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A judge has acquitted Major-General Dany Fortin, who once led Canada’s rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, of sexual assault over an allegation that dates back to 1988.

On Monday, Quebec judge Richard Meredith found Maj.-Gen. Fortin not guilty of one count of sexual assault, saying he was not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that Maj.-Gen. Fortin was the culprit.

The proceedings were held in Gatineau, across the Ottawa River, from the nation’s capital.

Outside the court, Mr. Fortin thanked his family and supporters for believing in him.

“I am so relieved by the judge’s decision today,” he told journalists. “As you would expect, this is a huge burden off our shoulders, my shoulders.”

But Maj.-Gen. Fortin said he now wants to recover his reputation, noting that he and his lawyers will consider next steps with a federal court of appeal hearing regarding his removal from his COVID leadership role. “From the start, senior military leaders and political decision makers presumed and acted as if I was guilty. I was denied due process, and information about my case was mishandled and leaked.”

He said his career has been irreparably harmed, and impacted his family, and that he has not been gainfully employed in the Canadian Armed Forces since May, 2021.

The allegation stemmed from Mr. Fortin’s time at the military college in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., which the complainant also attended.

The complainant in the case told the court that she is certain “without a doubt” that the perpetrator was Fortin, and her lawyer said she brought the incident to light in 2021, after she retired, due to a fear of career repercussions.

During his statement, Maj.-Gen. Fortin said the complainant genuinely believed she was assaulted, and that victims of assault deserve support.

His lawyer cited inconsistencies between the complainant’s testimony and her previous statements to investigators last year, including details of the incident.

A key point for the defence was that while the complainant said she told her ex-boyfriend about the incident right afterward, he told the court that he had no memory of such a conversation.

Maj.-Gen. Fortin was the military officer in charge of the federal government’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout until May 2021, when he was removed after the allegation came to light.

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