A judge will sentence a former youth-care worker next year for repeatedly having sex with a teen in her care, who she harboured in her apartment while he was on the run from her workplace, almost five years ago.
Bianca Chouinard, 26, pleaded guilty last October to sexual exploitation by touching a 17-year-old boy for a sexual purpose while in a position of trust or authority. The charge stems from Chouinard's time working at a Moncton youth home in late 2018 and into 2019.
Chouinard was set to be sentenced in July but a dispute arose over whether Chouinard had sex with the teen more than once. The dispute led to a hearing Wednesday where the Crown prosecutor called the victim, now 22, to testify.
The man, who cannot be named, testified that the two had sex about 20 times in late 2018 while she was an employee at the home where he lived.
Provincial court Judge Ronald LeBlanc said his testimony was credible.
"I do believe him when he says they had sexual intercourse on many occasions," LeBlanc said.
Defence lawyer Alexandre Robichaud is challenging the mandatory minimum sentence of 90 days in jail. (Shane Magee/CBC)
How many times they had sex will have an influence on the sentence Chouinard receives. The charge carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 90 days in jail, with a maximum sentence of two years.
The decision was followed by Chouinard's defence lawyer Alexandre Robichaud arguing that the mandatory minimum sentence is unreasonable under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Robichaud argued that if the Charter challenge is successful, Chouinard should receive an 18-to-24-month conditional sentence with three years probation. That would mean no time in jail.
Crown prosecutor Sylvie Godin-Blanchard is seeking 12 to 18 months in jail, higher than what was originally sought given aggravating factors that arose through the victim's testimony.
Godin-Blanchard said Chouinard took advantage of a vulnerable person in her care.
"She took advantage of that situation for her own sexual gratification," Godin-Blanchard said.
Chouinard, addressing the judge, expressed remorse.
"I accept full responsibility on my behalf," Chouinard told the judge.
LeBlanc heard that the victim was 17 when Chouinard began working at the youth home where he resided in the fall of 2018, first through a student placement and later full time.
They walked to a Tim Hortons one day that fall where he requested to add her on the social media app Snapchat.
She agreed, and he testified about a relationship that grew to the point that they had sex in her vehicle in the Centennial Park parking lot.
There were other instances in different locations in the city, including one night where he snuck out of the care home where she worked.
Stayed with her while on the run
He testified it happened about 15 times at her apartment and that she allowed him to stay in her apartment while on the run from the youth home.
It was a detail the judge later remarked struck him.
"Wouldn't she have had an obligation to tell her employer that she was harbouring an escapee at her residence? Doesn't that compound the circumstances?" he asked Chouinard's lawyer.
The lawyer suggested she faced a "tough decision" between giving him a place to stay or him being on the street. It was a suggestion the judge balked at.
"Mr. Robichaud, I think you're trying to minimize what I see as a serious aggravating factor here," LeBlanc said.
The exact timeline of when the sexual encounters took place was unclear. The victim testified he was using drugs and had spent some of the fall in a youth correctional centre in Miramichi before returning to Moncton.
He testified the relationship ended with her blocking him on Snapchat around Christmastime. He reported what happened almost a year later, which led to her being charged.
Robichaud challenged the victim's memory, pointing out he told police in 2019 he had sex with Chouinard about 100 times versus testifying in court it was around 20 times.
However, the judge later ruled some of the memory issues are explained by it being five years after the events in question.
LeBlanc said it was likely the victim exaggerated to police, but said it was perhaps a sign he was being truthful in court that he testified to a lower figure.
LeBlanc will rule on the challenge of the minimum sentence when he issues his sentencing decision Jan. 5, 2024.