Quebec police probe alleged sex assault in Cuba after reports naming discharged man

Police in Quebec say they are investigating the alleged sexual assault of a Quebec woman that took place in Cuba.

But they are not saying if the suspect is a man named Monday in media reports as Simon Houle, who was recently granted a controversial conditional discharge for sexual assault after pleading guilty in a separate 2019 case.

On Monday, both Radio-Canada and Le Journal de Montreal published reports citing a woman named Vickie Vachon, who alleged to the outlets that she had been assaulted by Houle days after he was granted the discharge.

Global News has not independently verified those reports and Houle’s lawyer did not respond to a request for comment sent on Monday morning. In that request for comment, Global News asked if Houle had been in Cuba and whether he has been notified of the investigation underway.

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In response to a question from Global News, Quebec police confirmed an investigation into an alleged sexual assault of a Quebec woman while in Cuba.

“I cannot confirm the identity of the suspect because we are at the beginning of the investigation,” a spokesperson for La Régie de police du Lac des Deux-Montagnes said in French in an email.

“We have to meet with the victim to get her version and then proceed with the identification following procedures that can be upheld in court.”

In the reports, Radio-Canada and Le Journal de Montreal cited Vachon as saying that she had been at a resort in Cayo Coco, Cuba, when she alleged Houle groped her.

Vachon said in those reports she met Houle on the trip but it wasn’t until she returned to Quebec that a friend brought to her attention news articles about Houle, who pleaded guilty last year to a separate case of sexual assault and received a conditional discharge — allowing him to travel — last month.

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In his decision to grant the conditional discharge, Quebec judge Matthieu Poliquin said a criminal record would impact Houle’s career as an engineer, and limit his ability to travel.

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“A sentence other than a discharge would have a significant impact on his career as an engineer,” Poliquin wrote. “It is in the general interest that the accused, an asset for society, can continue his professional career.”

Houle also admitted during therapy to having assaulted another person in 2015, and Poliquin described that admission in his decision as concerning but said it also showed a “desire for transparency.”

Poliquin acknowledged in his sentencing decision that the victim in that case “was awoken by the light of a camera” to find Houle assaulting her with his fingers after she had fallen asleep at a friend’s home after a night of drinking at a bar with a group of friends, according to The Canadian Press.

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Her shirt had been lifted and her bra unfastened, the court decision said, adding the woman “panicked” and went to the kitchen, where Houle followed her and brought her back to bed.

A search of his phone would later reveal that he had taken nine photos.

Quebec women’s groups and sexual assault victims’ advocates condemned the decision to grant Houle the conditional discharge, with hundreds protesting over recent days and accusing Poliquin of having “defended” Houle with his decision.

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The Quebec prosecution office is appealing the decision.

Under the Criminal Code, sexual assault in Canada is not limited to rape and includes all forms of sexual touching without consent.

— with files from Global Montreal’s Annabelle Olivier.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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