Author says acquittal on child pornography charges allows him to ‘breathe again’

‘It’s completely abhorrent to be accused without proof’

A Quebec author acquitted last week of child pornography charges in connection with passages in a horror novel says he — and fiction writers across the country — can “breathe again.”

Yvan Godbout was charged last year with producing child pornography over sections of his 2017 book, “Hansel et Gretel,” which include scenes of sexual abuse of the brother and sister as children.

On Thursday, Quebec Superior Court Justice Marc-Andre Blanchard ruled that certain articles of Canada’s child pornography laws cast too wide a net, targeting works of literature that don’t endorse or promote pedophilia.

“Authors and creators will be able to breathe a little more and not feel like they have the sword of Damocles hanging over them,” Godbout said in a phone interview.

“It’s as if a huge weight has just come off my shoulders… I felt emotions that I hadn’t felt for a long time.”

Despite the relief, he said the anxiety of the past year-and-a-half still clings to him and his family, along with the attendant social stigma and financial toll.

“I have lost contacts… friends,” said Godbout, in his early 50s.

He recalled the day of his 6 a.m. arrest in his bedroom in Quebec City in March 2019 as a “total shock” to him and his partner.

“I was completely naked. I had to go to the washroom, still nude, and the police stayed in the bathroom with me. It was a kind of nightmare.”

Godbout opted to sleep in the basement for two to three months afterward, unable to relive the trauma that played itself over in his head when he entered the bedroom.

His editor Francois Doucet, who was acquitted of charges of distributing child pornography, said the court victory was bittersweet.

“It’s completely abhorrent to be accused without proof,” he said.

He has received death threats by email and social media. Initially one of his sons was mistaken for Doucet and arrested and handcuffed when his father was out of the country, Doucet said.

“I have another of my sons who tried to kill himself.”

The publishing house Doucet founded in 1992, Editions AdA, has collapsed, causing “enormous financial difficulties.”

“Supermarkets took out my books. We produced 350 books a year… but we had to sell our land, our buildings,” he said.

More than 40 employees lost their jobs.

“I wonder how much the federal and provincial prosecutors have read the Marquis de Sade,” Doucet added.

Editions AdA published Godbout’s novel as part of its series “Contes interdits” — Forbidden Tales — which recasts classic fairy tales as horror stories.

Godbout had argued that the author of a fictional horror novel that neither advocates nor counsels pedophilia should not see his freedom of expression restricted through criminal charges that carry a devastating social stigma.

He also argued that there is no evidence to show that such written works of fiction cause any harm to children.

At trial, Quebec’s attorney general acknowledged a violation of Godbout’s freedom of expression but argued it was justified in order to protect society’s youngest and most vulnerable. All material depicting sexual acts with children is harmful, it was argued.

In a 55-page decision, Blanchard largely sided with Godbout.

While sexual material involving minors is clearly harmful, “the court believes we must distinguish between material that exposes a tangible reality, videos or photos or even drawings, from literary fiction,” he wrote.

Blanchard noted the law was broadened in 2005 to include not just material that advocates for or encourages pedophilia, but any description of sexual acts with children, as long as the description is a dominant characteristic of the work of fiction and is done with a sexual purpose.

By that definition, the judge noted, some victims of sexual assault could not legally speak out about their experiences.

Blanchard said the expanded law effectively rendered illegal an overly wide swath of literature, unduly limiting freedom of expression.

The province has 30 days to appeal the decision.

Godbout said he plans to start repairing his life before thinking about exercising his artistic freedom or seeking damages.

“For the moment, I’m going to focus on my family and me,” he said.

