Soldier charged in sex assaults at Ont. military base

OTTAWA – A seven-year veteran of the Canadian Forces will appear in court Monday after being charged with four sexual assaults on and around a military base in Ontario – the latest incident that military officials admit could tarnish the Forces’ reputation.

Cpl. Christopher Raymond Chaulk was charged Sunday under the Criminal Code with four counts of sexual assault and four related counts of assault.

The charges stem from two incidents on Canadian Forces Base Petawawa in the early mornings of Thursday and Saturday, plus two others in the area that took place in the fall of 2009.

The charges come one day after Chaulk was arrested by the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service, the investigative arm of the Canadian Forces Military Police. He remains in custody and will appear in provincial court in Pembroke, Ontario, on Monday morning for a bail hearing.

Chaulk, whose home unit is Canadian Forces Station St. John’s in Newfoundland, has been at CFB Petawawa since last fall for training prior to deployment to Afghanistan, said Maj. Paule Poulin, a spokeswoman for the military authorities.

Neither his age, nor that of the victims was released.

Poulin said military police, along with the Ontario Provincial Police and its canine unit “were instrumental” in Chaulk’s arrest.

The military announced the arrest of an unnamed suspect Saturday, but mentioned only the two recent incidents at the base, 160 kilometres northwest of Ottawa.

In the first, a man broke into a home on the base’s married quarters and assaulted a woman who was alone in the residence. In the second, another woman was assaulted while walking on a path on the base.

Paule wouldn’t release any details of the assaults last fall, saying the investigation is ongoing and the case is now before the courts.

She also wouldn’t rule out further charges, saying: “With an ongoing investigation, you never know where investigations will take you.”

The charges against Chaulk come just three months after 47-year-old Col. Russell Williams, then commander of CFB Trenton, was arrested and charged with two counts of murder and two of sexual assault.

Asked Sunday whether the new charges will further tarnish the image of the Canadian Forces, Lt.-Col. Keith Rudderham, the base commander at Petawawa, replied: “It won’t help, to be honest.

“But these things do happen all across the country,” he said. As a subset of society, the Canadian Forces “have some people who break the law and do things we wish they hadn’t done.”

But the vast majority of military personnel, “almost to a man and woman, are doing their utmost to protect people and help the country,” he said.

“I think most people will have a look at it and say, these people, if they’re found guilty, deserve to have the full weight of the law brought against them. But it doesn’t reflect on their neighbours or the people they work with or the institution they work for.”

Rudderham said the speedy apprehension of a suspect has helped to mute fears on the base.

“People were worried when the first report came out, and we made it public,” he said. “Right away thereafter there was another report, but a suspect was pretty well caught before people got up in the morning.”

Williams, meanwhile, is facing two first-degree murder charges in the sex killings of Cpl. Marie-France Comeau, 37, a military flight attendant, and Jessica Lloyd, 27, of Belleville, Ontario

In the sexual assault cases, Williams is accused of breaking into the Tweed, Ont. homes of his victims, blindfolding them and tying them naked to chairs, then sexually assaulting and photographing them.

Last month, Williams was also charged with 82 break-and-enters. His case has been adjourned to June 24, and he hasn’t yet entered a plea on any of the charges.

Ottawa Citizen