Ki-Low-Na Friendship Centre, Indigenous healer sued over alleged sexual assault

Employee alleges sex assault

An employee of the Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society has filed a lawsuit against the non-profit organization and an Indigenous healer contracted by the organization, after she claims the healer sexually assaulted her.

A woman who works as a case manager at the society filed the lawsuit Monday against the Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society and Joseph Camille, a healer who also goes by the name Buckles. Castanet has chosen not to identify the woman because her identity would be legally protected should a criminal prosecution take place.

The plaintiff alleges Camille sexually assaulted her during a massage, when he allegedly “sought to tickle and push inside and around the vaginal area.” The suit does not say when the allegation occurred, but the plaintiff had begun working with the organization in the spring of this year.

“The plaintiff had evident bruising on the inside of her legs, back, breasts and over her buttock,” the suit states. “All these injuries were caused by the defendant Camille, who was at all times operating with permission and encouragement of the board and executive director of KFS."

The suit alleges the plaintiff went to the police with her allegation, and Camille was arrested on Aug. 6, 2021. But online court records show no criminal charges have been laid against him at this time.

The plaintiff says she immediately reported the sexual assault to the executive director of the KFS, but that no action was taken.

“Instead, the executive director allowed Camille to continue treating other staff members and a 13-year-old girl,” the suit claims, adding that KFS was aware of other allegations of “inappropriate touching and sexual assaults” prior to the incident with the plaintiff.

“KFS allowed Camille's reputation and elder status within the Indigenous community to blind their eyes to the obvious abuse of staff and other Indigenous community members,” the suits states.

KFS was founded in 1974, and provides programs and services out of their downtown Kelowna building, while "encouraging the community to preserve, share and promote Aboriginal cultural distinctiveness."

In the suit, the plaintiff alleges KFS “retaliated” against her for making the complaint, by extending her employment probationary period – refusing to provide extended benefits and a pay increase.

“Rather than taking the plaintiff's complaints seriously, the management at KFS has decided to treat the Plaintiff's concerns and complaints as a joke, thus re-traumatizing the plaintiff,” the suit says.

Then, she claims that on Nov. 10, she was placed on paid leave and was escorted from the building. The suit does not say what reason KFS had to do this.

In her suit, the plaintiff claims she has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, and feelings of guilt, responsibility and self blame as a result of the alleged assault.

She is seeking general, aggravated and punitive damages from Camille and KFS, along with recovery of unspecified healthcare costs and loss of past and future earnings. The total amount sought is not known at this time.

The Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society did not return Castanet's request for comment on the lawsuit, and neither Camille nor KFS has filed a formal response to the suit. None of the plaintiff's allegations has been tested in court.

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