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This article was published 21/10/2021 (217 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A rural Manitoba doctor is facing new charges of sexual assault following allegations of abuse by more than 20 patients he treated over the course of nearly 15 years.
Dr. Arcel Bissonnette, 62, was arrested by the Sainte-Anne Police Service Thursday morning at the Steinbach courthouse, where he was scheduled to appear on six charges of sexual assault laid in November 2020.
The doctor was accused of abusing six female patients between 2004 and 2017 while working at the Ste-Anne Hospital and the Seine Medical Centre, in the community about 50 kilometres southeast of Winnipeg.
Sainte-Anne Police Chief Marc Robichaud said more people came forward with allegations of abuse against Bissonnette after his arrest last November.
Robichaud said the new charges involve 16 additional patients, all of whom received health-care services from Bissonnette between 2004 and 2018.
Bissonnette was arrested on the new charges within 15 minutes of his scheduled court appearance Thursday, Crown attorney Paul Girdlestone told court. The doctor was held in a separate room in the building and did not appear before the judge during the hearing.
Robichaud said the Crown and defence were aware police were filing additional charges against the doctor Thursday.
Bissonnette is out on bail, but cannot practise medicine in any manner, under court orders.
Speaking on Bissonette's behalf, defence lawyer Marty Minuk told court his client also agreed not to contact his accusers or go near the Seine Medical Centre.
Bissonnette must also surrender his passport and is not allowed to relocate from his home in Ste. Anne without the court's permission.
He will have to pay $25,000 if any of the orders are violated.
Bissonnette's next court date is Nov. 18 in Steinbach.
In January 2019, nearly a year before Bissonnette's first arrest, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba prohibited him from conducting breast or pelvic exams without a chaperone.
At the time, the college’s chief executive officer and registrar, Dr. Anna Ziomek, would not elaborate on the concerns that led to the disciplinary measure.
Ziomek was not available for an interview Thursday afternoon.
However, in a statement to the Free Press, Ziomek said the college’s priority is to "ensure the delivery of safe medical care to the public" and Bissonnette immediately ceased practicing medicine in November 2020.
"(The college) recognizes the seriousness of the charges against Dr. Arcel Bissonnette," Ziomek said. "(It) will closely monitor the criminal proceedings as they unfold."
“(The college) recognizes the seriousness of the charges against Dr. Arcel Bissonnette." – College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba chief executive officer and registrar Dr. Anna Ziomek
Ziomek said the college was unable to provide further comment, or answer questions regarding the number of complaints it had received about Bissonnette, due to confidentiality reasons under the Regulated Health Professions Act.
At the time of Bissonnette’s arrest in last November, Ziomek told the Free Press the college doesn't report criminal allegations against physicians to police unless they involve children or vulnerable persons.
However, the registrar said if a physician has a restriction on their certificate of practise, it will appear publicly on the practitioner’s profile on the college’s website.
Bissonnette had practised medicine in Manitoba since 1990.
— with file from Nicole Buffie, Steinbach Carillon
Danielle Da Silva
Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.
Katie May is a general-assignment reporter for the Free Press.