“I was injured, but there is incredible and almost irreparable damage to my loved ones.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Hub on Ross has announced it has permanently closed. (Photo courtesy The Hub on Ross Facebook page)
The Hub on Ross in Red Deer to permanently close

The Hub on Ross in Red Deer permanently closed on Wednesday. “The… Continue reading

There were 410 COVID-19 cases recorded in Alberta Wednesday. (File photo)
Alberta records 410 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday

Central zone dropped to 160 active cases

Shaun Isaac, owner of Woodchucker Firewood in Trochu, is awaiting a new shipment during a firewood shortage in the province. All of the wood he has left is being saved for long-time customers who need it to heat their homes. (Contributed photo).
Firewood shortage in central Alberta caused by rising demand, gaps in supply

‘I’ve said “No” to more people than ever’: firewood seller

The Red Deer Senior Citizens Downtown House reopened earlier this month, after closing in March due to the pandemic. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
Red Deer Senior Citizens Downtown House reopens

The Red Deer Senior Citizens Downtown House was closed for months due… Continue reading

Guy Pelletier, vice-president of the Red Deer region for Melcor Developments. (Contributed photo).
Melcor has to redesign new neighbourhood after Molly Banister decision

City council disagreed with administration’s recommendation to scrap road plans

Alice Kolisnyk, deputy director of the Red Deer Food Bank, says the agency expects an increase in demand as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Every new subscription to the Red Deer Advocate includes a $50 donation to the food bank. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Support the food bank with a subscription to the Red Deer Advocate

The community’s most vulnerable members are always in need of a hand,… Continue reading

Sergio Santos, right, of the Philadelphia Union, loses the race to the ball against goalie Quentin Westberg of Toronto FC during the first half of an MLS match Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in Chester, Pa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Charles Fox/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP
Frustrated coach Greg Vanney defends banged-up Toronto FC after second straight loss

Frustrated coach Greg Vanney defends banged-up Toronto FC after second straight loss

Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Robert and third baseman Justin Turner pose for a group picture after defeating the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 to win the baseball World Series in Game 6 Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. Sporting venues and games certainly have super-spreader potential but that risk can be minimized with buy-in from all involved, experts said Wednesday. The subject moved into the spotlight Wednesday after L.A. Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner tested positive for COVID-19 at the World Series. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Eric Gay
Sports’ buy-in needed to prevent super-spreader potential: experts

Sports’ buy-in needed to prevent super-spreader potential: experts

In this image released by Fox, from left, Doug E. Doug, Malik Yoba, Rawle D. Lewis, John Candy and Leon are shown in a scene from the film "Cool Runnings." THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-HO, Fox
Not cool: Jamaican bobsledder wants thief to return stolen shell to Calgary bar

An original member of the Jamaican bobsled team featured in the 1993… Continue reading

Speedskater Ivanie Blondin trains at the Olympic Oval in Calgary on October 17, 2016. Canada's long-track speedskating team is chasing ice to Fort St. John, B.C. The country's top speedskaters have been without ice in Calgary's Olympic Oval since early September because of a mechanical failure there. World champions Ivanie Blondin, Graeme Fish and Ted-Jan Bloemen are among 50 people including coaches and support staff travelling to northern B.C. for a 15-day training camp starting Nov. 1. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Canadian long-track speedskating team finds temporary home in B.C.

Canadian long-track speedskating team finds temporary home in B.C.

The "Great One," Wayne Gretzky, left, holds up a banner bearing his number with some help from his friend Joey Moss during a jersey retirement ceremony at Skyreach Centre in Edmonton on Firday, October 1, 1999. Former Oilers captain Kelly Buchberger remembers how a familiar friend would come "barrelling" into the visitors' dressing room when he returned to Edmonton. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Wayne Gretzky reflects on the life, legacy of Joey Moss: ‘He gave parents hope’

Wayne Gretzky reflects on the life, legacy of Joey Moss: ‘He gave parents hope’

Players' sticks are shown during a World Championships Group A hockey game between Russia and Denmark, in Moscow, Russia, on Thursday, May 12, 2016. A $30-million settlement of three class actions over the failure to pay junior hockey players the minimum wage has been thrown into jeopardy after three judges refused to sign off on the agreement. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Ivan Sekretarev
Junior hockey employment lawsuit on thin ice; judges refuse to OK $30-million deal

Junior hockey employment lawsuit on thin ice; judges refuse to OK $30-million deal

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney answers questions at a news conference in Calgary on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. Labour union leaders are urging Albertans to sign up to protest Premier Jason Kenney’s government through rallies and demonstrations and, if necessary, provincewide general strikes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Alberta union leaders launch protest website against Kenney government

Alberta union leaders launch protest website against Kenney government

Most Read