Charges against St. Thomas music teacher a warning we need to protect children ‘without hesitation or reservation about others’ opinions’

city_scope_logo-cmykEugene Francois made a brief video court appearance yesterday (June 24) at the Elgin County Courthouse.
He is facing 16 charges in relation to 10 victims who attended his Talbot Street residence – which is also his music studio – where he filmed individuals without their knowledge or consent.
The new charges include voyeurism, making child pornography and possession of child pornography.
St. Thomas Police believe there are more victims and they are asking females who attended his residence between 2009 and May of last year to contact their Criminal Investigation Branch if they have not done so already.
These new charges are in addition to human trafficking, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, traffic in persons under the age of 18, benefitting from trafficking and possession of child pornography charges laid one year ago.
He was arrested by St. Thomas Police on May 27 of 2021 after a search warrant was issued for his apartment.

The human trafficking charge is a particular worry for Kelly Franklin. A female had contacted St. Thomas Police to report she was a trafficking victim for several months as a minor in 2013.
Franklin is representing that victim.
She is the executive director and founder of Courage for Freedom whose mandate is to educate, train and certify front-line and community service providers on proven strategies and prevention tactics that serve vulnerable victims of human trafficking and sexually exploited girls.


Eugene Francois/Facebook

Franklin has overcome abuse, trafficking, rape and prison to become one of the foremost speakers and leaders in helping girls overcome the trauma of sex trafficking.
We talked with her this week about the charges and she has a cautionary message worth reading all the way through.
In her Facebook post, she advises, “If you are a parent, sibling, aunt or uncle, teacher, coach or music teacher or band leader . . . anyone who knows someone who took music lessons, school of rock instructions, band lessons, or going backstage or hung out with the band with this person – pay attention.”
She continues, “Know that you or they may have been filmed without knowing it for voyeurism, child pornography, and possession of child pornography.
“Who knows what the evidence shows until it goes to trial.
Even if you don’t believe human trafficking happened to your loved one or friend as it is alleged and charged by the first brave victim to disclose to police.

“However, shame and embarrassment belong to those found guilty of crimes against humanity and not to those who are unknowingly complicit.”

Franklin goes on to explain voyeurism, “can be a hidden bathroom camera placed to capture innocent persons using the toilet, shower, or changing. It can also be filming up skirts, underneath shirts, and removal of clothing while someone is sleeping or unaware by angling camera.
“It can be as despicable as using mirrors on shoes, walls, corners, and more.
“The potential for it to have happened to your loved one, relative, friend, or student is absolute. Human nature is to deny and just keep quiet – that is precisely what shame and embarrassment do.
“Especially if you endorsed his services, referred kids, or hired him in your music business as a teacher.”
She stresses, “However, shame and embarrassment belong to those found guilty of crimes against humanity and not to those who are unknowingly complicit.
“Breaches of trust and responsibility to keep children and youth safe and protected are the responsibility of private citizens like Eugene entrusted with their time, but even a more significant civic burden of us all, who, if or when Eugene is found guilty, bear the blame of not vetting someone so quickly accessing our most considerable community asset (our kids and youth) and who celebrated the accused as a rock person making everyone happy and money, but also potentially making St. Thomas his private predatory territory.
“What happens in communities that fling their doors and dollars open wide to welcome a “music teacher” who has already been arrested?”

“His accusers remain in their own prison of trauma, fear and the unknown that they will have to brave. They will be doubted, scrutinized, and cross-examined.”

Kelly goes on to advise it is not the first time he has been charged with making and possessing child pornography. “In 2002, Toronto Police launched an investigation into “upskirt” videos of more than 200 unsuspecting Toronto women and girls – including some school-age children – that were sold by Canamvideo, a company Francois owned.
Francois, the former operator of a St. Thomas music studio, employed by other music services and hailed by our community in his studio and apartment, has been charged additionally with child pornography and sex-related offences, remaining in custody until his day in court.
“His accusers remain in their own prison of trauma, fear and the unknown that they will have to brave. They will be doubted, scrutinized, and cross-examined.
“Funny how we tell victims to disclose and then start to heal, all the while knowing that their voluntary participation to ensure justice for an entire community and their future may rest on their ability to corroborate their own lived experiences and statements.
“Move on, yet remember the past.
“The flaw in our justice system is that it does not treat victims with the dignity and respect they deserve by allowing remote participation or using video statements if their trauma and anxiety prevent their attendance.

“Tomorrow this will never happen again if we all understand our responsibility to vet adults, demand vulnerable sector screenings, and #protectchildren without hesitation or reservation about others’ opinions.”

“Yet, it is the best we have.
“I trust the Crown Attorney to protect the witnesses within our courts. Acknowledging is vital to ensure the accused rights are met, prevent appeals, and more.
“Time will tell at the end of the trial and the lasting effects on witnesses and their families.”
As an aside Frankin points out, “There are always more affected than just the singular victim – vicarious trauma is like that.
“Until then, we need to go and work with the dedicated St. Thomas Police Service Criminal Investigations Branch (CIB) to encourage one another and come forward to help in identifying those in the videos and materials that, for the last year, investigators who continued on with this investigation combed over copious amounts of data seized during a search warrant last year.”
Franklin offers personal thanks to Staff Sgt. Kyle Johnstone of the St. Thomas Police Service.
“My personal sentiments are on this page with love and belief in the survivor who was the first to bravely sacrifice their privacy, overcome fear, and trust experts in this type of investigative process with their disclosure.
“They stood in integrity and silenced their forever trauma long enough to publicly demand St. Thomas Police lay charges and wake us all up to the sound of a different tune.
“Tomorrow this will never happen again if we all understand our responsibility to vet adults, demand vulnerable sector screenings, and #protectchildren without hesitation or reservation about others’ opinions.
“To all those victims identified and in silence. Please forgive us. We failed to protect you and our community (should there be a guilty verdict).
“We will do better St Thomas.
“I, Kelly personally, will not be silent, so say you?”
Franklin closes out with don’t be lulled into thinking this cannot happen in your community.
“The predators of the future will be banking on it,” she warns.
Our hope in the next week is to speak with Chief Chris Herridge and Staff Sgt. Johnstone to document the time and resources needed to gather evidence in such a case.
And, the toll it must take on the officers involved, many of who, no doubt, have children of their own.
Francois’ next video court appearance is June 30.

