‘You shine a light’: Ottawa brothers, victims of incest, lift publication ban on their names

Warning: This story contains graphical details that some readers may find disturbing.

When Jonathan Lepage talks about his mother, he must say her full name: Julie Ménard.

On Friday morning, Lepage and his brother Shawn won their case to have a publication ban lifted, so their mother’s name is now publicly linked to her conviction for incest and sexual assault.

The lifting of a publication ban in an incest case is remarkably rare and can only occur if a victim initiates it. The Lepage brothers said they fought to make their case public because they didn’t want the trauma they suffered at the hands of their mother to remain in the dark.

Menard, a former school bus driver from Ottawa, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in late April.

Jonathan, who protected his brother from some of the same abuse he suffered as a child, had hoped for a 25-year life sentence.

He has now accepted his name, and that of his brother, will also be linked to the abuse they suffered.

“I don’t need protection,” the 35-year-old said of the ban being lifted on Thursday night.

“My brother Shawn doesn’t need protection. We discussed it until we were sick that all the publication ban does now is protect Julie. [It] protect our mother from being exposed.”

WATCH | Jonathan Lepage on lifting the publication ban:

Publication ban lifted in incest case as sons seek justice

Jonathan Lepage, 35, says his mother’s trial and subsequent lifting of the publication ban made him feel ‘heard’ after suffering years of sexual abuse at the hands of his mother when he was a child. 1:00

Legal issues of 2017

Court documents detail a series of horrific sexual abuses, which often involved Menard calling for “nap time”, and Jonathan knowing what was expected of him.

He said his mother told him that such sexual activity was normal between a mother and her son, but following sex with his mother when he was 15, he felt things were wrong.

“We went down to the living room, and it just hit me,” he recalled.

Menard’s actions might never have come to light had it not been for Jonathan’s run-ins with the law in 2017, when he was charged and imprisoned following the breakdown of his marriage.

While his own trial was underway, Jonathan told a probation officer about the abuse he had suffered, and courthouse staff offered to help him.

Other children could have been victims

Jonathan wants his mother’s name out to spread the truth widely and because she was a school bus driver for many years.

Julie Menard, a former school bus driver from Ottawa, was sentenced in April to 10 years in prison for incest and sexually assaulting her two sons. (Submitted by Jonathan Lepage)

“[She] had close relationships with many students whose names I don’t know,” Jonathan said. “And quite frankly, if something happened, no one would even be able to talk about it.

Ottawa police issued a press release Friday afternoon because investigators believe there may be other victims of Menard, who currently faces no additional charges.

In an Ottawa courtroom on Friday, Crown prosecutor Moiz Karimjee told the brothers there would be no turning back once the ban was lifted.

Ontario Superior Court Judge Kevin Phillips also made this point: “You can’t cancel the ringer.

Ménard opposed lifting the ban, which is usually put in place to protect victims rather than defendants.

A young brother hopes to help others by lifting the ban

Shawn Lepage, 34, also spoke out in court on Friday in favor of lifting the ban.

“Personally, I feel like these conversations may be necessary to help others through their situation,” he told the court.

According to court documents, Shawn did not suffer the same abuse as his brother, but he testified to numerous instances of physical abuse from the age of three, including severe bruising from his mother’s beating.

Jonathan remembers he was between seven and nine years old when he first stood up for his younger brother. He said his mother invited Shawn for sexual touching and Jonathan knew it was wrong.

“In the moment, there was just something about it,” Jonathan said. “Like, no, my brother can’t go through this too.”

Shawn told CBC he went through the process of reporting the abuse to the police and went to court to help his brother find a solution.

“I didn’t expect what we got, which was respect. We were listened to. And we were recognized and I think that hit me… [with] …much more emotion than I expected.”

The judge congratulates the brothers

Jonathan said that no matter how long his mother’s sentence was, those years served would never heal what was done to her.

“It wouldn’t take away the trauma, the pain, the experiences that I went through. It wouldn’t mend the relationships that were broken because of the trauma and the experiences that I went through.”

He also acknowledged that “reliving and rehashing” his experience won’t be easy, but he accepts that burden to hopefully inspire other potential victims.

“If it encourages them to move on, that’s phenomenal,” he said.

In court on Friday, Phillips also told the brothers that they had “been victimized in the most reprehensible way”, but were “driven by a desire to help others”.

“You shine a light on the kind of wrongdoing that happens in private so other people who are going through bad things don’t feel so alone and helpless,” he told the court.

“It is hoped that through the frank and open way you choose to navigate your unfortunate circumstances, you will be better able to come to terms with your experience.”

Jacob L. Thornton