Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the former head of Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine campaign, has been found not guilty of sexual assault, a judge has ruled.
Fortin, who has maintained his innocence, was charged with one count of sexual assault by Quebec prosecutors last year. Judge Richard Meredith delivered the verdict Monday afternoon in Gatineau, Que. There was no jury in the trial, which began in September and wrapped up in October.
The complainant in the case, who was attending military college with Fortin in 1988 in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., testified at the trial that she woke up one night in her dorm room to find a man masturbating himself using one of her hands, while another hand was on her breast.
A publication ban protects her name and any details that could identify her.
She alleged during the trial Fortin was the perpetrator “without a doubt.” In the Crown prosecutor’s closing statement, Diane Legault argued there was no reason to believe the complainant would have forgotten, or become mistaken about the identity of her aggressor in the years since the alleged incident.
The complainant testified she was aware of how such complaints were handled by the Canadian Armed Forces at the time, and that knowledge deterred her from wanting anyone to know what happened. It was only after she had retired and no longer feared career repercussions that she brought the alleged incident forward in 2021, the prosecutor said.
Fortin’s defence lawyer, Isabel Schurman, had asked the judge for an acquittal. She said that the complainant’s testimony lacked credibility, and that other witnesses had failed to back up some of the details of her story.
A key point for the defence was that while the complainant said she told her ex-boyfriend about the incident right afterward, he told the court he had no memory of the conversation.
Fortin, who was removed from his position in charge of the COVID-19 vaccine campaign in May 2021 due to an investigation into the allegation, is separately challenging that dismissal in the Federal Court of Canada.
— with files from The Canadian Press