Related posts:

National Human Trafficking Awareness Day in Canada is a ‘trigger day for me’ – Kelly Franklin

‘Boys and girls in Canada are not for sale. Either on screens or in person. They are not little commodities.’


There was no shortage of support in the council chamber last September for Earl Taylor’s call to make downtown courtesy crosswalks more pedestrian-friendly.
Taylor’s letter to members of council urging them to consider installing a signalled crosswalk at all current crosswalks had an impact.
earl-taylor-nomination-papers-june-7-22Perhaps just one of the factors in Taylor’s decision earlier this month to announce he will seek to become one of eight city councillors in the October municipal vote.
The downtown core has been his domain for years as chairman of the Downtown Development Board. But now, Taylor is looking to expand his horizon to the community as a whole.
“Yes, I definitely know what’s happening in our downtown, and I will have hands-on experience with that and be able to, hopefully, solve some of the problems there.
“But, I see the exponential growth that’s happening in our city, the potential for more jobs, the potential for more housing and, of course, along with that comes the need for infrastructure and services.”
Taylor has been a realtor since 1993 and has served on the city’s Municipal Heritage and Special Events committees.
He is a board member of the St. Thomas and District Chamber of Commerce and a member of the St. Thomas Optimist Club.
His aim, if elected this fall, is to be part of a council that moves the city forward.
“How do we make St. Thomas better? Keep our growth there, keep our infrastructure up to date and be a catalyst for people coming here.
“That’s what we need to do, make sure when people come, they’re happy.”
As past president of the London and St Thomas Association of Realtors, Taylor knows the business and the importance of a good housing supply to make the city a most attractive place to live.

“And, you know my views on the mental health situation. The province needs to step up and do a little bit more and we need to make sure they hear what is happening in St. Thomas.”

“We have the space and the land for that to happen. The same with the Amazon facility when it gets up and rolling. That’s going to bring a lot of jobs to our area as well.
“How many of those people will live here? The more we can attract here, the better for the city.
“That’s sort of my overall goal. I want to make sure that I keep an open mind to making the city the best city possible.”
To achieve that, Taylor stresses the need for the municipality to have a good working relationship with the provincial government.
“The province downloaded everything to the municipalities and are we trained and are we equipped to handle every social and economic and environmental issue?
“No. That’s where we need to get, now that we’ve got a new provincial government in place, that connection needs to be in place.
“And, you know my views on the mental health situation. The province needs to step up and do a little bit more and we need to make sure they hear what is happening in St. Thomas.”
On that latter point, in particular the impact of homelessness, mental health issues and the scourge of discarded sharps in the downtown core, the article below gives a true sense of Taylor’s passion for the need to have a healthy and vibrant downtown St. Thomas.

Related post:

‘The filth, the garbage, the clean-up, the needles’ . . . welcome to downtown St. Thomas


Still with the fall municipal vote, we’re starting to see a bump in the number of individuals declaring their candidacy.
Now the majority are members of the current city council seeking re-election, however, several additional individuals have entered the race.
For a couple, this is not their first campaign.
For the mayor’s seat, only incumbent Joe Preston has stepped forward and it is not likely he will face serious competition.
From the current slate of councillors, Lori Baldwin-Sands, Gary Clarke, Jim Herbert, Jeff Kohler and Steve Peters are all seeking another term.
Along with Taylor, Timothy Hedden and Petrusia Hontar have launched their second run at a seat in council chambers.
Campaigning in 2018, Hedden bemoaned cuts to arts and culture in the city and pushed for yearly stable funding for the St. Thomas Elgin Public Arts Centre and the Talbot Teen Centre, now the Ignite Youth Centre.
His other priorities included mental health and addiction issues plus the city’s transit system.
For Hontar, establishing a safe injection site in the site was a priority along with more affordable housing in conjunction with a housing strategy.
The only other name on the nomination list as of June 24 was that of Bill Hall, seeking to again represent Elgin county on the London District Catholic School Board.
Nomination papers must be filed by 2 p.m. Aug. 19.


A public meeting via Zoom was held Wednesday to deal with a proposal to add two more portable classrooms at St. Anne’s Catholic Elementary School.
The portables – to be located on the south side of the school property – are needed due to increased enrolment.
An addition to the school approved in November of last year will not be completed until the fall of 2024.
It will consist of eight new classrooms and a daycare facility on the west side of the existing school.
A concern of the site plan control committee is the available washroom space, which is considered adequate, according to the school board’s consultant.
The only hitch is it’s a bit of a walk to the main school building.
And a head’s up to parents of children enrolled at the school. A subsequent application is likely to be filed for even more portables in addition to the 14 now on site.
The matter will come before council at a future date.

Related post:

Invigorated by the accomplishments of this council, Jeff Kohler is pursuing another term at St. Thomas city hall

Questions and comments may be emailed to City Scope Visit us on Facebook And a reminder, I can be heard weekday afternoons as news anchor and reporter on 94.1 myFM in St. Thomas. As always, your comments and input are appreciated.


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