First Nations ‘traditional healer’ changes plea on 12 sexual assault charges

Saskatchewan court decides Cecil Wolfe may not have understood what he agreed to

Cecil Wolfe, from Saskatchewan, has withdrawn his guilty pleas on 12 counts of sexual assault. Photo: APTN file

Support is available for anyone who has been sexually assaulted. Call The Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-833-900-1010 for more information.

One of 12 women accusing a “traditional healer” of committing a sex crime can’t believe he was allowed to change his guilty plea.

Cecil Wolfe of Onion Lake First Nation pleaded guilty to 12 counts of sexual assault in April 2022.

But his new lawyer successfully argued for the plea to be expunged so Wolfe can defend his innocence.

That means the dozen complainants will need to testify at a trial.

“It’s discouraging,” said the Indigenous woman, who cannot be named under a court-ordered publication ban.

“I’m tired and want to treat this like everyone else in our communities – forget and ignore it.”

New plea

Crown attorney Lana Morelli confirmed Wolfe will be able to enter the new plea when he is due back in court on Sept. 25.

“Yes the Judge determined that the accused’s pleas were not properly informed so expunged the 12 guilty pleas,” Morelli told APTN News in an email.

Wolfe was arrested in 2021 as part of a joint investigation by the Saskatoon Police Service and Saskatchewan RCMP, who allege he sexually abused clients as a “medicine man” between 2013 and 2021.

“Investigators believe there may be additional victims from over the past 20 years in the communities of Loon Lake, Blaine Lake, Muskeg Lake Cree Nation, Saskatoon and surrounding areas,” Saskatchewan RCMP said in a news release.

“[Alleged] victims report Cecil Wolfe was working under the pretext of being a traditional healer or medicine man when they encountered him.”

Wolfe was provided with a Cree translator during the court proceedings. He also signed an agreed statement of facts, and defence and Crown lawyers jointly recommended a nine-and-a-half-year sentence.

But then Wolfe fired his lawyer and hired a new one to expunge the guilty pleas – something a judge grants if he believes an accused was not properly informed, under duress or didn’t appreciate the consequences of his or her actions.

The woman said she is now considering withdrawing her criminal complaint.

“It’s too traumatic now being around [the accused] for more court dates,” she said in an email to APTN, “and seeing and having to do this process with [other alleged] victims that remind me of an even more traumatic experience. I want to be done and away with all of this.”

Morelli agreed the complainants were angry with the court.

“It has been a shock and hard for the victims to comprehend,” she added in an email. “There is fear for some because of their cultural beliefs (and he is an Elder/Healer).

“Most are upset – whether it is fear, anger, anxiety or a combination of all.”

Contribute Button