Former Little Shuswap Lake Indian Band Chief Felix Arnouse is shown here in 2013 wearing regalia when he still held the office of chief. (File photo)

Former Little Shuswap Lake Band chief pleads guilty to assault

Victim said she has had suicidal thoughts and nightmares since the incident

Tim Petruk

Kamloops This Week

A Secwepemc First Nations elder and former chief will avoid jail after pleading guilty on Thursday to a charge stemming from a groping incident last year involving a woman half his age.

Felix Arnouse, who spent more than 25 years as chief of the Little Shuswap Lake Indian Band, was charged with sexual assault following an incident in Chase on Aug. 26, 2018. He pleaded guilty on Thursday to the lesser included-charge of simple assault.

Judge Stephen Harrison placed Arnouse on a six-month conditional sentence order, the first three months of which will be served under house arrest. Once six months have passed, Arnouse will spend the next year on probation with terms requiring he have no contact with the victim.

Arnouse will also be required to submit a sample of his DNA to a national criminal database.

Court heard the victim, a Little Shuswap Indian Band member in her late 30s, was grieving her mother’s death last summer with support from Arnouse, who is now 72.

On Aug. 25, 2018, Arnouse was at the victim’s house for a smudging ceremony. When he departed, he left his hat and glasses behind.

Arnouse then sent the woman a text message arranging to pick up his belongings the following day. Over text, he told the woman she owed him “a traditional hug.”

She asked what he meant.

“I’ll show you when I get there,” Arnouse replied. “You’ll like it.”

Related: Former BC First Nations chief charged with sexual assault

When Arnouse arrived the following day, he hugged the woman and placed his hands on her behind.

“During the hug, he reached down with both hands to her buttocks,” reads an agreed statement of facts read in court.

“Mr. Arnouse squeezed twice while holding [her] buttocks. Mr. Arnouse then poked [her] left side. [She] confronted Mr. Arnouse about the fact this was not a ‘traditional hug.’ At that point, Mr. Arnouse reached out and touched [her] lips with his index finger vertically positioned and then left.”

The woman read a victim-impact statement in court, detailing her struggles in the months since the incident. She said she lost her job and has been forced to move away from Chase.

“When I think about my mother passing, I think about my mother and then I think about Felix Arnouse’s actions,” she said. “I’m not able to mourn the loss of my mother.”

The woman said she has had suicidal thoughts since the incident and consistently has nightmares.

“I was in disbelief he could attempt to do something so cruel, especially at that time in my life,” she said. “I felt dirty… I felt ashamed. I blamed myself.”

Harrison noted the impact the incident had on the victim.

“There’s no doubt this amounted to a serious affront to her dignity,” he said. “The victim was particularly vulnerable given the loss of her mother a few days before.”

Defence lawyer Jeremy Jensen read a written apology, penned by Arnouse, in court.

“I did not mean to make you uncomfortable by my behaviour,” the apology read. “I did not think about how you might feel.”


@SalmonArm
newsroom@saobserver.net

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Gathering in Salmon Arm to offer support, resources after shooting

Agencies join to provide practical assistance from 4:30 to 6 p.m. on Tuesday, April 23 at rec centre

Okanagan-Shuswap weather: Clear skies and pushing 20 C

Environement Canada forcasts a sunny and warm Easter weekend

Have your say on proposed ban of single use plastic bags

Salmon Arm to hold public information session on bylaw this Tuesday, April 23

Peeling away: OK strip clubs disappearing

Hear from Penticton’s only strip club owner about their success in a dying industry

Update: Fire destroys Peachland home on Somerset Avenue

Crews are still on scene pumping water onto the blaze

Waste not: Kootenay brewery leftovers feed the local food chain

Spent grains from the Trail Beer Refinery are donated to local farmers and growers, none go to waste

Summerland student examines effects of sound

Science fair project will go to national competition in New Brunswick

Cuteness overload: duckling thinks dog is its mom

Vernon photographer Fiona Hook shot a cute video after noticing one of her ducklings had taken a special liking to her dog.

Fire near Vernon airport “not a concern”

Vernon firefighters attended the scene and found a resident performing a controlled burn

Sons of Anarchy’s Kim Coates stops by Okanagan café

Coates was spotted in West Bank’s Kekuli Café on April 20

B.C. women make 2,200 cabbage rolls for charity

The money raised was donated to former NHL player Aaron Volpatti, who is raising funds for ALS

Deck collapses in Langley during celebration, 35 people injured

Emergency responders rushed to the Langley home

B.C. mom wages battle to get back four kids taken from her in Egypt

Sara Lessing of Mission has help from Abbotsford law firm

Most Read