “concerns raised about fraudulent activity connected to our council” and that he welcomed a “forensic audit, and I can confirm that one is underway,” he wrote. “I am working with the federal government to move forward with the forensic audit, and I would like to thank them for their assistance with this matter.”

But according to a spokesperson at Indigenous Services Canada, “There are no ongoing audits involving the First Nation.

“The Government of Canada is deeply concerned by the troubling news in Lake St. Martin First Nation and we are taking this matter very seriously. We will be with the community every step of the way, to ensure they have the supports they need.”

Lake St. Martin is a member of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs [AMC] and the Southern Chiefs’ Organization.

The statement from the AMC on Friday is considerably stronger compared to when news broke on April 10 when a statement said it didn’t comment on charges related to chiefs.

“Our citizens, our Elders and Knowledge Keepers, alongside other leaders, rightfully expect nothing less than exemplary behaviour from our Chiefs. This includes the responsibility of protecting our most vulnerable and sacred citizens: our children.

Traverse’s next court appearance is scheduled for July 3.

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