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Self-described faith healer sentenced to further year’s imprisonment

Claude Provencher

Tim Appleby/The Globe and Mail

A self-described faith healer now convicted of sexually assaulting three different women in northeastern Ontario during bizarre pain-relief "treatment sessions" has been sentenced to a further year's imprisonment, his second such stint behind bars.

Along with jail, a host of conditions were imposed at the sentencing hearing of Claude Provencher Wednesday in Haileybury, south of New Liskeard, where Superior Court Justice Paul Rivard made plain his skepticism of Mr. Provencher's "skills," which the faith healer insists are a gift from God.

Mr. Provencher, 56, was convicted earlier this year of repeatedly sexually assaulting Trina Breault, 43, one of numerous chronic-pain patients who over the years had turned to him in distress.

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Ms. Breault, who took the rare step of willingly speaking out about her personal experience as a victim of sexual assault, said after Mr. Provencher's sentencing that she felt vindicated.

"The main thing is to make sure that he never has a chance to do this again," she said.

In all Mr. Provencher was convicted on six counts of sexual assault and multiple counts of breaching earlier court orders that forbade him from being alone with women.

Among other things, he is barred from doing any kind of "healing," and must himself seek counselling. He must also stay well away from Ms. Breault, and he has a lifetime spot on the provincial sex offenders list.

Unrepentant to the end, the faith healer insisted to the court Wednesday he had done nothing wrong, but rather had succeeded in performing miraculous-sounding cures. Strange and criminal as his behaviour was, Mr. Provencher nonetheless has a devoted following of sorts, mostly female, who appear to believe in his claims of divine powers.

At trial, almost 20 women testified on his behalf, and more than once Ms. Breault has been confronted and cursed in public by his supporters, rebuking her for laying the charges that have now sent Mr. Provencher back to prison.

Short, dishevelled, chain-smoking, his lower body badly deformed by childhood polio, Mr. Provencher seems an improbable cult figure. Prosecutor Serge Hamel said Thursday that he was content with the outcome. but that the behaviour of the faith healer's followers remains hard to fathom.

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Mr. Provencher has had numerous run-ins with the law, with medical authorities and with the church, both in Ontario and in his native rural Quebec. With no medical training of any kind, he made his living in the murky world of unregulated medicine for more than 25 years, administering deep, painful massages and other unorthodox treatments on his mostly female clientele, all of whom were routinely required to be naked.

Ms. Breault, 43, pressed charges against Mr. Provencher two years ago after he repeatedly assaulted her at a comfortable house overlooking picturesque Lake Temiskaming, on the edge of New Liskeard.

At his 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.

At the time he was awaiting sentencing for doing the same to other two female patients, in Sudbury, for which he subsequently received a six-month jail term.

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About the Author

At The Globe and Mail since 1982, in assorted manifestations, chiefly crime reporter, foreign correspondent and member of the Editorial Board, Tim is now retired. More


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