Frustration rippled through a northeastern Ontario courtroom Monday as a convicted sex offender about to be sentenced on six counts of sexual assault managed to delay proceedings on grounds he needed an interpreter to translate his victim’s impact statement.
Claude Provencher, a self-proclaimed, French-speaking faith healer now convicted of attacking three different women during his unorthodox treatments, gave his original police statement in English, and during a two-hour interview at his Quebec home on the weekend he spoke excellent English.
But when it was time for Trina Breault, his most recent victim, to deliver her statement in English at Monday’s sentencing, Mr. Provencher, 56, demanded an interpreter.
“I want to know what she’s saying so I can defend myself,” he told Superior Court Justice Paul Rivard, and because no court interpreter could be found, the judge reluctantly agreed.
Ms. Breault responded by suggesting she provide a written copy of her statement rather than read it out.
Then, close to tears, she offered to withdraw it altogether if doing so would allow Mr. Provencher to go directly to jail.
But Justice Rivard, undoubtedly aware that denying Mr. Provencher’s request could provide ammunition for an appeal, particularly since he has no lawyer, said he was not comfortable proceeding.
The sentencing was put over to June 5, when prosecutor Serge Hamel is expected to seek a prison term of between 18 months and two years.
With no training of any kind – textbooks lie, he says – Mr. Provencher made his living in the murky world of unregulated medicine for more than 25 years.
Ms. Breault, 43, pressed charges against Mr. Provencher two years ago after he repeatedly assaulted her during treatments for chronic back pain, and before that he did the same to two female patients in Sudbury, for which he has already served jail time.
A scruffy, diminutive figure, he claims to be a kind of conduit for God, saying his “healing powers” stem from being “gifted.”
Surrounded by her husband, her parents, her eldest daughter and other supporters, Ms. Breault was greatly disappointed by the outcome, but agreed to come back to court in 10 days.
Also attending were a handful of people who believe Mr. Provencher really is a faith healer, including the couple who own the comfortable house overlooking picturesque Lake Temiskaming, on the edge of New Liskeard, where he assaulted Ms. Breault a total of six times.
At Mr. Provencher’s trial in January, she testified that she turned to him out of sheer desperation, and that she tolerated his invasive behaviour, which accelerated with each consultation, because she didn’t know what else to do.
It was the final, bizarre visit that prompted her to alert police, who swiftly discovered that Mr. Provencher was facing three unresolved charges of sexual assault in Sudbury and was forbidden to be alone with women during treatments.
Ms. Breult told his trial that like all his mostly female patients, she was always required to lie naked on the examining table, where Mr. Provencher would forcefully press his hands up and down her body, leaving large bruises, as he hummed and chatted with God.
But on this occasion, she testified, he seemed to lose control.
After telling her he was aroused by the sight of her backside, he seized her by the throat and for about 45 minutes he held her like that, shouting about his unhappy childhood, the unjust legal system and much else, while she stared at the stucco ceiling, petrified.
She went to police a few days later, and Mr. Provencher was arrested the next morning.