The complainant in the sexual assault trial of the military officer who led the federal government’s COVID-19 vaccine campaign says her assailant in a 1988 alleged assault was, “without a doubt,” Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin.
But when her ex-boyfriend from that era was called to the stand, he contradicted her testimony that she immediately told him about the incident at the time — and that Fortin was responsible.
Fortin’s defence lawyer, Isabel Schurman, said on Monday that she would vigorously contest the complainant’s identification of her client, who maintains his innocence.
She pointed out differences between the complainant’s testimony in court versus accounts given to an investigator last year, on details such as the timing of the incident and whether her roommate was present.
The complainant, whose identity is protected under a publication ban, said on Tuesday that she has “nightmares” and a “recurring vision” of the assault.
During the emotional conclusion of her testimony in a Gatineau, Que., courtroom Tuesday morning, the complainant pushed back on the suggestion that her fuzziness on some of the circumstances could cast doubt on her memory of key details.
She said in English that though she can’t be 100 per cent sure of some of the specifics 34 years later, she is ironclad on her attacker’s identity.
“I can assure you without a doubt that it was Dany Fortin standing over me masturbating himself with my hand,” she said. “I looked at him. I knew that man.”
She testified yesterday that she woke up one night at the military college barracks in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., and realized that a man had taken her hand and was masturbating himself with it, while his hand was on her breast.
She told the court she opened her eye and recognized Fortin, then pushed him away and told him to get off her before he backed away.
She also said she visited her then-boyfriend immediately afterwards and told him about what happened. She testified that their relationship later soured and that they were “definitely not” on good terms.
After being called as a witness by the defence, he told the court in French that he had no memory of any interaction of that nature.
During her cross-examination, prosecutor Diane Legault asked whether he knew of any assaults at the time. He said he doesn’t remember having knowledge of sexual assault of a criminal nature, but he acknowledged that he witnessed discussions or an environment that could be described with the term “sexual misconduct.”
The complainant also testified on Monday that she believed her roommate was present during the assault, and that she later asked her whether she had seen or heard anything during the night.
Legault called the roommate to the stand earlier Tuesday morning before wrapping up the prosecution’s case. Testifying in English, the former roommate corroborated the complainant’s account that they stayed together in a double room in the barracks at the time.
She said she had memories of having fun with Fortin, that he was a classmate and “camaraderie was expected.”
She said her overall experience in the military college was not positive and, “You were exposed to a lot of behaviours that probably were not appropriate.” She noted that they were teenagers, many of them under the legal drinking age and being pushed to their limits.
She said she had no memory of being asked about an incident by her then-roommate.
“I’m not saying it didn’t happen, because personally, from my own trauma, I blocked a lot of those memories out,” she said.
In addition to defending himself in his criminal case, which is being heard by judge Richard Meredith, Fortin is also challenging his removal from the vaccine campaign in Federal Court.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 20, 2022.