Saskatchewan

'I feel like this has ruined my life': 2nd witness speaks at sexual assault trial for former Regina doctor

Court heard from a second witness, a 33-year-old mother of one from Balgonie, on Tuesday. The witness suffers from ulcerative colitis and had been seeing Sylvester Ukabam regularly. She says she was sexually assaulted by Ukabam on three separate occasions.

Sylvester Ukabam pleaded not guilty to all charges on first day of trial Monday

Sylvester Ukabam, right, is shown at Court of Queen's Bench in Regina on Monday, Jan.10, 2022. Ukabam, a 76-year-old former doctor, is accused of sexually assaulting patients during medical exams between 2010 and 2017. He has pleaded not guilty to all counts. (Mickey Djuric/The Canadian Press)

WARNING: This story contains details some readers may find disturbing

The trial for a former Regina doctor who has been charged with seven counts of sexual assault entered its second day on Tuesday.

The charges against Sylvestre Ukabam, 76, stem from offences that allegedly occurred between December 2010 and April 2017. A publication ban prohibits any of the complainants from being named.

Crown prosecutor Jackie Lane said Monday that the former doctor sexually assaulted five women during medical exams he did as a gastroenterologist — a doctor who deals with disorders of the stomach and intestines.

Ukabam pleaded not guilty to all charges on the first day of his trial Monday.

Court heard from a second witness — a 33-year-old mother of one from Balgonie — Tuesday at Queen's Bench in Regina. The witness suffers from ulcerative colitis and had been seeing Ukabam as a patient regularly. She said she was sexually assaulted by Ukabam on three separate occasions.

First alleged incident

The second complainant told court she was introduced to Ukabam at Regina General Hospital, likely in 2012. Following treatments and diagnosis for her condition, she began seeing Ukabam for physical examinations at his clinic in downtown Regina. 

During her first visit at Ukabam's clinic, the witness was being given a rectal exam by Ukabam when she felt pressure on her vagina. She testified that she was shocked and confused by what happened, but did not say anything to Ukabam. 

Prior to the examination, the complainant said she was not offered a chaperone or told she could have one. The witness told the Crown any need for examination of the vagina was not discussed with any doctor prior to the rectal exam.

Sylvester Ukabam reached an agreement with Saskatchewan's College of Physicians and Surgeons that saw him resign from his practice as of Dec. 9, 2018. (LinkedIn)

Second and third alleged incidents

The witness said the during both the second and third alleged incidents, Ukabam put his finger inside her vagina. The second incident allegedly occurred at Ukabam's clinic, and the third incident allegedly occurred at Regina General Hospital.

She said that during both incidents, she did not believe that the former doctor was wearing gloves. 

"He put his hand on me and I remember thinking it felt like his skin was touching me. And I remember thinking, I didn't think he was wearing gloves. It felt like skin-to-skin contact. I got super uncomfortable. And then he slid his hand again down my back. And then he went and put a finger in my vagina," said the witness. 

"It felt like forever, but it was very brief ... I flinched, and I remember him putting a hand on my side and telling me to relax and be still."

At this point in her testimony, the witness was crying. 

According to the witness, the third sexual assault incident began when she had an argument with a nurse while she was receiving treatment for another medical condition. Ukabam was not present.   

Later that day, the complainant said she received a call from the endoscopy unit at the Regina General Hospital. She was told that Ukabam wanted to see her. The witness said this was unusual. 

Once at the hospital, Ukabam asked the complainant about her altercation with the nurse. The witness said he had a "very unpleasant, unhappy look on his face." She said she was confused and uncomfortable with his demeanour. 

She said Ukabam then asked her how she was doing and said he wanted to examine her. She said no at first. 

"He didn't demand it, but was insistent that he look," she told the Crown. 

She decided to let Ukabam look, but told the Crown she should have left instead. The complainant said she was then told to go to the bed in the room.

"I remember hearing the door close. I was asked to pull my pants down and bend over."

The complainant said Ukabam put his hand on her backside, slid his hand down her buttocks, lingered, and then slid his hand down and put his finger in her vagina. Then he continued to do a rectal exam. 

The witness said Ukabam was silent during this period. She said she does not remember anything the former doctor said after the examination.

Day two of the sexual assault trial of former doctor Sylvester Ukabam kicked off on Jan. 11. (CBC)

'I'm angry'

During cross-examination, Ukabam's lawyer Aaron Fox questioned the complainant's recollection of the room in which the alleged assault occurred. Fox suggested she was in error in recalling what room she was in or what procedure she was undergoing at the time. 

The witness was unable to give dates for the three incidents. Fox suggested, due to medical records, that the alleged incidents likely occurred between 2012 and 2014.

The witness reported what happened to her after reading a news story about other allegations against Ukabam in 2018. 

During Fox's cross-examination, the witness admitted that the drugs she was often under the influence of due to medical reasons caused her to have difficulty recalling some details and memories. 

The witness also said she has trouble remembering dates because she was trying to forget what happened. She also said that there have been many health issues and appointments over the years. 

"For years I tried to just kind of forget and move on, to put it behind me. But I've done a pretty bad job. I definitely have trust issues. I'm pretty confident I have post-traumatic stress disorder."

The witness said the alleged assaults have negatively affected her marriage and her relationship with her daughter.

"I'm angry, I'm emotional. I've been a mess over the last few years. I've lost time at work due to depression."

The witness also said she didn't have medical care for some time because she didn't want to see doctors, following the incidents with Ukabam.

"Sometimes I feel like this has ruined my life," she said. 

In 2018, Ukabam stopped practising medicine after the Saskatchewan College of Physicians and Surgeons charged him with unprofessional conduct including allegations of sexual boundary breaches.

The trial will continue on Wednesday at 10 a.m. CST and the court will hear from a third complainant. The trial is before a judge, without a jury. 

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story stated in 2018, the Saskatchewan College of Physicians and Surgeons found Ukabam guilty of "unbecoming, improper, unprofessional, or discreditable conduct" in relation to one of the allegations. In fact, the Saskatchewan College of Physicians and Surgeons charged Ukabam but there was no hearing before the discipline committee to determine whether the allegations were proven. Instead, the matters were resolved when Ukabam agreed to relinquish his licence and never practise medicine again.
    Jan 12, 2022 9:58 AM CT

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Laura is a reporter for CBC Saskatchewan. She is also the community reporter for CBC's virtual road trip series Land of Living Stories. Laura previously worked for CBC Vancouver. Some of her former work has appeared in the Globe and Mail, NYLON Magazine, VICE Canada and The Tyee. She holds a master of journalism degree from the University of British Columbia. Follow Laura on Twitter: @MeLaura. Send her news tips at laura.sciarpelletti@cbc.ca

With files from The Canadian Press

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