Skip to main content

Faith healer Claude Provencher has been convicted of six counts of sexual assault.

Tim Appleby/The Globe and Mail

He likens his powerful fingers to "the scalpels of Jesus," and some believe him.

Others, however, view self-proclaimed faith healer Claude Provencher as a charlatan and sex predator.

And as he tugs on yet another cigarette, Mr. Provencher, 56, concedes he's nervous about what will transpire Monday morning when he is to be sentenced, once again, for sexually assaulting a patient, after being convicted in January.

Story continues below advertisement

But that's the price of doing the Lord's work, he says. And after battling the legal system every inch of the way, he knows that after his latest Superior Court appearance in Haileybury in northeastern Ontario, close to the Quebec border, he'll be heading back to jail for the second time, entirely unrepentant.

"I am gifted. God showed me how the body works, and I'm able to heal almost anything," he insists, adding that he's done a few exorcisms too. "I can cure all of it – heart, lungs, thyroid, kidneys, infections, anything, although sometimes not all at once."

He'll be going to jail for the sexual assault of Trina Breault, 43, a woman who was his patient, and whom he assaulted over the course of several visits under the pretense of being her healer.

Overweight and a heavy smoker, his lower body twisted out of shape by childhood polio, Mr. Provencher has no medical training and seems an unlikely advertisement for good health.

What he does have, however, along with a spot on the provincial sex offender registry, is a coterie of devoted female followers who firmly believe in his healing powers.

Almost 20 of them attested to his good character at his trial in January. And when he is sentenced Monday on six charges of sexual assault, and 23 counts of flouting court orders stemming from previous sex-assault charges in Sudbury, some of those believers will likely attend.

So too will Ms. Breault, a stable, happily married mother of three who fell into Mr. Provencher's clutches after years of excruciating, medication-soaked pain that had put her in a wheelchair and left her in despair.

Story continues below advertisement

Before she blew the whistle on her tormentor, he was her last hope, she says. Instead, he sexually assaulted her six different times during treatments in 2011 that incrementally became more invasive and disgusting, even as they accorded a small measure of pain relief.

Ms. Breault's decision to press charges has brought her considerable distress.

Several times she's been accosted and cursed by followers of Mr. Provencher, whose bail conditions bar him from treating anyone for anything. In the local Walmart recently, "one of them came over to me and poked me in the chest, hard, and said, 'We're all going to be there on the 27th.'"

Add to that the silent rift within her own family. She was referred to Mr. Provencher by relatives of her husband, Yves, and they remain staunch defenders of their hero.

"But I just felt I had to speak up," she says.

"He's a scary guy, but he can only operate because people are being quiet. Really, he has the best set-up for a sex offender: He takes the most vulnerable people and manipulates them into thinking he's their only hope. And he does it slowly, so by the time he's doing awful stuff to you, you're thinking, 'I chose to be here.'

Story continues below advertisement

"If someone had (stepped forward) before, maybe it wouldn't have happened to me. At the same time, I'm also worried that when he gets out of jail he's just going to do it again."

Mr. Provencher, his wife and their many pets live in a modest frame house in Saint-Mathieu-d'Harricana, a small French-speaking community in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region of northwestern Quebec.

In the yard is a disused trailer, at one time his clinic. But he hasn't treated anyone in his home province for years after being prosecuted and fined for practising medicine illegally, following the death of a cancer patient who was under his care.

He has also been effectively excommunicated, after the local Roman Catholic diocese instructed church authorities to shun him.

So in 2000 he shifted operations to Ontario, setting up in Sudbury and the New Liskeard area, catering to an average of 80 patients a week who would give him, he says, $40 or so per treatment.

Everything was so cloaked in mystery, says Ms. Breault, that she wasn't even certain of Mr. Provencher's full name when she went to police in April, 2011. He was just "Claude."

Story continues below advertisement

Her complaint overlapped with three sex-assault charges in Sudbury that began in 2007 and finally resulted last year in two convictions, for which he received a six-month jail term.

By any measure Mr. Provencher is an unusual figure. Once he was also convicted of mischief for smashing up public drinking fountains he said were dispensing dirty water.

"People like me, who are gifted, we have the world against us, because I say it's not me who heals but God, through me."

God first spoke to him at age 7, he recounts, telling him that during his life he would see many naked women and become famous.

Regarding his current troubles, he asks why Ms. Breault continued her visits if she was being molested.

An answer comes from Ms. Breault's husband, Yves, foreman for a construction company, who testified at trial and has stood solidly with her during the past two years. From the outset he sensed there was something amiss.

Story continues below advertisement

"But I went along with it because I was so desperate for her to get help," he said.

"She had tried everything she could, she'd tried everywhere, nothing worked, the doctors had pretty much written her off, so Claude was our last hope. And he was recommended by my sisters."

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter
To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies