VANCOUVER - A man police identified earlier this year as a predator who was targeting young women in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside has been charged with sex crimes against four teens, with investigators still looking into allegations involving at least seven other possible victims.
Convicted sex offender Martin Tremblay was arrested earlier this week and charged in four separate cases between 2005 and 2007 involving victims aged 14 to 19.
In February, Vancouver police announced Tremblay had been arrested on drug charges and listed him among 11 men who the force alleged preyed on vulnerable women in the Downtown Eastside. Investigators urged anyone with allegations against him to come forward.
Insp. Brad Desmarais said 11 young women approached police and charges have so far been approved in four of those cases.
"Vancouver police made a promise that we would aggressively pursue allegations swirling in the Downtown Eastside community with regards to sexual assaults involving young female victims," Desmarais told reporters in Vancouver.
"Without the strength and conviction of the young and vulnerable victims who found the courage to come forward, we would not be standing here and telling you about this development."
Desmarais said Tremblay was arrested at a bus depot in Chilliwack, B.C., on Tuesday, soon after he was released from Ford Mountain Correctional Centre, a jail for sex offenders and inmates with mental disorders. Tremblay had been serving a sentence on the drug charges that prompted his arrest in February.
Tremblay is back in jail awaiting an Oct. 3 court appearance on seven new charges, including:
— Sexual assault and administering a noxious substance for an alleged incident involving a 15-year-old girl in Burnaby in 2005;
— Obtaining sexual services for money from a person under 18 involving a 16-year-old alleged victim in Burnaby in 2006.
— Sexual assault and administering a noxious substance for an incident involving a 14-year-old girl in Vancouver alleged to have occurred between February 2007 and August 2007.
— Sexual assault and administering a noxious substance for an allegation involving a 19-year-old woman between September 2005 and May 2007 in Burnaby.
Three of those teens were aboriginal, said Desmarais, and all had connections to the Downtown Eastside.
"Often what happens is these folks frequent the Downtown Eastside but don't reside there," said Desmarais, stressing he couldn't reveal details about the case and was speaking generally.
"Our experience is that 'luring' would be a good description."
Desmarais said investigators continue to look into seven other cases, which involve allegations as recent as 2009.
It was unclear if the cases involve two being investigated by the RCMP in nearby Richmond. The Mounties issued a news release late Thursday naming Tremblay in connection with an investigation into the death of two teenagers in 2010.
Martha Jackson, 17, and Kayla Lalonde, 16, both died on the same day in different locations. Toxicology results indicate the apparent cause of death for both girls was a combination of alcohol and drugs.
The RCMP news release did not elaborate on how investigators are viewing Tremblay.
"This investigation has also involved a number of subjects during the course of the investigation, one of them being Martin Tremblay, who has recently been charged by the Vancouver Police Department for a number of offences," the news release said.
"At this time we are hopeful that due to the cooperation of a number of courageous individuals and the exhaustive efforts of our investigative team, we will soon have some answers for the families of Martha and Kayla."
In 2003, Tremblay pleaded guilty to five counts of sexual assault. He also has several drug convictions.
Lisa Yellow-Quill, who manages aboriginal programs at Battered Women's Support Services in Vancouver, said she was "overwhelmed and happy" with news of Tremblay's arrest and the charges against him.
"Part of this arrest is saying, 'Enough is enough,' and that we are serious about ending violence against women," said Yellow-Quill, who spoke at the police news conference.
"Holding somebody accountable for their actions is not very common in our justice system, but hopefully it will be at the end of this."
Mona Woodward of Sister Watch, which works to help and protect women in the Downtown Eastside, said the case shows the need for groups that provide services to aboriginal girls to intervene at a young age.
"The reality is, there is always going to be (Robert) Picktons and Tremblays in the world, so what they want to do is create some sort of educational and preventive measures starting in elementary school," said Woodward.
"Because the youngest victim was 14 years old," she added, referring to one of the latest cases Tremblay is accused in.