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Bourdon sentence "communicates contempt"

A sentence passed against a convicted rapist “communicates contempt” for women and the violence committed against them, says Donna-lee Iffla, executive director for the Amelia Rising Sexual Assault Centre of Nipissing.
A sentence passed against a convicted rapist “communicates contempt” for women and the violence committed against them, says Donna-lee Iffla, executive director for the Amelia Rising Sexual Assault Centre of Nipissing.

Iffla was responding Tuesday morning to the recent sentencing of Rene Bourdon, of North Bay, who had had 13 criminal charges laid against him: three counts of administering a stupefying drug, three counts of sexual assault, one count of administering a noxious thing, one count of theft, three counts of possession of stolen property and two counts of mischief.

Drugged and raped
Last week Bourdon was sentenced by Justice Paul Rivard to five years in prison less the 38 months he’d spent in pre-trial custody (credited on a two-for one basis, resulting in 22 months to be service at the Ontario Correctional Institute in Brampton.

He was also declared a long-term offender, and ordered to be supervised in the community for seven years when released.

“The sentence that has been passed on Rene Bourdon, a serial rapist and a drug rapist, communicates contempt for women and the violence that is committed against us,” Iffla said during a news conference at police headquarters.

“What you see on my face is exasperation, when I come to understand that the sentence passed on this man is shorter that the time served seeking justice by the women he has drugged and raped.”

The Crown is considering an appeal in the case.

Type of crime
Bourdon was charged following an investigation by the North Bay Police Service into sexual assaults he was alleged to have committed.

The ensuing investigation resulted in four females, ranging in age from 17 to 21, being identified.

During his trial in December, Bourdon pleaded guilty to and was guilty of two counts of sexual assault, one count of administering a stupefying drug with intent to enable him to commit sexual assault, and one count of possession of stolen property.

Iffla said she wouldn’t even “want to guess” how long it would take women to heal from the type of crime Bourdon was convicted of.

“What you see on my face is dismay,” Iffla said.

In the eye
As the director of a community-based sexual assault centre in its tenth year of service, Iffla said, “I am starting to wonder why I bother.”

“Why on earth would I encourage a woman to report sexual assault, sexual abuse or criminal harassment? How on earth can I look her in the eye and tell her she will find justice,” Iffla said at the news conference.

Emotional trauma
Det. Cst. Tina Murphy, who was in charge of the Bourdon case, said police can encounter “numerous” difficulties in the investigation of sexual assaults. One of the most common is the reluctance of victims to report the incident to police.

“There’s the embarrassment or feelings of humiliation about the assault as well as the emotional trauma caused by the assault,” Murphy said, “and there’s the embarrassment about having to tell their story to one or more police officers and Crown attorneys, and then again in court to the Crown attorney and under cross-examination of the victim.”

And then there are the sentences for sexual assault, which are generally perceived by the public as being “light,” Murphy said.

“We often hear victims tell us that, if they had known that the offender was going to receive such a light sentence, they would have never come forward and subjected themselves to the criminal process,” Murphy said.

Stiffer penalties
A light sentence, she added, is not only “disappointing” to the particular victim, but could also act as a deterrent to other victims coming forward in the future.

“Our criminal justice system should be doing everything we possibly can to support victims of sexual assault and to encourage them to come forward and help bring the offenders back to justice, and stiffer penalties should be part of the discussion,” Murphy said.

Deputy police chief Al Williams said the Crown attorney in the Bourdon case had asked for a sentence of nine years and a Long Term Offender designation of 10 years.

Too lenient
Murphy said in speaking to Bourdon’s victims she was not “not at all surprised” to learn they were not only disappointed by also “outraged” by the fact Bourdon only has 22 months left to serve.

“In fact, one of these individuals even mentioned that they would never report a sexual assault in the future as a result of the case because the justice system is just too lenient on this type of offender,” Murphy said.

Iffla, who said only six per cent of women who have been sexually assaulted report the crimes committed against them, was even blunter and hoped “that I am speaking loudly enough.”

“I understand that Judge Paul Rivard gets frustrated when women who have been raped cannot speak up when describing the horrific details of what has happened to them in his court,” Iffla said.

“To Judge Rivard I would say this: it’s not that you cannot hear us. It’s just that you aren’t listening.”

Community problems
But longer sentences are only part of the answer, Iffla said.

“It is not until we address poverty, racism, discrimination and other forms of violence against women will we achieve full equality under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” Iffla said.

“Then, through education, public awareness and political will at all levels of government we can begin to tackle these enormous community problems.”