The Supreme Court rejects the appeal of the ex-boss of Esgenoôpetitj, who has been convicted of sex crimes
Canada’s top court will not hear an appeal from former Esgenoôpetitj First Nation chief Wilbur Dedam, who is serving nine years in prison after being convicted in 2021 on four-decade-old sex charges involving two young girls.
In a decision filed Thursday, the Supreme Court of Canada denied Dedam’s request to leave to appeal the New Brunswick Court of Appeals’ decision last August to uphold his conviction.
As usual, the Supreme Court did not explain its decision.
In an emailed statement, Dedam’s Toronto-based attorney, Michael Lacy, noted that the Supreme Court is “sparing in granting vacations.”
“In this case, they were not satisfied that it was appropriate to hear further appeals,” Lacy said.
“Mr Dedam has exhausted all legal remedies and will now continue to serve his sentence,” he added.
In 2021, then 68-year-old Dedam was convicted of four out of six sexual charges between 1977 and 1985 involving two young girls and the other.
There is a ban on the publication of any information that would identify the victims.
Documents filed with the Supreme Court show that Lacy only wanted to appeal the three sexual assault convictions.
2 main arguments
Lacy argued that Dedam’s case posed “an issue of national concern” relating to when it is appropriate to interfere with a trial judge’s determinations of credibility.
The New Brunswick Court of Appeals, he claimed, was its “duty to [meaningfully] review the trial judge’s line of reasoning” when he believed the victim to be credible despite some contradictions between her testimony and the testimony given to the police.
“It is obviously important that appellate courts do not become secondary courts that retry appeal cases without regard to their statutory role. But it is equally important that appellate courts fulfill their legal duty,” says Lacy’s 19-page memorandum of argument.
“The Court of Appeals dismissed [Dedam’s] Appeal on the basis that the trial judge’s credibility findings were virtually immune from appeal,” he wrote.
“The lower court unlawfully deferred to credibility findings because the trial judge failed to follow his own conclusion that the applicant had not been honest with the court on important matters.”
Additionally, Lacy argued that Dedam’s case involved “another important legal issue,” which is when evidence exculpating or exonerating a defendant comes out as part of the Crown’s case can be used for the truth of its contents.
During Dedam’s trial, the Crown called a witness who testified that Dedam had told her the allegations against him were false. The trial judge dismissed Dedam’s denial and concluded that he did not need to conduct any further analysis as to whether the exculpatory statements were likely to raise a reasonable doubt as that step is dependent on the defendant’s testimony and Dedam did not testify.
This, Lacy argued, was an error of law.
“This motion gives the court an opportunity to clarify when and if exculpatory evidence presented before the trial should be the subject of a W.(D) analysis in the absence of testimony from a defendant. Although various courts of appeal have addressed this issue, this court has never provided clear and definitive guidance on the issue,” he wrote.
Crown urged the court to dismiss
Prosecutor Patrick McGuinty, in his written response to the leave request, noted that in 2021 the Supreme Court “has expressed its sincere frustration at appellate courts that continue to overturn certain convictions after fair trials not on the basis of error of law, but on the basis.” have a highly technical analysis of process reasons.”
“Expressing frustration, this court found that such improper appellate scrutiny occurred most frequently in sexual assault cases where credibility findings were questioned,” McGuinty wrote.
“Accordingly, the appellate courts have again been directed to conduct functional and contextual reviews of a trial judge’s reasoning. In the present case, the New Brunswick Court of Appeal did just that.”
The court conducted a “thoughtful review” of the trial verdict, he said, and concluded that there was no basis for an appeal intervention.
Lacy’s other argument “ignores the entirety” of the appeals court’s analysis on the issue, McGuinty argued. He cited the court’s “comprehensive review,” including its conclusion that the exculpatory evidence was dismissed by the trial judge.
Another historic indictment fell in September
Lacy filed the motion for leave to appeal on October 4, shortly after another historic sex charge against Dedam was dropped.
He was accused of having “intercourse with a woman under the age of 14” between 1973 and 1974. But the Crown withdrew those charges on September 12, a month before the trial was due to begin.
Dedam’s other trial attorney, Fredericton resident TJ Burke, previously told CBC the charges were separate from the charges leading up to his current sentence.
Dedam was indicted in 2014 on six counts involving three alleged victims.
He was found guilty on all six counts and sentenced to nine years in prison in 2016 after a trial by a judge and jury, but successfully appealed and a new trial was ordered.
He stood trial again in October 2020 and was eventually found guilty by a Court of Queen’s Bench judge and sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2021. Within hours of the sentencing, his lawyers appealed and Dedam was released pending the completion of the sentence.
In August, the New Brunswick Court of Appeals upheld his conviction but reduced his sentence to nine years.
Dedam was chief of Esgenoôpetitj, formerly known as Burnt Church, northeast of Miramichi, for about 30 years.