Editor's Note: This story excludes any details that might identify the victim or their location.
The mother of a young child whose abuser was released from jail and who now lives on the same block as his victim says she wants the man to leave the neighbourhood.
“It’s frustrating as a mother. You’re supposed to protect your kids but how can you protect them when nothing is getting done with him being here?" said Mary, whose name has been changed to protect the identity of the victim.
Mary joined dozens of protesters who gathered outside a St. Albert home this week to call for the removal of Donald George Dupuis.
Dupuis was released in April after serving a 12-month sentence for sexual interference of a child. RCMP issued a media release at the time warning residents Dupuis was a high-risk offender whose criminal record includes convictions for assault causing bodily harm, domestic violence, death threats and intimidation. The warning was intended to enable residents to take precautionary measures and not to pursue vigilante action, the RCMP added.
The protest began Monday afternoon as members of the community gathered with protesters from Edmonton to raise signs and shout at the occupants of Dupuis' home. More than 50 people came out for the protest, with some staying overnight and resuming the protest on Tuesday.
The protests were peaceful, but the day got heated several times when Cherish Kreibom, who lives with Dupuis, left the house to confront protesters, telling them to leave her and Dupuis alone. Protesters gathered on the sidewalk to shout back at her.
Mary told the Gazette she wants her family to be able to live happily and without fear. She said it was nice to see so much support for her and her family from the group.
The mom said she is constantly being vigilant and watching out for Dupuis to make sure he isn’t coming near her home.
Mary said Dupuis has walked by the family’s home several times since he was released into their neighbourhood on April 9 and her daughter always runs and hides when she sees him. Mary’s mailboxes are across the street from Dupuis’ residence, along with a park her children play at.
“Everybody is telling us that we should move away, but as a single mom I don’t have the money to move,” Mary said.
“I don’t think its fair that we should have to move because of him being here.”
Mary and her children have lived in the area for almost three years.
Mary said her child was a victim of a sexual crime by Dupuis in 2017 when Dupuis and his mother came over to visit Mary. Mary and Dupuis' mother were friends and would spend time together regularly. Dupuis, who is 39, would spend time with the children.
“I was the one who witnessed him touching my (child) in my own living room,” Mary said.
“I feel like I want to go punch him, but I can’t because of my kids.”
Mary had to go to court to testify about what happened, and Dupuis was sentenced to 12 months for the charge of sexual interference.
Lili Berthelot, a 16-year-old who lives in the neighbourhood, came out to call for the removal of Dupuis from the area.
Berthelot said having him back in the neighbourhood has been a major source of stress.
“I’m always checking our locks just in case. I am always looking after the children because I'm the oldest in (this area) so I sort of feel a responsibility to make sure that the younger ones are okay,” Berthelot said, noting there are around 20 children who lived in the area.
“I came out here today to finally voice how I had been feeling, how it's affecting our lives and how it's been tearing these children’s childhood away.”
While many protesters who attended Monday are residents in the area, others came in from Edmonton to join in the call to remove Dupuis from the neighbourhood. Those protesters had been spending the last 11 days outside Wade Stene’s house in Edmonton. Stene is accused of kidnapping and sexually assaulting a girl, but was released on bail back into the neighbourhood where the assault took place.
Zak Gladue, who had joined the protesters outside Stene's house, came to St. Albert to call for the removal of Dupuis.
Gladue, a parent of a young daughter, said he and the other protesters are concerned citizens in St. Albert and Edmonton who are tired of the justice system releasing perpetrators back into communities.
“We come to this park quite often, and to have somebody that's right here that is committed to this (crime) – it's not good. It's absurd, actually,” he said.
The Gazette could not independently confirm claims Dupuis was planning to move July 6. Attempts to contact Dupuis and Kreibom were unsuccessful.
Gladue said the protesters don't have formal plans but will likely split their time between Dupuis’ residence and Stene’s until Dupuis moves, and then they will decide if they will protest outside his new place.
Sarah, who told the Gazette she is the adoptive mother of three of Kreibom’s children, one whom is the child of Dupuis, also came out to show support for Mary and her family. Sarah said the couple has no contact with the children, and Sarah and her family do not live in the Edmonton region.
Sarah’s name has been changed to protect the identity of the children.
“I keep informed as to where they're at and I make it a point to go canvas areas wherever he is at because that’s the kind of mom I am,” Sarah said.
Brittany Pidgeon, who currently lives in Calgary but is from Edmonton, had been protesting at Stene’s house for the past 11 days but came out to St. Albert to show support for Mary's family.
Pidgeon said she was compelled to come protest because her six-month-old son, Phoenix Jones-Pidgeon, was murdered in July 2016. She came out to stand up for children who are victims.
“It's about the lives of children. It’s not right (abusers) can do this and get out and live (this close) to their victim,” Pidgeon said.
“I believe our justice system is failing us."
The mother said her son was murdered in 2016 and the man accused, Darren James Gagnon, still hasn’t gone to trial. Gagnon had been babysitting for Pidgeon. The mom said she still isn’t sure what happened to her son.
Pidgeon wants Dupuis' face to get out to the public, and said he should have spent more time in jail for the crime he committed.
Jennifer Henderson covers rural Alberta matters under the Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada.