A former medical health officer has been found guilty in Alberta of sexual assault and sexual interference of a child.
Dr. Albert de Villiers, 54, appeared in court Tuesday via video from his home in Kelowna, B.C. He was the top public health doctor in Alberta’s north zone for 16 years before he became chief medical officer of health for B.C.’s Interior Health in 2020.
He was arrested in 2021 when he was managing COVID-19 vaccine delivery in British Columbia during the height of the pandemic.
During a judge-alone trial in January, an 11-year-old boy testified de Villiers showed him pornography and touched him several times at the doctor’s home in Grande Prairie, Alta., between 2018 and 2020.
The boy, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, disclosed the allegations to his parents two years later.
Court heard De Villiers asked the child if he “knew where babies come from,” then proceeded to show him videos.
During his testimony, the child said that his “heart turned black” after seeing the videos and that it “didn’t feel right.”
The child said that de Villiers told him that he could touch anywhere on de Villiers’ body.
De Villiers denied showing the boy pornography and said during his testimony that they once watched a video about the life cycle of marsupials.
“I have significant concerns about (de Villiers’) explanations for some of the events,” said Court of King’s Bench Justice Shania Leonard in her decision. “In relation to those things, I do not believe the accused.
“I find the complainant’s evidence to be both credible and reliable.”
Leonard said that it was difficult to precisely quantify how many times the child was assaulted.
“I find that sexual touching occurred on at least five occasions and as many as eight occasions,” she said.
A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Feb. 13, where victim impact statements will be heard.
Interior Health has said de Villiers was placed on general paid leave on June 9, 2021, then reassigned to administrative duties four months later.
In a statement on Tuesday, the health region said it was aware of the guilty verdict.
“Given the leadership and public-facing role of the chief medical health officer, and the critical importance for the incumbent to comply with all respects of professional standards, it is Interior Health’s position that a person convicted of criminal charges of this nature is unable to fulfill the duties of the position,” said the statement.
By Angela Amato in Edmonton.
This content appears as provided to The Globe by the originating wire service. It has not been edited by Globe staff.