2 witnesses testify on day 4 of sexual assault trial for former Regina doctor

·6 min read
Sylvester Ukabam, right, is shown at Court of Queen's Bench in Regina. Ukabam, a 76-year-old former doctor, is accused of sexual assaulting patients during medical exams between 2010 and 2017. He pleaded not guilty to all counts.  (Mickey Djuric/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Sylvester Ukabam, right, is shown at Court of Queen's Bench in Regina. Ukabam, a 76-year-old former doctor, is accused of sexual assaulting patients during medical exams between 2010 and 2017. He pleaded not guilty to all counts. (Mickey Djuric/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Court heard from two witnesses during the fourth day of the sexual assault trial of a former Regina doctor on Thursday.

The seven charges against former gastroenterologist Sylvestre Ukabam, 76, stem from offences that allegedly occurred between December 2010 and April 2017. A publication ban prohibits any of the five complainants from being named.

Ukabam has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

First up was a friend of the third complainant, who testified in court on Wednesday. The complainant, a 47-year-old from Regina, alleged that Ukabam sexually assaulted her during a follow-up appointment at his downtown clinic on April 24, 2017.

The complainant testified on Wednesday that she called her friend, Thursday's first witness, from her car right after the appointment with Ukabam had ended.

On Thursday, the witness corroborated the complainant's story. She called the complainant her "bestie" and said they share most of what happens in their lives with each other.

The witness said that on April 24, 2017, the complainant called her at about 4:45 p.m. "hysterical" and "sobbing so hard." The witness met the complainant at her house at approximately 6 p.m.

The witness said the complainant was crying hard and needed a lot of consoling.

"Her makeup was all smeared all over her face, her eyeliner and mascara," the witness said.

As per the complainant's testimony, the witness then helped her friend document exactly what had happened at Ukabam's clinic that day. The witness said it was in character for the complainant to document things.

This document would later be used as a statement for the Saskatchewan College of Physicians and Surgeons when the complainant reported Ukabam for sexual assault. The complainant also reported the incident to the police. Thursday's witness was interviewed by both organizations.

The Crown asked the witness whether she had seen the complainant change since the assault. The witness said she had.

"[She's] not trusting with people. Especially men with darker skin colour," said the witness. "[She's] a lot more emotional now then she was."

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LinkedIn

4th complainant's testimony

The fourth complainant, a 45-year-old woman from Regina, also testified on Thursday. She alleges that Ukabam performed an unusual breast exam at his downtown clinic without explaining to her why.

She could not recall the date or year of the incident.

The appointment was regularly scheduled. The witness said she was in need of a prescription refill and was also experiencing "significant diarrhea."

She said that after the two spoke in Ukabam's office, he told the complainant to go into the examination room, change out of everything but her underwear and put the medical gown on so it was open to the front.

The witness said she was not expecting to be examined that day and it caught her off guard, but she did not ask why it was happening. At the time, she thought Ukabam was going to examine her stomach.

Ukabam came into the room with another person who was introduced as a medical student. She said he told her he was going to do a breast exam. The witness said she thought it was a teaching moment for the student, but she was confused. Still, she did not ask why the breast exam was being done.

"When you're in a little room with two men and you realize you're in a bad situation, sometimes I freeze," the complainant told the Crown.

"I didn't ask questions when I should have. I should have not done what he told me to. Because after the fact I realized the intent was not medical."

The witness said what followed was not typical of a breast exam.

"He told me to lie down and he was going to examine my breasts. And he put two fingers on my left breast, then he put two fingers on my right breast, two fingers on my hip and checked the other side."

She said that throughout the exam, Ukabam did not speak to her or the student. She said also he was not wearing gloves.

The witness said she saw Ukabam approximately two more times after the incident in order to get medication refills. Later, she asked another doctor for a referral for another gastroenterologist, due to the incident.

When asked how the incident affected her, she said, "I have difficult seeking medical attention from a medical professional who is male, which makes finding doctors difficult."

Reporting the incident

The witness told the Crown that she contacted the Saskatchewan College of Physicians about the incident, but couldn't recall when she did so. She said she "wanted to seek advice from them to see if the action conducted by Ukabam was appropriate or not."

She said the college could not provide her with an answer. She did not provide the college with an official report about the incident.

The defence asked the witness why there was a delay between the incident and her contacting the college.

"Because I was not sure if I would be able to handle this at that point in my life," the witness said, referring to court proceedings.

The complainant said she reported the incident to police years later, after reading an article about other allegations against Ukabam. She estimated that report to have been in 2018.

"I thought, I have a piece to this puzzle that I need to say out loud so that hopefully this doesn't happen to other people."

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CBC

Cross-examination

During cross-examination on Thursday, Ukabam's lawyer Aaron Fox asked the complainant about chest pains she had previously gone to the emergency room at Regina General Hospital for in 2012.

She said she had gone because she was concerned about cardiac disease due to family history, but the chest pains turned out not to be cardiac-related.

The defence said correspondence between doctors, including Ukabam, indicated they were trying to find the source of chest pain.

The witness said that it does not make sense for a gastroenterologist to investigate chest pains.

The defence then asked about Ukabam's "thick accent," suggesting that on the day of the alleged inappropriate incident, the witness might have mistook the words "chest exam," for "breast exam."

The complainant said this was not the case.

"Did you understand at the time of incident that you were seeing him because of the non-cardiac chest pains?" the defence asked the witness.

The complainant said she did not recall.

Furthermore, she told the defence that the exam was not a learning environment or situation for a student, because "in a proper learning environment there are words exchanged."

"The look on his face told me something wasn't right," she said, referring to the medical student. She said the student was looking at her while Ukabam was examining her breasts.

"[He had] the look you get where something isn't right, but you just don't know what to do about it."

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