MONTREAL — Former Parti Québécois leader André Boisclair is almost certainly facing jail time after pleading guilty Monday to sexually assaulting two men in their early 20s after meeting them online.
Boisclair admitted to the two assaults at his Montreal apartment in January 2014 and November 2015, and his victims described for the court how their lives had been scarred by their encounters with the former politician.
"The person I was in 2014 doesn't exist anymore," one victim said, describing himself as an ambitious young man who wanted to fight for his convictions but who now suffers from depression and social anxiety.
"Since 2014, when I walked through Mr. Boisclair's door, nothing has been right," he said, his voice breaking with emotion. He said he dropped out of university and gave up on dreams of entering politics — because it reminds him of Boisclair.
In the case involving him, Boisclair, 56, pleaded guilty to one count of sexual assault with the participation of another person.
According to an agreed statement of facts read by prosecutor Jérôme Laflamme, Boisclair had been consuming drugs and suggested that the victim participate in anal sex. When the man refused, Boisclair told the two other people who were present to anally rape him. Boisclair then held the victim's chest as one of the other men present attempted to penetrate him.
A charge of sexual assault with a weapon in that case was stayed as part of the plea agreement. Laflamme said the other people involved have never been identified.
In the second case, Boisclair pleaded guilty to sexual assault. According to the statement of facts, he repeatedly took off his victim's pants and attempted to engage in sexual acts with the man, who refused multiple times. The identities of both victims are protected by a publication ban.
Boisclair’s second victim described his assault as an “open wound that has not healed to this day.” He said it occurred shortly after he had come out as gay and at a time when he was building his identity. He said he was paralyzed with stress after the assault and that he lost self-confidence.
The Crown and the defence agreed to jointly recommend a sentence of two years minus one day in jail — 18 months for the first offence and six months less a day for the second. The sentence would be followed by two years of probation. Boisclair would also be banned from contacting his victims.
Quebec court Judge Pierre Labelle said Monday he would deliberate and deliver his sentence July 18.
"It's always a good thing when a guilty plea is entered in such a case," Laflamme told reporters at the Montreal courthouse after the hearing, adding that it saves the victims from having to testify during a trial.
Boisclair did not address the court — except to enter his guilty plea. His lawyer, Michel Massicotte, said Boislcair had written letters to his victims, apologizing for his actions.
Massicotte told the court the guilty plea, the decision not to speak in court and the defence's decision to waive the right to a preliminary inquiry are signs of Boisclair's desire not to hurt his victims further.
"He believes the gesture he is making speaks louder than he could," Massicotte said.
Laflamme said jail time is necessary to denounce the serious crimes Boisclair committed. The evidence was strong and the complainants were "extremely credible," Laflamme said outside the court. "The prosecution would have been ready to go forward with a trial if a not-guilty plea would have been entered."
Boisclair, who was first elected to the provincial legislature at age 23, was once considered a rising political star. He was a provincial cabinet minister and served as PQ leader between 2005 and 2007 when the party was in opposition.
He was later Quebec's delegate general in New York from 2012 to 2013 and was president of the Urban Development Institute of Quebec from 2016 until his arrest.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 20, 2022.
Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press