An arson case has been thrown out, and the accused acquitted after a Quebec Superior Court judge found the police investigator created an atmosphere of oppression by, among other errors, using female pronouns and dead names throughout the interrogation of a trans man.

Justice Salvatore Mascia writes in his ruling that Dimitri Levesque's interrogation, which involved multiple instances of the investigator referring to him as female, "caused him great stress and anxiety" and included a "series of inappropriate questions" about his sexual morals and practices that were "deeply humiliating and degrading."


Levesque was charged with intentionally setting fire to his apartment in December 2018, with Crown prosecutors arguing that he left an empty pizza box on two cooking elements on his stove.

He then left the apartment "while the pizza box was smoking" and closed the door behind him, the court documents say.

The fire did little damage to the apartment and was put out by Montreal firefighters quickly.

Levesque was called into a police station, where he claimed innocence to lighting the fire throughout questioning despite various police interrogation tactics, as detailed in the document.

He said he didn't use the oven.


Levesque's lawyer, Aurore Brun, argued that the two-and-a-half hour police interrogation was not free-and-voluntary as Levesque's answers were given "in an atmosphere of oppression," where Levesque felt forced to respond.

"The accused -- a transgender man -- was voluntarily and knowingly shackled during the two and a half hours of questioning. Although the investigator conducting the interrogation (S.D. Viau) was informed that the accused was in transition (from female to male), she always addressed him using feminized titles, pronouns and adjectives," the court document reads.

"In his testimony, the accused stated that he had been deeply humiliated and stressed by the fact that he was constantly being bullied by the investigator. Feeling denigrated and demeaned, he felt powerless to assert his right to silence."

Brun added that comments made by the investigator about his sexual habits were "equally troubling" and "crossed the line of relevance and legitimacy."

A recording of the interview (transcribed in the court document) recounts the investigator asking Levesque about his sexual partners, whether he's attracted to men or women and at one time asking about his menstrual cycle.

Viau called Levesque "madam" seven times, used his dead name 16 times, used feminized adjectives (in French) seven times, and also used other feminine pronouns. In all, the interview included 50 feminine-gender references.

Viau also used the term "transformation" instead of "transition" throughout the interview.

"At no point does the interviewer bother to inquire of the accused how he prefers to be addressed," the court document reads.


Levesque testified that the police's behaviour "increased his stress and anxiety" and "they had the effect of making him feel despised or invalidated as a person."

"More than half of the questions are not at all relevant to the reason for the case," Levesque said at his trial. "I felt like I was being psychoanalyzed... three-quarters of the things that were said were irrelevant... It was more like profiling. I have rarely felt so dehumanized and then intimidated as I did at that time."

He said he had no issue answering questions about the fire, but he felt like he had no choice but to answer the invasive questions about his personal relationships and sexual orientation.

"I would have refrained from answering those questions if there wasn't an authority relationship weighing in the balance," he said. "I had to answer them all. In other words, it was all or nothing."

Viau said in court that she had no intention of insulting Levesque but that his identification at the time used a female name.

Mascia was clear in pointing to Viau's error in judgment in her line of questioning.

"A law enforcement professional should have been fully aware that her conduct was inappropriate," he writes. "There is certainly no shortage of documentation - including police bulletins or memos - on how to deal with or interact with transgender people."

He adds that the police's behaviour would "shock the community."


In addition, the documents and testimony show that it was unclear to Levesque whether he was being arrested or questioned when he was called into the police station, and that the brief call he was allowed to make to a lawyer was unhelpful as the connection was poor.

Mascia also writes that the lawyer did not properly inform Levesque of his right to leave the station or not answer questions.

Mascia explains that an atmosphere of oppression is grounds for "doubting the free and voluntary nature of a statement" and that "questioning the suspect in an excessively aggressive manner for an extended period of time" creates this atmosphere.

"The investigator's humiliating and inappropriate questioning contributed to an atmosphere of oppression," Mascia wrote. "Humiliation and denigration can be just as hurtful as physical pain and just as stressful and oppressive as a prolonged, insistent and accusatory interrogation by a determined police officer."

The interrogation brought back memories for Levesque of being bullied throughout his life.

"For two hours, I was asked intrusive questions," said Levesque. "No respect for my identity. All they wanted was a confession whether it was true or not."