Military officer Dany Fortin acquitted on 1988 sexual assault charge

fortin

A Quebec civilian judge has acquitted Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin of sexual assault over an allegation that dates back to 1988.

Judge Richard Meredith said he believes the complainant was sexually assaulted, but said the Crown did not establish beyond a reasonable doubt that it was Fortin who had assaulted her.

Fortin was the military officer in charge of the federal government's COVID-19 vaccine rollout until May 2021, but he was removed from that position after the allegation came to light.

Shortly after the verdict, he claimed to be the victim of political interference and told reporters he wants the military to restore him to an equivalent position.

The allegation stemmed from Fortin's time at the military college in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., which the complainant also attended.

The complainant in the case told the court that she is certain ``without a doubt'' that the perpetrator was Fortin, and her lawyer said she brought the incident to light in 2021, after she retired, due to a fear of career repercussions.

Fortin's lawyer cited inconsistencies between the complainant's testimony and her previous statements to investigators last year, including details of the incident.

A key point for the defence was that while the complainant said she told her then-boyfriend about the incident right afterward, he told the court he had no memory of such a conversation.

Meredith noted those inconsistencies Monday, as well as contradicting testimony regarding the location of lampposts in an adjacent parking lot, and whether the dorm window had shutters.

The judge said in French the lighting in the room was ``very far from optimal conditions for seeing clearly'' and noted that the complainant must have been in shock when the incident occurred.

``The tribunal is otherwise convinced that the complainant was sexually assaulted. Generally, the complainant seemed sincere in this regard,'' Meredith said in French, as he read out his ruling to the court.

``The reasons that explain why she had lived for so many years in silence, and which led her to ultimately file a complaint, are quite reasonable and credible,'' he said.

``The tribunal has no doubt of her sincerity. In this regard, the court sympathizes with her, considering the suffering she experienced. However, the tribunal's decision cannot be based on sympathy.''

Crown prosecutor Diane Legault said the verdict was a disappointment and she was not sure whether the Crown would appeal it.

Fortin told reporters that victims of sexual assault must be supported and believed, but stressed that he believes he never entered the room in which the complainant slept.