Sexual assault trial resumes for military commander who led Canada’s vaccine rollout


WARNING: This article contains graphic content and may affect those who have experienced​ ​​​sexual violence or know someone affected by it.

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin resumed his testimony on the third day of his sexual assault trial Monday by attempting to prove that anyone could have entered the complainant’s room in 1988.

Fortin used a map of the campus at the Royal Military College Saint-Jean in Quebec to argue that, since the doors were unlocked to aid evacuation in the event of a fire, others had access to the complainant’s room at the time of the alleged assault.

A woman whose identity is protected under a court-ordered publication ban testified last month that, “without a doubt,” she recognized Fortin as the person who attacked her more than 30 years ago. The woman testified that she woke up in her bed in the barracks to find Fortin holding her hand on his genitals and using it to masturbate.

Fortin has maintained his innocence and claims he never had any physical contact with the complainant. His lawyer has argued during the criminal trial that the woman incorrectly identified him as the perpetrator. 

On Monday, Fortin described photos from an RMC yearbook from that era. He told the presiding judge that another cadet had the same last name and they both went by the nickname “Fort.”

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, right, and his wife Madeleine Collin, centre, wait for the doors of an elevator to close at a Gatineau, Que. courthouse on Monday. (Spencer Colby/The Canadian Press)

The complainant has described the alleged assault in her testimony, telling Fortin’s trial she was “horrified” and pushed Fortin away and that Fortin then pulled up his pants and left her room. The complainant said she identified her attacker as Fortin.

Fortin, the former head of Canada’s vaccine task force, was charged in 2021 with sexual assault in relation to that alleged incident in 1988. At the time, Fortin was a cadet at the Royal Military College in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec.

He opted for a trial without a jury. He testified in September that everyone had to sleep with their bedroom doors unlocked in the barracks for fire safety reasons and that he never entered the woman’s room.

Fortin appeared Monday in the Quebec civilian courthouse dressed in his uniform and wearing his military medals, despite controversy over his decision to wear the outfit to civilian court.

WATCH/ Military commander criticized for wearing full uniform and medals to civilian trial

Military commander criticized for wearing full uniform to civilian trial

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin drew criticism after wearing his full military uniform, including 10 medals, while on trial in civilian court for sexual assault.

Military sexual trauma survivors said last month that it was triggering to see Fortin in his uniform and called it an act of intimidation against the complainant.

In response, the military said it would decide whether members accused of crimes can wear uniforms in civilian court. 

The Canadian Armed Forces is experiencing a sexual misconduct crisis. Fortin is one of several current and former senior Canadian military leaders who have been investigated, criminally charged or forced into retirement since 2021 from some of the most prestigious posts in the defence establishment.

Support is available for anyone who has been sexually assaulted. You can access crisis lines and local support services through this Government of Canada website or the Ending Violence Association of Canada database. ​​If you’re in immediate danger, or fear for your safety or that of others around you, please call 911. 



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