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Trial opens for former Halifax teacher accused of historical sex offences

 Jaddus Joseph Poirier leaving Dartmouth, N.S., provincial court in April 2019.  (Blair Rhodes/CBC - image credit)
Jaddus Joseph Poirier leaving Dartmouth, N.S., provincial court in April 2019. (Blair Rhodes/CBC - image credit)

WARNING: This article contains graphic content and may affect those who have experienced sexual abuse or know someone affected by it. 

A man who says he was sexually assaulted by a teacher when he was in elementary school in Halifax is finally telling his story.

The man — whose identity is protected by a publication ban — testified Monday and Tuesday at the trial of Jaddus Joseph Poirier, 82,  who was a teacher in the Halifax school system in the 1980s.

Poirier is in poor health and uses a wheelchair. The court has only sat for half days for his trial, which is scheduled to run all week. It has already been adjourned on several occasions since 2019 for a variety of reasons, includingfears about COVID-19.

Three men initially accused Poirier of sexually assaulting them, but charges involving one of the complainants were withdrawn as the case made its way through the court system.

During testimony this week, the man alleged that Poirier sexually assaulted him when he was sleeping over at the teacher's Dartmouth apartment. He told the court he awoke to find someone touching his penis. He said he kept his eyes closed and didn't move as the alleged abuse escalated. He said it was only after it finished and he heard someone walking away that he opened his eyes and said he recognized the shadow of Poirier leaving the room.

Cross-examination

The man said he looked at Poirier as a role model and relied on the teacher for help with his homework. He said he visited Poirier several times at his home because the apartment building had a pool and he liked to swim. He said he took two trips with the teacher, one to Prince Edward Island and one to visit Poirier's family in Bathurst, N.B.

But in a series of questions during cross-examination, Poirier's lawyer, Ian Hutchison, challenged the man's version of events. Hutchison said his client had no recollection of the man as a student and that he was too busy getting a master's degree from Dalhousie at that time to provide the kind of support in evenings and weekends that the man claimed he received.

Hutchison also challenged the man on changes in his story from the time he was interviewed by police, through the preliminary inquiry, up to his testimony this week. The man acknowledged some discrepancies, but said he tried hard to forget the incident. The man said it was only as he was preparing for this trial — and again after his testimony on Monday — that he remembered details that he hadn't provided in earlier testimony.

The man also vehemently denied the suggestion that he was looking to profit from this incident, although he acknowledged he'd been approached by a personal injury law firm offering to represent him against Poirier and the Halifax Regional Centre for Education. The man said he rejected the offer because he wasn't interested.

For anyone who has been sexually assaulted, there is support available through crisis lines and local support services via this Government of Canada website or the Ending Violence Association of Canada database. If you're in immediate danger or fear for your safety or that of others around you, please call 911.

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