Alleged victim takes stand at sex assault trial of ex-PQ member Harold LeBel

QUEBEC — The alleged victim at the sex assault trial of former Quebec provincial politician Harold LeBel told the jury Tuesday she was repeatedly touched against her will during the course of an entire night at the accused's condo in October 2017.

LeBel, 60, a former Parti Québécois member of the legislature, has pleaded not guilty to one count of sexual assault in the case being heard in Rimouski, Que.

The identity of the alleged victim is protected by a publication ban.

She told the court she spent an evening at LeBel's condo along with another woman.

The alleged victim told the court the conversation took on a more personal tone when she found herself alone with LeBel, but she said there wasn't anything weird and that she felt "confident" with him, who she considered a "father figure" and seemed to be "depressed."

That was until he suddenly put his hands on her thighs and kissed her, the complainant told the court. She said she was "extremely surprised," and had “no attraction towards Harold LeBel,” as she recoiled from him.

She told LeBel she was tired and wanted to shower and go to bed, but alleged that LeBel followed her and undid her bra before she could enter the bathroom.

"He started arguing," the complainant said, pushing her to stay and trying to open the locked bathroom door.

"I was in complete shock," the alleged victim said, adding she was trembling in the bathroom. "I didn't understand what I was living through." According to the woman, LeBel, out of nowhere, had become someone "completely different."

Once she'd come out of the shower, she went to sleep in the Murphy bed in LeBel's living room when the accused asked if he could lay next to her.

"I felt bad. I was afraid that he would be angry, that he would no longer be my friend,” she told the jury.

The unwanted advances and touching continued throughout the night, with the accused allegedly touching and squeezing her buttocks.

"I mobilized my whole body not to move," she told the court, recalling that she felt "vulnerable" and thinking it might be "worse" if she moved.

She told the jury she waited all night for the acts to stop but they continued until sunrise.

The alleged victim later confided in the car to the other woman who had stayed at the condo, crying in the car and imploring her not to tell anyone.

"I didn't want to cause trouble, cause waves," the alleged victim said, adding she was hurting from having stayed tense and rigid all night.

Prosecutor Manon Gaudreault told the jury that LeBel had "crossed the line" of the friendship and the complainant had tried to “sweep that from her memory, without success."

LeBel was arrested on Dec. 15, 2020, leading to his removal from the PQ caucus.

He was first elected to the legislature in 2014 and re-elected in 2018 as a PQ member. He did not seek re-election in the vote last month.

Superior Court Justice Serge Francoeur is presiding over the trial, which is expected to last two to three weeks.

The trial is to continue on Wednesday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 8, 2022.

Caroline Plante, The Canadian Press