24 Apr 2008

Minister's marriage to 10-year-old Que. girl hidden from mother, court hears

The Canadian Press - April 23, 2008

MONTREAL — The leader of a fringe evangelical movement kept his so-called marriage to a 10-year-old girl hidden from her mother despite using it to lay claim to her body, a Quebec court heard Wednesday.

Daniel Cormier, who headed the now-defunct Church of Downtown Montreal, says the marriage gave him the right to have sexual relations with the girl. But as she was cross-examined by Cormier, the girl's mother denied ever being aware of a marriage.

"My first knowledge of this so-called marriage was when court proceedings started," said the woman, who like her daughter cannot be identified.

"I spoke to (my daughter) and (she) doesn't remember any kind of marriage," she added. "She doesn't remember marrying you."

Cormier, 57, stands accused of a variety of sex-related crimes, including sexual exploitation and sexual assault. He is also charged with sexually exploiting a different 16-year-old girl.

He completely denies the allegations regarding the 16-year-old and says he did nothing illegal with the 10-year-old, who is now 18.

As justification he has cited their 1999 marriage in the church which he founded.

The mother has said she thought the ceremony was a birthday party for her daughter and even baked a cake for the occasion.

Cormier's church, however, was described by another witness who took the stand Wednesday as a "sect" with a distinct misogynist bent.

"There were rules of the church...the women were underneath and the men were higher," said Josiane Beaudoin, who frequented the church for several months in 1998.

"They worked by the methods of the Old Testament, everything that came after didn't count."

Beaudoin recalled she was initially drawn to the church by a newspaper story about how Cormier presided over the marriage of two former drug addicts.

The bride in the story was the 10-year-old's mother, who admitted working as a prostitute soon after arriving in Montreal with her two children in 1993.

She said in earlier testimony that Cormier emerged as a "guardian angel" who took the family under his wing.

"(My daughter) was comfortable with you because you were part of the family, a father figure," the mother told Quebec court Judge Sylvie Durand on Wednesday.

Other church members eventually grew suspicious of Cormier's relationship with the girl.

Beaudoin said she became concerned during a church camping trip which the girl's mother did not attend.

"He was looking at her amorously and fatherly, but more so amorously," she said.

"At one point I saw him watching (the girl) get out of the water... and he touched her to check if her bathing suit was wet."

Cormier, who is defending himself, opted not to cross-examine Beaudoin.

He was arrested in 2003 after a social worker alerted police about the situation.

The trial continues on Thursday.

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