A former Montreal primary school teacher who used his position as an educator and basketball coach to lure and sexually abuse five young girls has been sentenced to eight years in prison.
Quebec court Judge Mélanie Hébert told a Montreal courtroom Tuesday that Dominic Blanchette‘s crimes were aggravated by the fact that he was in a position of authority and trust with his victims, three of whom were 10 when the abuse began.
“The fact that his offences occurred repeatedly, over a total period of a little less than five years and involved five different victims, demonstrates that Mr. Blanchette’s actions were not isolated or the result of a simple lack of judgment in a particular situation,” Hébert said as she read her sentence.
Hébert said that Blanchette, who turned 29 Tuesday, could not have been ignorant of the consequences of the abuse he committed between September 2017 and May 2022. “By repeating the same acts, on multiple occasions, with five different victims, Mr. Blanchette cannot ignore the criminal nature of his acts,” she said.
Blanchette, who taught at two schools in the Montreal North borough, pleaded guilty in March to eight counts, including sexual interference, possession of child pornography, child luring and sexual exploitation. He pleaded guilty to sexual interference of four girls, and was convicted of the same charge involving a fifth victim, after admitting the Crown had sufficient evidence to convict him.
Hébert said Blanchette’s guilty plea — which she said saved his young victims from having to testify in court — and his own history as a victim of sexual abuse, were mitigating factors in her sentencing decision. However, she said, the accused deserved an eight-year prison term because there was an above-average risk he would reoffend, even though he had entered a therapy program.
“The fact that Blanchette abused his position of authority, the relationship of trust he had with his victims and his use of manipulation are also factors that increase his responsibility,” she said.
Evidence entered into court showed that Blanchette told one of the children he would kill himself after she sought distance from him.
In victim impact statements read during an earlier hearing, one of the girls, who was abused between the ages of 12 and 15, told the court she felt ashamed and no longer loved herself. Another, who was 10 when the abuse began, said she had tried to take her own life multiple times.
Seated in the prisoner’s box, Blanchette didn’t look at the judge as she read the details of his sentence; instead, he stared down and to the side and then shifted his gaze up and away from her.
The prosecution had sought a sentence of between seven and eight years, while the defence had argued for slightly more than three-and-a-half years.
With credit for time served, Blanchette’s remaining sentence is about six years and four months in prison. He will also be required to register as a sex offender for 20 years after his sentence is completed, Hébert said.
“The message being sent today is that any crimes of sexual violence against children will be punished severely,” prosecutor Annabelle Sheppard told reporters. Sentences such as Blanchette’s serve to denounce and deter crimes of sexual violence against children — but they cannot heal victims, she said.
“Unfortunately, no sentence imposed can ever undo the harm that’s been caused,” Sheppard said. “These are events that will stay with them throughout their lives and whether a sentence is six years, 10 years, whatever it is, they still have to live with that pain.”