STE. ANNE — A Ste. Anne doctor who has been charged with sexually assaulting six patients was ordered not to conduct breast or pelvic exams without a chaperone prior to his arrest.

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STE. ANNE — A Ste. Anne doctor who has been charged with sexually assaulting six patients was ordered not to conduct breast or pelvic exams without a chaperone prior to his arrest.

Dr. Arcel Bissonnette, 61, was arrested Thursday and agreed to stop practising medicine as part of his court-imposed bail conditions. He's been charged with six counts of sexual assault for allegedly abusing female patients at the Ste. Anne health centre and the town's hospital between 2004 and 2017.

The Seine Medical Centre in Ste. Anne where Dr. Arcel Bissonnette had his office. (Katie May / Winnipeg Free Press)

The Seine Medical Centre in Ste. Anne where Dr. Arcel Bissonnette had his office. (Katie May / Winnipeg Free Press)

The regulatory body that oversees doctors' conduct in Manitoba had heard "concerns" that prompted it to require Bissonnette to be chaperoned by a female attendant as of January 2019.

Dr. Anna Ziomek, registrar of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba, said she could not provide specifics about those concerns or give details about what led to that disciplinary measure. Nor could she say how many complaints the college had received about Bissonnette, because of privacy constraints under the Regulated Health Professions Act.

She said the regulatory body doesn't get involved in police investigations, and doesn't report criminal allegations to police unless they involve children or vulnerable persons.

"We do not report it to the police, we encourage the person to go (to police). Our reasoning for that position is really that an adult person who has been potentially victimized should be given a choice about whether they wish to proceed through a criminal court or not. It is not up to us to make that decision for them and potentially push them into something that they do not wish to pursue," Ziomek said Friday.

"We do not report it to the police, we encourage the person to go (to police). Our reasoning for that position is really that an adult person who has been potentially victimized should be given a choice about whether they wish to proceed through a criminal court or not." — Dr. Anna Ziomek, registrar of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba

When the college learned of Bissonnette's arrest Thursday, representatives asked him to sign a voluntary undertaking stating he would no longer practise medicine, in addition to the court condition that bars him from doing so, meaning his medical licence is effectively suspended.

Ste. Anne police haven't said how long Bissonnette was under investigation, but the department wants anyone with information to come forward to ensure there are no other victims.

Bissonnette was released on bail Thursday night following an appearance before a judicial justice of the peace.

Questioned by the justice of the peace, Bissonnette confirmed he knew he had been arrested for offences that were "sexual in nature."

Dr. Arcel Bissonnette, 61, has been charged with six counts of sexual assault for allegedly abusing female patients at the Ste. Anne health centre and the town's hospital (pictured). (Katie May / Winnipeg Free Press)

Dr. Arcel Bissonnette, 61, has been charged with six counts of sexual assault for allegedly abusing female patients at the Ste. Anne health centre and the town's hospital (pictured). (Katie May / Winnipeg Free Press)

Bissonnette was released on $25,000 bail, with requirements he "not engage in the practise of medicine in any manner," not attend his place of employment and have no contact with any of the six complainants.

In Ste. Anne, a town of about 2,114, 50 kilometres southeast of Winnipeg, some residents expressed shock at news of Bissonnette's arrest, saying he was well-known and generally well-liked.

"It's very sad; I don't really know what happened," said a woman who identified herself only as Louise, adding she'd only heard good things about the doctor.

Another resident who said she knew Bissonnette and his family hadn't heard about his arrest until she spoke to a reporter.

"Oh no, don't tell me that," she said in surprise. "He is such a gentle man... very respectful."

Bissonnette had practised medicine in Manitoba since 1990.

His next court date is Dec. 17 in Steinbach.

katie.may@freepress.mb.ca

Dean Pritchard

Dean Pritchard
Courts reporter

Someone once said a journalist is just a reporter in a good suit. Dean Pritchard doesn’t own a good suit. But he knows a good lawsuit.

Katie May

Katie May
Reporter

Katie May is a general-assignment reporter for the Free Press.