The "honest and forthright" testimony of a 10-year-old girl helped a Manitoba judge convict a schoolteacher who planned to leave the province after he repeatedly sexually abused the girl and told her to keep quiet.
Former Lorette teacher Remi Dallaire, 34, manipulated the girl's mother, gained her trust, and preyed on her then-eight-year-old daughter within days of meeting her, Court of Queen's Bench Justice Ken Champagne ruled Friday in finding him guilty of sexual interference, invitation to sexual touching and making sexually explicit material available to a child. The judge stayed a charge of sexual assault.
"It is a skilled example of grooming behaviour, and I don't hesitate in finding the accused is a predator," Champagne said, convicting Dallaire on all charges against him.
The judge ruled the girl had not been coached when she came forward with allegations Dallaire had repeatedly assaulted her in June and July 2016. Within 30 days of meeting Dallaire, who had offered to walk her to and from school and look after her while her mother was at work, the girl was having sleepovers and showering with him. He showed her a pornographic video to explain what he wanted her to do to him.
"I did it, but I hated it!" the girl exclaimed, unprompted, when she testified in court this week. The abuse escalated to anal penetration.
"The accused was able to do this because of his position in the community as a schoolteacher... and his supportive and helpful behaviour towards (the girl's mother) and her children. The speed at which he was able to accomplish this is nothing short of remarkable," Champagne said.
The now-10-year-old didn't back down from the allegations during nearly three hours of "intense and lengthy" cross examination from defence lawyer Matt Gould, the judge noted, and he found there was no reason or chance for the girl to make up false allegations.
"I am absolutely convinced that an eight-year-old child would not be able to make up those allegations and stick to them," Champagne said.
Dallaire, who taught Grades 7 and 8 at École Lagimodière in Lorette, about 30 kilometres southeast of Winnipeg, had planned to move to Alberta later that summer.
'It is a skilled example of grooming behaviour, and I don't hesitate in finding the accused is a predator.' — Court of Queen's Bench Justice Ken Champagne
The lease had expired on his apartment, which was across the hall from the girl's mother, who had recently separated from her children's father. She gratefully accepted the help Dallaire offered, knowing he was a teacher at her oldest daughter's school.
"He was there and immediately supportive," Champagne said of Dallaire. "There is no doubt that she (the mother) held out hope that she could win his heart... that hope led her to ignore some very serious and dangerous signals about the accused's intentions with (her eight-year-old daughter)."
Dallaire stayed in the mother's apartment for a week before house-sitting for a colleague. He brought the eight-year-old girl with him, and she stayed with him for three days.
"They spent an incredible amount of time together," Champagne said.
The girl's mother "ignored this bright, burning red flag of behaviour," Champagne said, when Dallaire focused his interest on her daughter despite telling the adult woman he wasn't interested in a romantic relationship with her.
'The accused was able to do this because of his position in the community as a schoolteacher... and his supportive and helpful behaviour towards (the girl's mother) and her children. The speed at which he was able to accomplish this is nothing short of remarkable.' — Court of Queen's Bench Justice Ken Champagne
The mother had one sexual encounter with Dallaire, during which he told her, "we should have (your daughter) here." The mother testified in court she briefly questioned him about that remark, but Dallaire denied a sexual interest in the girl and they never talked about it again, even after Dallaire sent the mother a text message at 1:40 a.m. telling her he "needed" her eight-year-old daughter, and asked her to send her across the hall to his apartment because he felt suicidal.
The mother said no, because the girl was sleeping and "it would look weird," she said.
None of those conversations were challenged by the defence. Dallaire was manipulating the mother to get access to her daughter, Champagne said.
His plan to start a new life in Alberta came to a halt when the girl told her mother on July 13, 2016, that Dallaire had been abusing her. The mother immediately confronted Dallaire, who sent her a text message saying he needed to protect his reputation.
He threatened to contact Child and Family Services and have her children taken from her care. The mother took her daughter to the hospital, and then to the police. The then-eight-year-old gave a detailed statement to RCMP the next day.
Although he was found guilty on all of the charges against him, a charge of sexual assault against Dallaire was stayed because of a legal principle that prevents multiple convictions for the same incidents.
Dallaire, who had been living out of province with his parents while he was on bail for the past two years, was taken into custody Friday afternoon. A sentencing date has not yet been set.
Katie May reports on courts, crime and justice for the Free Press.