William Presnail, the former Anglican reverend of Waswanipi, was arrested in Chapais April 28 on a charge of sexually assaulting a minor.

A 16-year-old Chapais boy filed a sexual-assault complaint against Presnail on April 27 with the Sûreté du Québec. The alleged incident took place March 6.

Presnail, 45, was taken to Roberval, where he was freed the next day on condition he makes a June 10 preliminary hearing in Chi-bougamau. He pled not guilty to the charge.

He was Waswanipi’s Anglican minister for under a year. Last year, he was removed from his job by his church superiors following complaints about his personality and style by community members. Presnail moved to Chapais after the band council evicted him from Waswanipi in the winter.

Waswanipi residents accused Presnail of being arrogant, abrasive and not listening to their concerns. Presnail defended himself by saying he cared deeply for the community and, especially, its kids. He was passionate about his involvement in a local kids’ hockey team, the Hawks.

Kids were often seen at his house in Waswanipi, where Presnail could always be relied on to serve them a meal. But some parents were concerned he was also giving or selling kids cigarettes.

On a visit to Presnail’s Waswanipi home one evening last fall, two kids dropped by and asked an adult standing outside if Presnail was around to sell a cigarette for a loonie.
Presnail, when asked whether he sold cigarettes to kids, at first denied it. He later admitted doing so. He blamed the children’s parents for showing a bad example by smoking themselves.

There may be other sexual-assault complainants, according to Pierre Gagnon, Presnail’s Chicoutimi-based lawyer. “A prosecutor informed me there were other people to meet who could be other victims,” Gagnon acknowledged. “Obviously, he (Presnail) denies the accusations.”

Gagnon also criticized a recent report in Chibougamau’s Le Sentinelle weekly, which included the name and number of the investigating SQ officer for other potential victims to call. “It’s the first time I’ve seen something like that. It opens the door to give ideas to false victims to appear and claim compensation,” he said.

Presnail is also fighting another earlier charge of allegedly threatening to break a local resident’s windows. He promised a court not to communicate with the resident, but later “he broke his promise,” said SQ spokeswoman Hélène Napton.
He was to appear Sept. 1 on this charge, but Napton said the two cases will probably be rolled into one, to be heard June 10.
Presnail was freed on the sexual-assault charge on a few conditions: he can’t consume alcohol, be alone with a minor or visit places where kids are, contact the victim or go to Waswanipi and Ouje-Bougoumou.

Info: SQ agent Gaétan Lessard, 418-748-7652 (Chibougamau).