22 Apr 2008

Self-proclaimed minister married child, court hears

The Montreal Gazette - April 21, 2008

by Sue Montgomery|The Gazette

Daniel Cormier, a self-proclaimed church minister, sexually abused a 9-year-old girl, then married her at the same time he was helping her impoverished parents pay their bills, Quebec Court heard yesterday.

Acting as his own defence, Cormier, 57, has delayed his trial many times since first being arrested in 2003. But as the first witness finally took the stand yesterday, the sordid story began to unfold of how he allegedly took advantage of an underprivileged family and a girl 39 years his junior.

Barbara Bass, the social worker at Batshaw Youth and Family Services who was given the case in the summer of 2002, told the court that the girl, who was 13 by the time authorities learned of her plight, saw herself as Cormier's wife.

"She had lived in foster care for a period of time and she and her mother argued," Bass testified. "(Cormier) was helping her with that relationship.

"When she was 9, they spent weekends at his house and they shared a bed," she said, adding the two had sexual intercourse when the girl was 11.

"(The girl) remembered a meeting Cormier had with her parents, and since then, she was referred to as his wife," Bass told the court.

But the girl's mother told Bass she didn't know anything about the relationship and denied having given her daughter to Cormier as his bride.

Cormier, who claims he was the minister of the defunct Church of Downtown Montreal, is charged with sexual interference, invitation to sexual touching, sexual assault and two counts of sexual exploitation of girls. Neither victim can be named. He argues it's not a crime to have sex with one's wife.

Bass said that Cormier had helped the mother, who was a prostitute and drug addict, and was working to get the two girls in the family, who had been in foster care for at least five years, back with their parents. Since the mother was so "fragile," Bass said, she handed over much of her parental responsibility to Cormier.

"Cormier was helping them pay their bills and was paying for the girl's orthodontic care," she said.

She said Cormier had also enrolled the girl in a private school, which turned out not to be a properly licensed institution. Once the girl got out of the grip of Cormier and went to a regular school, she was about two years behind academically.

Bass said that after youth protection stepped in, the family's situation improved.

"There was a tremendous change in the family," she said. "Their apartment was furnished and in a nice area, there were new friends and I saw (the girl) smile and laugh, which I hadn't seen.

"The mother was doing everything we asked, she just needed someone to guide her and tell her what to do."

Bass is to be cross-examined by Cormier today.

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