A former military medical technician pleaded not guilty to an array of sexual assault and breach of trust charges on the first day of his court martial.

James Wilks, 53, a petty officer second class who is now retired, was originally charged with 11 counts of sexual assault and 18 counts of breach of trust under the National Defence Act.

HMCS Griffon naval reserve in Thunder Bay

James Wilks performed physical exams on recruits at HMCS Griffon naval reserve in Thunder Bay. (museevirtuel-virtualmuseum.ca)

Three of the charges were withdrawn as the court martial got underway on Wednesday in Gatineau, Quebec; Wilks now faces 26 charges involving 16 women over a six-year span. The charges allege inappropriate medical exams at Ontario military recruitment sites in Thunder Bay and London from 2003 to 2009. None of the allegations have been proven in court.

Also faces civil lawsuits

Wilks said nothing as he walked into the courtroom wearing a dark suit, red tie and sunglasses.

He stood and repeated "Not guilty, your honour" every time military judge Lt.-Col. Louis-Vincent d'Auteuil asked how he pleaded to each of the charges.

The court martial has so far been tied up in procedural matters.

D'Auteuil granted prosecutor Maj. Dylan Kerr's request for a publication ban on any information that might identify some of the women making the allegations.

Wilks also faces separate civil lawsuits that claim the military didn't act on reports about his alleged conduct. Three women filed statements of claim with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice alleging that Wilks sexually assaulted them during physical exams for recruits at various National Defence installations in Ontario.

A fourth woman last year filed a similar civil claim against Wilks. It alleges he touched her breasts and pressed his groin
against her during a recruitment medical exam.

Two years ago, Wilks was sentenced to nine months in custody after a court martial found him guilty on five similar charges.

All the charges fall under the National Defence Act, as well as the Criminal Code of Canada.