Trevor Sanipass, a well-known name in Nova Scotia, has pleaded not guilty to one count of committing an indecent act.
His trial got underway in Truro, N.S., this week.
Provincial court Judge Elizabeth Buckle was told Sanipass, 46, contacted a woman through social media in July 2019 to learn more about her special Indigenous craft.
While exchanging text messages, the woman said Sanipass allegedly sent her a photo of his penis and asked her questions about it.
Screenshots of the texts were shown on a large screen in court.
The woman said she deleted the photo, and the conversation continued about cultural harvesting traditions.
She told the court she trusted Sanipass.
“Trevor was a respected [Mi’kmaw] knowledge keeper, so I thought I was safe,” said the woman whose identity is protected by a court-ordered publication ban.
Sanipass has worked as a cultural educator for agencies like the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and as a probation officer for the Nova Scotia Department of Justice. He also made regular radio and television appearances.
On July 7, 2019, the woman said she and Sanipass travelled to a wooded area in Sanipass’s vehicle to harvest material for craft making. She said she showed and explained the traditional protocols such as offering tobacco, saying a prayer and giving thanks to the Creator.
When they returned to the vehicle, she said he allegedly exposed himself, masturbated, and asked her to have sex.
She said she repeatedly said no, and testified he continued to masturbate.
“I was thinking, ‘What am I going to do? No one knows where I’m at.’ I didn’t have a lot of cell service.”
The woman said Sanipass stopped what he was doing, got into his car, and asked if he could drive naked.
She said no, and they arrived at a powwow at a nearby community where Sanipass was in the grand entry.
The woman contacted the RCMP to file a complaint in the fall of 2020. She said she could no longer go to the woods to harvest after the alleged incident.
“All I could think about was what happened with Trevor, and feeling not safe, feeling shame.”
The woman added she felt offended and hurt.
“He requested those teachings from me to get me into those woods alone, where I was not safe,” she alleged.
The court adjourned until Oct. 14, before the complainant could be cross-examined by Sanipass’s lawyer, Joel Pink.