Man charged with sexual assault at Montreal quarantine hotel; woman says she felt 'helpless'
MONTREAL -- A man has been charged with sexual assault after an incident last week at a Montreal COVID-19 quarantine hotel.
The woman alleging the assault told CTV News that the man came into her room, refused to leave, partially undressed and touched her against her will, only leaving when she threatened to scream.
She also said she felt “helpless” at the hotel, where she didn’t expect to end up, and where she was told she wasn’t allowed to disclose her location.
“They didn't tell you where they're taking you, which is unacceptable,” said the woman, who didn’t want her name published.
“They gave us a set of rules... can't post on social media, can't disclose location.”
Federal health officials told CTV they're aware of the incident and taking it extremely seriously.
The alleged assault happened on Feb. 17, before hotel quarantines became mandatory this week.
The woman, who lives in Laval, said she was staying with her boyfriend in the U.S. when she heard that mandatory hotel quarantines were on the way.
She took a COVID-19 test and flew home to Quebec on Feb. 16 with the negative test results. But when she arrived at the airport she was told she’d taken the wrong kind of test and needed to go to a government-run quarantine anyway.
She was put in a Sheraton, and a day later, she says, a fellow traveller knocked on her door and then came inside without her permission.
“He ran into my room, made himself at home, sat all the way in the back on my couch,” she told CTV.
“I said, ‘You need to get out of my room,’ and ‘I don't want to have anything to do with you,’ and he said, ‘Aw come on, I haven't had sexual intercourse in a really long time,’” she said.
Then, she alleges, he grabbed her by the waist. She recalls telling him it was his “last chance” and she was “going to scream for help,” then she turned around and saw he had partially undressed.
“He had his pants to his knees and he hand on his... genitals,” she said.
She said she told him again that she was going to scream, and that’s when he finally left the room.
The response of the hotel security when she reported the incident was underwhelming, she said.
“I called security, took them 15 to 20 minutes to get to my room, and when they did, they handed me a bottle of water I had asked for four hours ago and told me ‘Just wait here, lock your door, and we'll be back,’” she said.
Ultimately, police and an ambulance arrived and took her to the hospital to give a statement, she said, and she was allowed to go back home.
The Quebec Crown prosecutors’ office confirmed to CTV News that a man has been charged.
Robert Shakory faces one count of sexual assault, one count of breaking and entering, and one count of criminal harassment. His next court date is May 3. None of the allegations againt him has been tested in court.
The woman says that apart from the other repercussions, she also feels let down. She said she blames the government for not keeping her safe, especially when she says she was trying her best to follow the rules.
AUTHORITIES TAKE ALLEGATIONS 'EXTREMELY SERIOUSLY'
In a statement, the Public Health Agency of Canada said it's very concerned by the allegation and is working with the hotel and with law enforcement "to shed light on the situation."
The Sheraton facility is different from the ones set up to host travellers starting this week, said agency spokesman Andre Gagnon.
As of this week, people are required to reserve their stay in advance at a government-authorized private hotel while they await the results of their airport tests, he wrote in an email.
"These accommodations are different from designated quarantine facilities, which are managed by the Public Health Agency of Canada and generally used to accommodate symptomatic travellers or those unable to quarantine in accordance with the requirements," he explained.
The government-mandated quarantines are "necessary" to protect Canadians from COVID-19 and its variants, he said, but the government "takes the health, safety and security of travellers who are staying in Government-authorized accommodations or designated quarantine facilities very seriously."
Federal Public Health "is aware of the incident from February 17, 2021 at the Designated Quarantine Facility in Montreal," he said, and "takes these allegations extremely seriously."
As for existing safety measures, government employees as well as security staff "are stationed at designated quarantine facilities to help provide a safe and secure environment," he wrote.
Public Health officials are also "in daily contact with hotels to support their needs," he said.
"At this time, in order to protect the privacy of those involved, we will not comment further on this situation."
CONSERVATIVES CALL FOR SUSPENSION OF HOTEL QUARANTINES
The statement came the same day it came to light that a quarantine enforcement officer in the Toronto area had been charged with extorting and assaulting a woman at her home when he came to do a quarantine check.
The 27-year-old worked at a private security firm that government had contracted and provided with training to do quarantine enforcement.
That alleged attack also happened last week.
In light of the two incidents, the federal Conservative party called on Thursday evening for an immediate pause on the hotel quarantine system.
"We call for the Liberals to suspend the hotel quarantine requirement until they have put measures in place to ensure the safety of Canadians and institute a system for verifying at-home quarantine that doesn’t involve security agents who have not been properly vetted," wrote a group of Conservative politicians in a statement.
"During this necessary pause, the federal government should continue with on-arrival testing and the 14-day at-home quarantine for all international travelers to protect the public health of Canadians."
Watch the video above for Iman Kassam's television report.