Foster mother guilty of sexually exploiting girl
By Robert Koopmans Kamloops Daily News From National Post
15 March 2000
KAMLOOPS - A kiss between a woman and her foster daughter was sexual in
nature, done for "the giving and receiving of pleasure," a judge ruled
As a result, Valerie Hetu, 32, is guilty of sexually exploiting the
16-year-old girl the British Columbia Ministry of Children and Families had
placed in her care.
Hetu was charged after government officials received a tip last summer
about the woman's alleged relationship with the girl. Her trial was held in
Kamloops last month.
Judge William Sundhu said the only evidence of a sexual or romantic
involvement between the two was one incident of kissing witnessed by Hetu's
husband, Doug Hetu.
While the circumstances suggest the two were likely involved in a
relationship for a longer period of time, there was no evidence of other
sexual acts or displays of affection, Judge Sundhu noted.
During the trial, Mr. Hetu told the court his relationship with his wife
seemed to deteriorate once the girl came to stay. His wife and the girl
first met at church in the fall of 1998. Hetu then approached the ministry
and sought permission to become the girl's foster parent.
Pasquali Fontana, a social worker, testified the teenager had been in
government care since June, 1997. She was considered a high-risk youth and
was on probation for a car theft. There were also concerns that the girl
was using drugs and alcohol.
Mr. Hetu said his wife changed after the girl arrived, staying up late and
refusing to come to bed. One night in particular "sent his whole world
crashing down," he had testified.
"I was thirsty so I got up. When I got to the kitchen, I looked out and saw
Val and [the girl] out on the chesterfield kissing. I freaked out, I
started hollering," he told the judge.
"I tried to explain to Valerie that this was a problem. If [the girl]
doesn't leave, it's going to destroy our marriage," he added.
He made her choose between him and the girl and Hetu chose the girl. The
couple separated in January, 1999.
Judge Sundhu said Mr. Hetu's recall of the kissing incident was believable,
as he was remembering what was obviously a significant event in his life.
Judge Sundhu said this case is about "trust and authority," adding foster
parents have a tremendous responsibility to care for children placed in
their care. Whether the girl consented to the relationship was not
relevant, he said.
Hetu will be sentenced in Kamloops on April 3.
They are a couple and proud of it Marriage broke up
By Ian Bailey National Post
26 April 2000
[Picture - FROM FOSTER MOTHER TO LESBIAN LOVER: Candice Prince, left, walks
alongside Valerie Hetu as the two leave the Kamloops Law Courts yesterday.
Hetu is awaiting sentencing after being convicted of sexual exploitation.
She and Prince began a relationship while Prince was living in her home as
a 16-year-old foster child.]
KAMLOOPS, B.C. - Valerie Hetu did not realize she was a lesbian until a
16-year-old girl came to live in her home as a foster child. A relationship
with the teenager led to the breakup of her marriage, a conviction for
sexual exploitation and a new life with her former foster daughter.
"They are a couple and proud of it," said Alexander Watt, lawyer for Ms.
Hetu, who is raising an eight-year-old child, the son of her former
husband, with her new partner.
The judge, who heard sentencing arguments in the case yesterday, said he
needs more time to decide what punishment the 32-year-old mother should
receive for falling in love with the younger woman -- now 18 -- and put the
case over until May 3.
Ms. Hetu was convicted largely on the strength of one kiss from her foster
daughter, which was witnessed one night around Christmas, 1998, by her
Doug Hetu, a logging truck driver, told his wife's one-day trial last month
that he "freaked out" at the sight of the pair kissing on the couch of
their home in this community about 400 kilometres east of Vancouver in
B.C.'s rugged interior.
Doug Hetu said he gave his wife a choice: him or the girl.
Yesterday, Ms. Hetu left the court holding hands with Candice Prince, her
former foster daughter, both dressed in similar black jackets and slacks.
They smiled for photographers tracking their moves around the downtown
"They have decided they can have a caring, loving relationship with each
other -- raise Ms. Hetu's child," Mr. Watt told Judge William Sundhu.
"They're tired of hiding, and they refuse to hide any further."
To Judge Sundhu, the 1998 kiss -- key evidence in the case -- was for "the
giving and receiving of pleasure." The Crown's case was also helped by
testimony from a friend of Ms. Hetu, who said the woman told her she was
committed to the relationship.
As Mr. Watt explained, the kiss was the start of a new life for Ms. Hetu.
"When the kiss took place, [it] became absolutely clear to Ms. Hetu that
her feelings of sexuality were coming to the forefront and she wanted a
relationship with [the foster daughter], and she wanted a relationship with
her," said Mr. Watt.
He said Ms. Prince knew she was a lesbian, but Ms. Hetu did not.
Mr. Watt urged Judge Sundhu to grant his client an absolute discharge,
noting that no one complained about the pair's conduct and that they
refrained from entering into a full-fledged romantic relationship until the
young woman was no longer under Ms. Hetu's care.
Ms. Prince left the foster home by April, 1999.
Jonathan Oliphant, the Crown prosecutor in the Hetu case, said it is wrong
for teachers, foster parents or others with authority to enter into sexual
relationships with youth in their care.
"This case is not about lesbian relationships or anything of that sort,"
Mr. Oliphant told Judge Sundhu. "It is purely about the abuse of a position
Mr. Oliphant has also ruled out jail time for Ms. Hetu, proposing a
suspended sentence, probation and between 100 and 200 hours of community
In submissions to Judge Sundhu yesterday, he noted that Ms. Hetu does not
have a criminal record and cannot afford to pay a fine.
Ms. Hetu declined to comment yesterday, but allowed her lawyer to explain
that she lives on a pension and does not work.
Ms. Hetu and Ms. Prince first met at church in the fall of 1998. Ms. Hetu
approached the Ministry of Children and Family Services seeking permission
to become a foster parent to the girl, who had been in government care for
more than a year. The ministry considered her a high-risk youth. She was on
probation for car theft and officials feared she was using drugs and alcohol.
She moved into the Hetu household in November, 1998, and their relationship
developed until they kissed at Christmas.
Judge Sundhu said the kiss was the only evidence of sexual involvement
between the two, but added that circumstances described in court suggest
they were in a relationship for a longer period of time.
Mr. Oliphant conceded that the teenager's behaviour improved while in Ms.
Hetu's care. But while Mr. Oliphant acknowledged that the girl is now in a
better situation, a crime had still been committed.
"Ms. Hetu's role was to provide guidance, not sexual gratification."
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