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‘I’m in shock’: Toronto police rule out charges after 30 women accuse former RCMP doctor of sexual assault

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Toronto police sex crimes investigators say there are « no grounds » to lay criminal charges against a former RCMP doctor. That’s despite 30 women alleging they were sexually assaulted during mandatory medical exams when hired by the police force in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

« The Toronto Police Service does not dispute that these women felt (and continue to feel) violated, » said police spokesperson Meaghan Gray in an email Tuesday. However, she said investigators reviewed medical standards at the time and determined there is a lack of evidence « to prove there was a sexual purpose » to the doctor’s exams.

« I think it’s a lot of bullshit. I’m in shock, » said Vicki Gravelle, a 911 dispatcher for a regional police force in Ontario, no longer with the RCMP.

Gravelle and two others came forward to CBC News last month, detailing sexual assault allegations against former RCMP doctor John A. Macdougall, saying he inappropriately pinched nipples, conducted invasive vaginal exams without gloves, caressed their legs and pushed his pelvis against their naked backsides as they were told to bend forward during « spinal exams. »

Gravelle and two others came forward to CBC News last month, detailing sexual assault allegations against former RCMP doctor John A. Macdougall. (Rachel Houlihan/CBC)

The women complained to the RCMP, Toronto police and the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario at the time, but their concerns went nowhere.

In early 2018, Toronto police reopened their investigation after dozens of women came forward, emboldened by the #MeToo movement, alleging they too were assaulted by Macdougall.

‘No grounds’ for charges

Macdougall retired in 2001. He is now in his mid-80s and lives in a retirement home west of Toronto. According to his lawyer, Macdougall has dementia, suffered near-fatal pneumonia recently and is living with around-the clock care. His family has declined to comment.

But in 1991, when the three women first complained to Ontario’s medical regulator, Macdougall explained he elected to do lengthy breast exams on new recruits in an effort to teach self-examination technique. He was silent on the other allegations of unwanted touching and invasive vaginal exams.

Following the women’s complaints the RCMP banned all staff physicians from conducting gynecological exams and laid out proper breast-exam techniques.

This photo of John A. Macdougall was taken when he graduated from the University of Toronto in 1963. (University of Toronto)

Toronto police on Tuesday told CBC News that they « know that many involved in this case are angry and frustrated. » But they say they have closed the file after review of the 30 women’s statements and are « confident » in their decision not to lay charges.

« Our investigative efforts were unbiased and extended beyond these statements to include a review of documentation, consideration for case law and research into what may have been acceptable medical practice at the time, » said Gray in her statement.

« We had to determine whether or not grounds existed to prove there was a sexual purpose for the actions that took place. Without those grounds, we simply could not lay charges. … We know that many involved in this case are angry and frustrated but, pending any new information that is brought forward, we are confident in the decisions we have made. »

‘I am flabbergasted’

Sylvie Corriveau, one of the three women to complain about. Macdougall in the 1990s, says she is « disillusioned » by the Toronto police decision.

« You have 30-odd strangers stating the same thing, and the doctor’s word means more, » said Corriveau, a senior RCMP employee based in Ottawa. « Many of the victims are still serving peace officers, do their sworn statements not mean anything? »

Watch Sylvie Corriveau describe when she knew the doctor was abusing his authority:

RCMP ‘OVERLOOKED’ COMPLAINTS OF SEX ASSAULTS DURING EXAM, RECRUITS ALLEGE 1:09

She flatly rejects that Macdougall’s actions were in any way legitimate and maintains he was seeking sexual gratification during her exam.

« If the investigators did in fact state that his techniques were acceptable medical tests back then … I am flabbergasted, because they were not, » Corriveau told CBC News.

Gravelle says she can’t understand why Macdougall’s medical training has any bearing on the allegations by the 30 complainants. « I don’t understand what any of that has to do with anything. If he’s archaically been trained … it’s still inappropriate behaviour, conducted to a woman in an office, behind closed doors in secret, and still under the threat: « You do this or I’m going to have your job. »

Complaint filed against Toronto police

Helen Henderson, who received compensation last month from an RCMP class action fund for abuse victims based on her encounter with Macdougall, says she is enraged Toronto police will not lay criminal charges.

« It’s absolutely devastating after all of our efforts, » Henderson said.

She’s filed a formal complaint with the Office of the Independent Police Review Director demanding a review of the Toronto police investigation. 

Henderson says she is enraged Toronto police will not lay criminal charges against Macdougall. (Rachel Houlihan/CBC)

« They didn’t do their job, » Henderson says.

Another woman, Laurel Hodder, describes the Toronto police decision as « devastating. » She is pressing ahead with her own lawsuit against Macdougall and the RCMP. Hodder was sent to see Macdougall despite senior brass being aware of complaints against the doctor.

« It makes you feel like you don’t matter, » said Hodder.

Send tips to dave.seglins@cbc.ca or rachel.houlihan@cbc.ca  
 

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Anglais

‘We’re back’: Montreal festival promoters happy to return but looking to next year

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In downtown Montreal, it’s festival season.

In the city’s entertainment district, a musical act was conducting a sound check on stage Friday evening — the second day of the French-language version of the renowned Just For Laughs comedy festival. Tickets for many of the festival’s free outdoor shows — limited by COVID-19 regulations — were sold out.

Two blocks away, more than 100 people were watching an acoustic performance by the Isaac Neto Trio — part of the last weekend of the Festival International Nuits d’Afrique, a celebration of music from the African continent and the African diaspora.

