Senior public health doctor charged with child sex offences released on bail after court appearance

The top doctor in B.C.’s Interior Health region, which spans from the Okanagan to the Kooteneys, was released on bail Wednesday morning, after a court appearance related to two alleged sex offences committed in Alberta.

Dr. Albert de Villiers, 52, is charged with sexual assault and sexual interference, which is a criminal charge that relates to a child under age 16.

Mounties in Grande Prairie, Alberta say the charges date back to the period between June 2018 and July 2020.

De Villiers worked as a public health official in Grande Prairie for some 16 years before he was hired as Interior Health’s chief medical health officer, based in Kelowna, in August 2020.

In that roll, he has been the top public health official implementing policies and overseeing the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in the region.

“This particular case was not related to his employment,” Grande Prairie RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Shawn Graham told CTV News Vancouver.

Interior Health said De Villiers had been placed on leave, and other top public health officials would be taking over the position on an interim basis.

A spokesperson could not provide details on whether De Villiers had undergone a criminal background check or if he had been otherwise vetted as part of the hiring process.

Police arrested De Villiers in Kelowna on Tuesday, after investigating a report on May 28 of sexual offences against a young child, Mounties said.

De Villiers was released on a promise to appear in court, along with a number of conditions that include no contact with his alleged victim or the victim’s family, and avoiding public parks, swimming areas, community centres, schools, or playgrounds where children under 16 are present, with few exceptions.

He also must surrender his passport.

At the Kelowna home registered in his name, a woman who answered the door Wednesday told a reporter for “Kelowna Now” she had nothing to say about the charges.

In Victoria, Health Minister Adrian Dix called the charges against Interior Health's top doctor both serious and concerning.

“What I can say is that it won’t distract us at all,” Dix said, adding that vaccination efforts and support for those suffering from COVID-19 would continue at the “highest possible level.”

De Villiers next court appearance is scheduled for June 30 in Grande Prairie.