WARNING: This article contains objectionable content and may affect people who have experienced sexual violence or know someone who has experienced sexual violence.
The woman at the center of Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin’s sexual assault trial told the court on Tuesday she was certain the senior military commander was the one who assaulted her in 1988.
Fortin denied the charges and pleaded not guilty. Fortin’s attorney argued that there were inconsistencies between the woman’s interviews with investigators and her testimony in court.
The woman told the court that although she could not remember whether her attacker spoke during the alleged assault, she was certain of his identity.
“I can assure you without a doubt that it was Dany Fortin who was standing in front of me masturbating with her own hands,” the complainant testified Tuesday.
“I looked at him. I knew that man. I spent 18 months with him by his side day in and day out.”
Defense attorney Isabel Schurman said she would strongly oppose such identification.
Fortin was removed from his job as Canada’s head of vaccine deployment last year in response to a military police investigation.
He was charged in 2021 with one count of sexual assault in connection with an incident believed to have happened more than three decades ago when he was an officer student at the Royal Military College. in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que.
The two-day criminal trial begins Monday at the Gatineau courthouse in Quebec. Fortin wore his military uniform and medal during civil court proceedings. His wife and daughter walked into the courthouse with Fortin and sat in the front row.
The court issued a publication ban on any details that could identify the complainant.
The complainant 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.
The woman said Fortin had placed his other hand on her chest. She said that when she tried to pull her hand away, he didn’t stop at first and squeezed harder.
The complainant testified that she was “terrified” and pushed him away, saying “get out of my way, get out of the way.” Then Fortin pulled up his pants and left her room, she said.
The woman testified on Monday that Fortin never spoke during the alleged assault. On Tuesday, Schurman asked why the complainant told an investigator last year that she recognized Fortin’s accent and his French accent during the incident.
The defense on Monday cited claims the complainant made in an earlier interview alleging the attacker touched her vagina before she pushed him away. The complainant testified Monday that the claim was incorrect and that she was stressed during that interview.
The complaint says she had recurring images of the alleged assault and that Fortin “masturbated with my own hands” to her. She said she didn’t remember “100%” of what he did other than masturbating because she was ‘shocked and frightened. “
“I can’t be sure 34 years later exactly where his hand went,” she said.
The woman also said she wasn’t sure if the attacker was talking.
The complainant’s roommate at the time of the alleged assault also testified on Tuesday. She confirmed that she did not recall hearing about the alleged assault.
The roommate said there was a divider between their room in the barracks so she couldn’t see her neighbor’s bed. The roommate also said she was a heavy sleeper and was often tired because of the physical toll the cadet program had inflicted on her.
The roommate testified that she did not remember the complainant telling her about the sexual assault allegation.
“I don’t remember it,” said the old roommate. “I’m not saying it never happened.”
The former roommate said her time at the military college was not a positive experience and that she “wanted to quit every day I was there.”
“You were exposed to a lot of behavior that was probably inappropriate,” the roommate said, adding that there were a lot of parties there.
“We’re teenagers. Most can’t drink alcohol in most provinces. We’re pushed to our personal limits…intellectual, emotional, physical, sexual. A lot of people have have probably never experienced anything like that. I think there’s a lot of inappropriate behavior in every respect and most people just want to fit in.”
Fortin is also challenging his removal from the vaccine campaign in Federal Court. That appeal is expected to be heard on October 5.
VIEW | The military commander accused of sexual assault says he is living a ‘nightmare’:
Support is available to anyone who has been sexually assaulted. You can access crisis lines and local support services through Government of Canada website or The Canadian Association to End Violence Database. If you are in immediate danger or fear for your safety or that of others around you, please call 911.