WEDNESDAY, JUNE 23, 2004

R.I.P. Julie Boisvenu

Julie Boisvenu was murdered two years ago today. I’m going to tell Julie’s story again, because I believe there are lessons here that should never be forgotten.

In the early morning hours of June 23rd 2002 Julie was out celebrating with friends in downtown Sherbrooke, Quebec. The previous day she had received a promotion from her employer. At about 4:00 am Julie left the bar and was never seen alive again. Police found her Kia 4×4 a few blocks away. It had apparently knocked over a fire hydrant and been abandoned.

One week later Julie’s decomposing body was found in a ditch near Bromptonville, just north of Sherbrooke. She was lying face down, partially nude in a drainage ditch. She had been raped, beaten and strangled to death.

Police spent the better part of the summer tracking down Julie’s killer. The scope and dedication of the investigation was vast – in part due to the press my sister’s case was receiving at the same time across Canada. Police didn’t want to be embarrassed again.

In September 2002 Police arrested Hugo Bernier for the murder of Julie Boisvenu. What are known of Bernier’s actions on the night of June 23 are enough to make you wonder why we have law enforcement in the first place, if they are so willing to give offenders the tools to practice their trade.

Prior to murdering Boisvenu, Bernier had been stopped twice that night in Sherbrooke by two different police squads. At 2:00 am, the 27-year-old Bernier was detained in downtown Sherbrooke for loitering. When officers approached him, Bernier ran. Police eventually caught him and Bernier produced a false ID. Then they let him go.

One hour later at 3:00 am Bernier was again stopped by a different squad, this time for loitering in a parking garage. Again they let him go.

Within an hour, Bernier would rape, beat senseless, and strangle the life out of Julie Boisvenu.

Bernier was no stranger to law enforcement; in fact, when he took Julie’s life he should have been sequestered in a parole house. On August 18th 2000 Bernier was convicted and sentenced to 18 months in prison for confining and sexually aggressing a young woman for over 4 hours. Benier should have served out that sentence, along with three years of parole.

When Boisvenu’s body was found another prominent victim from the Townships threatened to take up the cause of the National Parole Board releasing dangerous offenders prematurely, should Boisvenu’s case prove to involve parole issues. It did, and since then, Marcel Bolduc – the father of Isabelle Bolduc, a 22-year-old music student who was kidnapped, raped and fatally beaten with an iron pipe in 1996 by two parolees – has done just that. Currently myself, Marcel Bolduc, Julie’s father, Pierre Boisvenu, and other prominent Canadian victims have been working together to form a National organization dedicated to victims rights. When the political dust settles after June 28th, I will be able to speak more on that. Until then, pray for a minority government so we can get some work done for victims in Canada.

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Follow-up

Hugo Bernier is set to go to trail this September. The case will not be heard in Sherbrooke, but 100 miles away in Montreal. In the aftermath of the Bernier’s arrest, police blundered again. In their enthusiasm over the investigation, police held a press conference in which they accidentally released information about the investigation that the judge thought could be construed as prejudicial to a jury pool. He then ruled to move proceedings to Montreal, the home turf of Bernier’s legal team. Now the victims – the Boisvenus – must commute everyday to Montreal if they hope to be part of the proceedings. Pierre Boisvenu has appealed to IVAC for victim compensation to provide financial assistance to attend the trial, but IVAC turned him down. So far Mr. Boisvenu has been reimbursed exactly $600 to cover the cost of funeral expenses.

It goes without saying that I am a great admirer of Pierre Boisvenu. Always poised and charming, never self-pitying, he is a great public face and voice for victim advocacy.

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