New Brunswick

Ex-Esgenoôpetitj chief Wilbur Dedam granted new trial on sex crimes

New Brunswick's Court of Appeal has set aside the sexual assault convictions of former Esgenoôpetitj First Nation chief Wilbur Dedam and ordered a new trial.

Court of Appeal overturns 6 convictions, citing breaches of Criminal Code and Charter rights during 2016 trial

Wilbur Dedam, the former chief of Esgenoôpetit First Nation, has been free on bail since April, pending his appeal. (Catherine Harrop/CBC)

New Brunswick's Court of Appeal has set aside the sexual assault convictions of former Esgenoôpetitj First Nation chief Wilbur Dedam and ordered a new trial.

Dedam, 66, was sentenced in 2016 to nine years in prison after a jury found him guilty of six sex crimes against three girls in the community dating back to the 1970s.

In February 2018, Dedam appealed his conviction on the grounds he was excluded from the courtroom during his trial in Miramichi. The Criminal Code of Canada states "an accused … shall be present in court during the whole of his or her trial."

The Court of Appeal ruled Thursday that Dedam's exclusion was a violation of the Criminal Code and of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

"I find that the appropriate and just remedy under s. 24(1) of the Charter is to allow the appeal, set aside the conviction and order a new trial," Justice Kathleen Quigg's written decision states.

T.J. Burke, one of Dedam's lawyers on appeal, declined to comment.

Quigg found Dedam was excluded "on no less than nine occasions" — four of them while testifying in his own defence.

On some of the occasions, only scheduling issues were discussed by Judge Tracey DeWare and the lawyers, she said.

"However, on other occasions the judge heard legal arguments or representations from counsel."

"Section 650(1) of the Criminal Code was repeatedly and blatantly violated and the cumulative seriousness of the violations infringed Mr. Dedam's rights under s. 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms," Quigg said on behalf of the panel, which also included Justices Marc Richard and Barbara Baird.

The charges Dedam was convicted of are based on the Criminal Code at the time of the offences. They include:

  • Sexual intercourse with a female under 14.
  • Sexual intercourse with a female under 16.
  • Sexual intercourse without consent.
  • Illicit sexual intercourse.
  • Two counts of sexual assault against two females.

Dedam was chief of the community, formerly known as Burnt Church, on and off for about 30 years in total.

He has been free on bail under conditions since April 11, pending his appeal, and is currently scheduled to return to court on Sept. 11 for bail review.

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