‘I’ve been in my own prison’: Sex assault survivor says sentencing of former chief, police officer ends 11-year ordeal

“It was the worst trauma any female should have to experience.”

A former chief and First Nation police officer in northwestern Ontario was sentenced Wednesday to three years in prison on a historical sex charge.

Eli Mandamin pleaded guilty to having sex with a female between the ages of 14 and 16 in 1981.

The Crown withdrew a charge of rape, as the offence was known at the time.

Justice John Fregeau of Ontario Supreme Court in Kenora said Mandamin was guilty of “outrageous conduct” and “egregious breach of trust.”

He said Mandamin, now 60, showed a lack of empathy or remorse by claiming he didn’t know the victim was under age and allegedly initiated intercourse.

Victim Pauline Fair, who was 14 at the time and waived a publication ban on her name, did not attend the sentencing hearing.

She said in a telephone interview afterwards she was glad to see the end of the 11-year ordeal in the courts.

“This is all part of my healing,” she said, noting she first took her complaint to the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) in 2008 but Mandamin wasn’t formally charged until 2015.

Read more: Former Ontario chief arrested for assault, breaching bail conditions

Court heard Mandamin was 22 and employed by the OPP in Shoal Lake 39 when he found Fair drinking with a group of girls celebrating a birthday and took her to the police sub-office.

She told court she was too intoxicated to run away or fight off Mandamin, who took her virginity and impregnated her as she lapsed in and out of consciousness.

While she described her son, Clifford, as “a blessing,” Fair said the crime “ruined” her life, by making her a young, unwed mother and derailing her education and career plans.

“I’ve been in my own prison for 38 years,” she said, detailing experiences with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, alcoholism and anxiety.

The judge agreed Fair weathered “devastating consequences” and praised her for describing the impact with “distressing eloquence.”

Mandamin “crushed her thoughts, spirit and soul,” Fregeau added.

“It was the worst trauma any female should have to experience.”

It was the day after Clifford was murdered in 2008 that Fair made her complaint about Mandamin public.

She encouraged every victim to do the same.

“There should be more people coming forward…to report these things and get their names out there,” she said.

“That’s one of the only ways the cycle of violence towards women would stop.”

Read more: No decision yet on sentence for former chief after conviction

Fregeau accepted Crown Attorney Peter William’s recommendation for a penalty of three years instead of five to follow Gladue principles and impose the shortest sentence possible.

The sentence includes access to a traditional healing lodge, requested by defence lawyer Robin Parker.

Mandamin, who now lives in Thunder Bay, is a former residential school student who served three terms as chief of his community before becoming grand chief for Grand Council Treaty 3, the governing body of the Anishinaabe Nation.

He was serving on the council’s police services board when he was first charged.

He pleaded guilty on the eve of his trial – after Fair testified at a preliminary hearing.

Meanwhile, APTN news has obtained a letter from Mandamin’s former community claiming the former chief’s crime affects more than just Fair.

“It continues to impact this community because the trust that we have for people placed in a position of authority and charged with maintaining the safety of the community, has been shattered by this individual,” it said.

Read more: #MeToo Movement in Indian Country is out there – but it’s under cover

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