HEARST — A Hearst priest charged in a historic sexual assault investigation has been removed from ministry, according to the Hearst-Moosonee Diocese.
Fernand Villeneuve, 80, is facing nine charges from alleged incidents James Bay OPP Const. Stéphanie Bélec said happened from 1985 to the early '90s.
The charges are: sexual assault, gross indecency, sexual interference, two counts of sexual exploitation (by sexual touching), invitation to sexual touching under 16 years of age, sexual exploitation (by invitation to sexual touching), indecent exposure to a person under 16 years of age, and sexual assault on a person under 16 years of age.
Bishop Robert Bourgon confirmed Villeneuve is a parish priest at Notre Dame de l'Assomption Cathedral in Hearst.
He said Villeneuve has been with the diocese for more than 50 years. Bourgon said Villeneuve was removed from Ministry yesterday (Feb. 25).
“Until we know more our procedure is to keep Father out of ministry and let the courts, let the process follow what it needs to follow,” said Bourgon.
The charges come more than a year after police started looking into the allegations.
OPP say the investigation started Feb. 7, 2019.
Villeneuve is scheduled to appear in court in Hearst March 18, 2020.