The trial of Quebec media star Éric Salvail opened Monday with testimony from a former co-worker who said Salvail cornered him, exposed himself and tried to force him into performing a sex act.
The 50-year-old Salvail faces charges of sexual assault, harassment and unlawful confinement for events in 1993 involving a single alleged victim.
Donald Duguay, 47, told the court he and Salvail both worked in the mailroom at Radio-Canada when he first experienced unwanted advances from Salvail. At Duguay’s request, the court has waived the standard publication ban on the identity of alleged victims in sexual assault cases.
He testified that from their first meeting, Salvail made inappropriate comments and tried to seduce him, telling him he had “a nice little ass.” He said he was “outraged” and asked Salvail to stop speaking to him that way, but he said in the next days Salvail persisted, grabbing his buttocks a few times and inviting him for “a little quickie.”
Despite his repeated rejections and demands that the behaviour stop, Duguay said, the abuse only escalated.
The court heard that the two men were no longer working in the same department by Halloween 1993 when Salvail followed Duguay into a washroom, dropped his pants to expose himself and rubbed himself against Duguay’s buttocks, “imitating a penetration.”
Duguay testified that Salvail grabbed him and held him against his will. He said it was only when he threatened to scream and report Salvail that he loosened his grip and Duguay was able to flee.
Salvail’s lawyer, Michel Massicotte, bombarded Duguay with questions in cross-examination. He questioned whether Duguay and Salvail had actually worked in the mailroom at the same time and he raised contradictions between what Duguay said previously to police and at his preliminary hearing and his testimony at trial.
Some of the contradictions concerned the physical layout of the washroom and the amount of time Duguay took to wash his hands.
Duguay explained that he suffers from post-traumatic stress, and different scenes were reconstructed with the aide of a psychiatrist or psychologist, meaning these details only fell into place later on. Massicotte was skeptical of his explanation.
Salvail, who has pleaded not guilty and opted for trial by judge alone, was one of Quebec’s most popular entertainers until he departed show business in 2017 after allegations of sexual misconduct were published by Montreal’s La Presse.
He had his own TV production company, hosted a popular talk show on Groupe V Media and was a fixture on afternoon radio in the province.