Warning: This story contains disturbing details of sexual assault. A list of resources for people who have experienced sexual violence appears at the end of the article.
Outcry over a Quebec court judge's decision to grant a conditional discharge to a man who pleaded guilty to sexual assault and voyeurism continued this weekend, as a group of protestors took to Montreal's courthouse demanding for the judge's resignation.
Judge Matthieu Poliquin issued the ruling last month after Simon Houle, an engineer from Trois-Rivières, admitted to sexually assaulting a woman in 2019 and, according to the judgment, taking intimate photographs of her while she slept.
A conditional discharge means Houle will not have a criminal record as long as he follows a series of conditions for a period of probation, in this case three months.
In his decision, Poliquin said a criminal record could "have a significant impact" on Houle's career.
Marie-Maxime Gaumond, who helped organize the protest, said she was outraged when she first heard about the decision.
"The justifications for the absolution are absolutely disgusting, and they make absolutely no sense. That it's possible in 2022 to have a decision like this be made, it creates a really dangerous precedent, and I think it's very important to get the point across that this should not happen," Gaumond said.
"We should think about the victims first, and their safety," she added.
Loïz Poissant-Ross, one of the protestors, said the sentence send a message that sexual assault isn't considered a serious crime.
"You can bring someone to court, and get something out of it on a symbolic level, but there is no justice for their crimes," Poissant-Ross said.
"If you don't face any repercussions for your actions, nothing will stop you from doing the same things again."
For Cassandra-Kym Fiset, another attendee, the decision tells people they can ruin someone else's life, but that it doesn't matter because "yours is more important."
"At first I thought it was a joke," said Fiset, who was at the protest with her three small children.
"When I realized it was true, I was flabbergasted."
The office of Quebec's Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions (DPCP) has said it will appeal Houle's sentence in the coming weeks.
There are resources and supports available to anyone who has experienced sexual violence: