Manitoba

Former Manitoba doctor pleads guilty to sexually assaulting 2 more patients

A former Manitoba doctor already convicted of sexually assaulting five of his patients has pleaded guilty to assaulting two others just days before his trial on those charges was supposed to start.

Arcel Bissonnette was scheduled to go to trial on the charges next week

A man with grey hair and wearing glasses walks past a building as the sun shines. He has a light spring jacket, white collared shirt and black tie.
Arcel Bissonnette, seen in 2023, entered guilty pleas during a brief appearance in a Winnipeg courtroom on Thursday, admitting to sexually assaulting one patient in 2005 and another in 2011 while working as a doctor in the town of Ste. Anne, Man. (Darren Bernhardt/CBC)

WARNING: This article contains graphic content and might affect those who have experienced​ ​​​sexual violence or know someone affected by it.

A former Manitoba doctor already convicted of sexually assaulting five of his patients has pleaded guilty to assaulting two others, just days before his trial on those charges was supposed to start.

Arcel Bissonnette entered guilty pleas during a brief appearance in a Winnipeg courtroom on Thursday, admitting to sexually assaulting one patient in 2005 and another in 2011 while working as a doctor in the town of Ste. Anne, Man.

Bissonnette, 64, was scheduled to go to trial on the remaining charges against him beginning Monday.

An agreed statement of facts submitted as an exhibit on Thursday said the 2005 incidents involved Bissonnette doing a pelvi-rectal exam "which included inserting his fingers into [the victim's] rectum" and moving them "up and down and back and forth."

That caused the victim to be "uncomfortable, in pain, and in shock," the statement of facts reads.

In the 2011 incident, Bissonnette told the victim to get naked without a covering during a physical before touching her lower back and telling her to bend over. 

He also told her to "get on her hands and knees" on the exam table and put an anoscope in her rectum, which caused her "pain and shock" and was not medically necessary or appropriate, the statement of facts reads. 

Licence stripped

In November, a judge found Bissonnette guilty of sexually assaulting five female patients at his practice in Ste. Anne, a town about 40 kilometres southeast of Winnipeg, where he worked at the Ste. Anne Hospital and the Sainte-Anne Medical Centre.

The victims in that trial alleged their former doctor sexually assaulted them during medical appointments between 2001 and 2017. 

Last month, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba revoked Bissonnette's licence to practise medicine, calling the former doctor's actions "disgraceful and dishonourable."

He hasn't practised since November 2020, when the initial charges were laid.

Bissonnette was initially charged with six counts of sexual assault. After those charges were announced, more complainants came forward, and 16 more counts were added in October 2021 for a total of 22.

A trial on the original six charges was held in January 2023, but the Crown entered a stay of proceedings, saying the likelihood of conviction had changed after new evidence came to light.

In court on Thursday, Bissonnette agreed when his lawyer, Marty Minuk, said the charges he was pleading guilty to were related to patient consent and interference with their sexual integrity, but that the acts were not committed for a sexual purpose — something Crown attorney Renée Lagimodière said prosecutors are in agreement with.

Minuk also told his client the consequences of his guilty pleas would "likely include incarceration" and other orders that could affect him for the rest of his life, including being ordered to provide a DNA sample and register as a sex offender.

Bissonnette's sentencing on both sets of charges is scheduled for June 27.

For anyone who has been sexually assaulted, there is support available through crisis lines and local support services via this Government of Canada website or the Ending Violence Association of Canada database. ​​If you're in immediate danger or fear for your safety or that of others around you, please call 911.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Caitlyn Gowriluk has been writing for CBC Manitoba since 2019. Her work has also appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press, and in 2021 she was part of an award-winning team recognized by the Radio Television Digital News Association for its breaking news coverage of COVID-19 vaccines. Get in touch with her at caitlyn.gowriluk@cbc.ca.

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