Canadian soldier facing formal sex charge following private prosecution hearing brought by another soldier
WARNING: This article contains graphic content and may apply to those who have experienced or know someone who has been affected by sexual violence.
A Canadian Armed Forces soldier is charged with aggravated sexual assault and coercive detention after a private lawsuit hearing held in an Ontario court on Friday, according to a lawyer involved in the case.
A Justice of the Peace issued an arrest warrant for Cpl. Oleksii Silin is charged with allegedly sexually assaulting another soldier at CFB Borden, a military base about 100 kilometers north of Toronto, in May 2018. Silin currently works at CFB Gagetown in Oromocto, NB
Bruce Boyden, the Toronto attorney bringing the private prosecution on behalf of Cpl. Elle Jaszberenyi, the alleged victim, said he applied for the warrant because Silin poses a possible escape risk.
Cpl. Oleksii Silin spoke to investigators from the Canadian Forces National Investigative Service in 2018 while he was being investigated on allegations of sexual assault. After a private prosecution hearing in an Ontario court on Friday, he now faces charges of aggravated sexual assault and forced detention. (CFNIS/Federal Court) Lawyer feared Silin was at risk of absconding
“It was important to hold him down because we fear he may be fleeing jurisdiction,” Boyden said. “They have issued an arrest warrant to ensure he responds to the court without delay.”
Boyden said he believes Silin, who is originally from Ukraine, has a Ukrainian passport.
The private prosecutor’s hearing — known as the pre-enquiry hearing — was held virtually and behind closed doors. Boyden provided CBC News with the findings of the hearing.
Boyden said Crown prosecutor Rebecca Watson told Justice of the Peace Douglas Peter Conley in Barrie, Ontario that her office would take over the case. Conley then formalized the charges against Silin, he said.
Jaszberenyi said she filed a private lawsuit in the Ontario Court of Justice in October 2022 to seek justice after the military refused to pursue her sexual assault charges following a 2018 investigation.
Cpl. Elle Jaszberenyi, employed by the military intelligence agency, filed for a private prosecution after exhausting all avenues to reopen her sexual assault case, which was dropped by a military prosecutor in 2018. (Sylvain Lepage/CBC News)
Their attempts to reopen the case through the Military Police Complaints Commission (MPCC), a quasi-judicial civilian regulatory agency, and federal court failed.
“I’ve finally made it this far, hopefully I can breathe better and start to get my life back a little bit. It took a lot out of me,” Jaszberenyi said shortly after hearing it in an interview with CBC News on Friday.
A private prosecutor’s office provides a way for the public, if they believe a crime has been committed, to attempt to bring charges against an individual without a police investigation.
Boyden said he believes this is the first time a military sexual assault case has been reinstated by a private prosecution in Canada.
CLOCK | The case offers a rare glimpse into Canada’s military justice system: Rare look at how the Canadian Armed Forces investigate allegations of sexual assault. Documents obtained by CBC News reveal details of military investigations into two separate, alleged incidents of sexual misconduct, providing a rare glimpse into Canada’s military justice system and how the system might fall victim to sexual assault. “There are so many victims who suffer in silence.”
Jaszberenyi told CBC News her story last December, but she only asked to be identified as “Jane.” She told CBC News on Friday that she is now ready to go public with her identity.
Boyden said he asked the justice of the peace not to place Jaszberenyi’s name under a publication ban, and he agreed.
“I hope to give a little more hope to other victims, for those who can never come forward, who are only hurt inside,” Jaszberenyi said.
“There are so many victims who suffer in silence. It’s the process they put us through that makes it very difficult.”
Bruce Boyden says he believes SIlin, who is from Ukraine and holds a Ukrainian passport, could pose a flight risk. (Albert Leung/CBC)
CBC News contacted Silin Friday afternoon, but he declined to comment on the allegations.
“Everything that’s going to happen goes through the chain of command, my chain of command,” Silin said in a phone conversation. “That’s it.”
Silin had previously described Jaszberenyi’s allegations as “all lies”.
Military prosecutor dismissed charges
The Canadian Armed Forces are in the midst of transferring sexual assault cases to the civilian system in 2021, on the recommendation of Louise Arbour, a former Supreme Court Justice.
However, the case of Jaszberenyi predated these changes. She felt she had no choice but to file a private suit.
In an interview with military police investigators, Jaszberenyi claimed that she was sexually assaulted in May 2018 in a broom closet of a barracks at CFB Borden.
At the time, Canadian Forces National Investigations Service (CFNIS) investigators believed they had a solid case against Silin based on some testimonies he made during an interrogation.
However, a military prosecutor dismissed the charges after concluding that Jaszberenyi had “subjectively consented” during the incident.
The prosecutor based the investigation on statements made by Jaszberenyi to military police investigators. The prosecutor’s legal reasoning remains hidden from public scrutiny.
Investigators shocked by prosecutor’s decision
Sergeant Michael Bekkers, the lead investigator on the case, later told the MPCC that he found the prosecution’s decision “a bit shocking”. He told the MPCC he believed Silin would have been charged in the civilian system.
“We felt like this guy was like a predator,” he said, according to a recording of an interview with the MPCC.
The MPCC said it could not review the prosecutor’s decision because it was covered by attorney-client privilege.
A June 2020 investigative review by the MPCC said CFNIS investigators should have informed the prosecutor that a separate sexual assault investigation was being conducted against Silin at the time.
The assessment also found flaws in the way CFNIS handled Jaszberenyi’s case, citing flaws in the interviews with Jaszberenyi and Silin and a failure to trace potential witnesses.
“The investigation into sexual assault … was inadequate,” the assessment said.
There is support for anyone who has been sexually abused. You can access hotlines and local support services through this Government of Canada website or the Ending Violence Association of Canada database. If you are in imminent danger or fear for your safety or that of others around you, please call 911.