Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin’s sexual assault trial is slated to continue for a fourth day after closing arguments in the case began on Monday afternoon.
Prosecutor Diane Legault told a Gatineau, Que., courtroom that she would lay out the Crown’s case against Fortin on Tuesday morning.
Fortin’s lawyer, Isabel Schurman, asked Judge Richard Meredith for an acquittal, saying that the evidence in front of him “cannot lead to the condemnation of Dany Fortin.”
She argued that the complainant’s testimony was neither credible nor reliable – even if it was sincere.
A woman who attended military college with Fortin in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., told the court last month that Fortin assaulted her one night in 1988.
The complainant, whose name is under a publication ban, said she was “horrified” to wake up and find that a man was masturbating himself with one of her hands that night while his other hand was on her breast.
She testified that after she made it known that she was awake and whispered for the attacker to “get off” her, a short struggle ensued and he backed off.
She told the court she recognized the attacker as Fortin “without a doubt.”
Fortin has denied any guilt in the case, saying he never had physical contact with the woman or entered her room, and that they weren’t close.
He was the soldier in charge of Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout until March 2021, when an investigation into the allegation was launched.
Military police referred the investigation to the civilian system later that month and he was charged with one count of sexual assault in August last year.
Fortin is challenging his removal from the vaccine campaign separately in Federal Court.
In a closing statement Monday afternoon, Schurman said that Fortin’s testimony was clear and “without hesitation” or contradiction.
She argued there is ample reasonable doubt as to whether Fortin was the perpetrator of the alleged sexual assault and even whether it happened at all.
Schurman said there were contradictions between what the complainant told investigators in early 2021 and what she said on the stand last month – including that she told investigators she recognized Fortin by his French accent, but later testified that her aggressor did not speak during the incident.
Schurman also pointed out that the complainant’s companions at the time failed to shore up her account of events.
The complainant’s former roommate from the barracks dorm room told the court last month that she had no memory of an incident involving the complainant and Fortin, but said she “blocked a lot of those memories out” because of her own trauma from that era.
And the complainant’s then-boyfriend, called to the stand by the defence, contradicted her testimony that she told him about the alleged assault right after it happened.
Ultimately, Schurman made the argument that the complainant’s clouded credibility would make it irresponsible for the court to rely on her certainty that she identified Fortin – even if she truly believed it.
“That’s what we want to avoid, that a decision of the court rests on someone who, even if sincere, is mistaken,” Schurman said in French. She cited case law that states: “the measure of certainty of a witness is not necessarily a sign of their credibility.”
Schurman argued many others could have perpetrated the assault if it did take place.
She noted that both the complainant and Fortin told the court students’ doors were unlocked and outside doors were unguarded.
And she pointed to yearbook photos that Fortin described in detail earlier Monday, noting that many of the young men resembled each other.
During direct examination by Schurman in French, Fortin identified another student who had the same surname and the same nickname: “Fort.”
Legault seemed to anticipate that line of defence and tried to establish, during her cross-examination of Fortin, that the other student with the same last name did not particularly resemble him. He did not say whether he agreed with that assessment.
The trial is expected to conclude Tuesday afternoon following Legault’s closing arguments.
This content appears as provided to The Globe by the originating wire service. It has not been edited by Globe staff.