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Former aboriginal youth leader faces risk assessment in sexual assault conviction

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The fate of a disgraced aboriginal youth leader remains in question after the judge in his sexual assault case agreed to have a psychiatrist conduct a risk assessment on him.

Thomas Edwards was due to be sentenced Wednesday morning for sexually assaulting two male youths between 2003 and 2007. Edwards fondled and molested them under the guise of performing an aboriginal "healing or cleansing ceremony."

He was convicted on Sept. 9, 2012 after a two-week trial.

Crown attorney Jennifer Mann asked the judge for a lengthy jail term. She requested 18 months for his conviction for touching one youth sexually, and another four years for sexually assaulting a victim and refusing to let him leave the room they were in.

Defence counsel Ryan Rolston argued for a conditional sentence of two years less a day.

Queen’s Bench Justice Colleen Suche said she is concerned that Edwards has not admitted his guilt and that many of his supporters also believe he is innocent.

"How do I deal with rehabilitation if somebody doesn’t acknowledge they’ve ever done the act?" Suche said. "How can they be rehabilitated?"

Rolston said it has been five years since Edwards was arrested and he has met his bail conditions. He is employed, and engaged to marry.

Crown attorney Jennifer Mann said she believes Edwards continues to pose a danger. He was a teacher when he was arrested. Fired from that job, he took another teaching position on the Lake Manitoba reserve. He was fired from that one, too.

"His modus operandi is being a loving, caring person who people can’t believe would do this. He has no remorse and is not accepting responsibility. He does pose a risk and that should be taken into consideration."

Edwards gained prominence several years ago as one of the key members of the National Aboriginal Role Model program. Its website lists him as an aspiring actor and public speaker who was dedicated to helping enrich the lives of young people within his community.

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