With COVID-19 restrictions continuing to limit capacity, festival organizers say they’re glad to be back but looking forward to next year when they hope border restrictions and capacity limits won’t affect their plans.

Charles Décarie, Just For Laughs’ CEO and president, said this is a “transition year.”

“Even though we have major constraints from the public health group in Montreal, we’ve managed to design a festival that can navigate through those constraints,” Décarie said.

The French-language Juste pour rire festival began on July 15 and is followed by the English-language festival until July 31.

When planning began in February and March, Décarie said, organizers came up with a variety of scenarios for different crowd sizes, ranging from no spectators to 50 per cent of usual capacity.

“You’ve got to build scenarios,” he said. “You do have to plan a little bit more than usual because you have to have alternatives.”

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Anglais

MELS new major movie studio to be built in Montreal

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MONTREAL — MELS Studios will build a new film studio in Montreal, filling some of the gap in supply to meet the demand of Hollywood productions.

MELS president Martin Carrier said on Friday that MELS 4 studio construction will begin « as soon as possible », either in the fall or winter of next year. The studio could host productions as early as spring 2023.

The total investment for the project is $76 million, with the Quebec government contributing a $25 million loan. The project will create 110 jobs, according to the company.

The TVA Group subsidiary’s project will enable it to stand out « even more » internationally, according to Quebecor president and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau. In the past, MELS Studios has hosted several major productions, including chapters of the X-Men franchise. The next Transformers movie is shooting this summer in Montreal.

Péladeau insisted that local cultural productions would also benefit from the new facility, adding that the studio ensures foreign revenues and to showcase talent and maintain an industry of Quebec producers.

STUDIO SHORTAGE

The film industry is cramped in Montreal.

According to a report published last May by the Bureau du cinéma et de la télévision du Québec (BCTQ), there is a shortage of nearly 400,000 square feet of studio space.

With the addition of MELS 4, which will be 160,000 square feet, the company is filling part of the gap.

Carrier admitted that he has had to turn down contracts because of the lack of space, representing missed opportunities of « tens of millions of dollars, not only for MELS, but also for the Quebec economy. »

« Montreal’s expertise is in high demand, » said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, who was present at the announcement.

She said she received great testimonials from « Netflix, Disney, HBO and company » during an economic mission to Los Angeles in 2019.

« What stands out is that they love Montreal because of its expertise, knowledge and beauty. We need more space, like MELS 4, » she said.

There is still not enough capacity in Quebec, acknowledged Minister of Finance, the Economy and Innovation Eric Girard.

« It is certain that the government is concerned about fairness and balance, so if other requests come in, we will study them with the same seriousness as we have studied this one, » he said.

Grandé Studios is the second-largest player in the industry. Last May, the company said it had expansion plans that should begin in 2022. Investissement Québec and Bell are minority shareholders in the company.

For its part, MELS will have 400,000 square feet of production space once MELS 4 is completed. The company employs 450 people in Quebec and offers a range of services including studio and equipment rentals, image and sound postproduction, visual effects and a virtual production platform.

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Anglais

Birdhouse Wingerie & Bar is the Latest to Hatch in West Island’s Bubbling Restaurant Scene

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Wings are the thing at the latest restaurant to make its mark on Montreal’s West Island: Birdhouse Wingerie & Bar.

At the buzzy new Dollard-Des Ormeaux eatery, the bird limbs come aplenty, with a menu listing eleven “wet & messy” wings, including smoked apple habanero, sriracha lime, and cherry cola BBQ; and four — cacio e pepe, ketchups chip, Nashville hot, and the garlicky, lemon pepper “vampire slayer” — dry rub flavours. They come 10 for $18 or 20 for $34, plus the option of ranch, parmesan, or blue cheese dipping sauce.

Tacos, nachos, poutines (one made with bone marrow, another with tater tots), smashed burgers, salads, and a classic buttermilk fried chicken dinner are just sampling of the other dishes that round out the offering. On the drinks side, there are cocktails, sangrias, and spiked milkshakes in popular chocolate bar flavours: After Eight, Skor, Bounty, or Reeses.

Opened on July 5, Birdhouse is among a recent influx of restaurants to grace the island’s western end, including birria taco slinger Tacos Don Rigo and barbecue joint Smoke Box — a double whammy in the same Pierrefonds area strip mall. That comes in addition to plans for Fairview Pointe Claire’s incoming “District Gourmand” (slated to usher in Tommy Café), and, of course, a number of the area’s longer-standing stalwarts — from southern belle Bistro Nolah to old-school casse-croûte Smoked Meat Pete — that have helped bolster the West Island’s culinary credentials.

The brand-new Brunswick Boulevard restaurant is the brainchild of Montreal entrepreneur Lorne Schwartz, restaurateur George Massouras (of Madisons and Arahova Souvlaki), and among the other partners involved, Brahm Mauer, son of the founder of beloved buffalo hot wings expert Wings ‘n’ Things. Mauer has tried his hand at reviving the original Wings ‘n’ Things recipe — the restaurant originally opened in 1986 — over the years, including with a Royalmount Avenue location in 2012, then as a roaming summertime food truck and NDG pop-up. That same truck has now been made over with a Birdhouse-branded livery to be deployed for private events.

A likely draw to many, Birdhouse is reprising the “famous flavours, untouched” of the once-upon-a-time NDG staple, represented on its menu as “The Legendary WNT Buffalo” chicken wing.

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