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

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

When Jonathan Lepage talks about his mother, he has to say her full name: Julie Menard.

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

Removal of a posting ban in an incest case is very rare and can only happen if the victim initiates it. The Lepage brothers said they fought to make their case public because they did not 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, was facing a 25-year life sentence.

Now he has accepted that his name, and that of his brother, will also be linked to the abuse of which they were victims.

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

“My brother Shawn doesn’t need protection. We’ve argued ad nauseam that all the posting ban does now is protect Julie. [It] It protects our mother from being exposed.”

CLOCK | Jonathan Lepage on the lifting of the publication ban:

Publication ban lifted in incest case as sons push for 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 from his mother as a child. 1:00

2017 legal problems

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

He said that his mother told him that these sexual activities were normal between a mother and her son, but that after a sexual relationship with his mother when he was 15 years old, he felt that things were not right.

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

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

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

Other children could have been victims

Jonathan wants his mother’s name published so that the truth is widely spread and because she was a school bus driver for many years.

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

“[She] I had close relationships with a lot of students whose names I don’t know,” Jonathan said. “And frankly, if something happened, no one would even know how to mention it.”

Menard is not currently facing any additional charges.

In an Ottawa court on Friday, Crown counsel Moiz Karimjee told the brothers there will be no going back once the ban is lifted.

Ontario Superior Court Judge Kevin Phillips also underscored that point: “You can’t remove the doorbell.”

Menard opposed lifting the ban, which is generally put in place to protect victims and not defendants.

The younger brother hopes to help others by lifting the ban

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

“I personally feel that these conversations may be necessary to help others overcome their situations,” he told the court.

Shawn was not subjected to the same abuse as his brother, according to court documents, but he testified about numerous cases of physical abuse beginning when he was three years old, including severe bruising from being beaten by his mother.

Jonathan remembers being between seven and nine years old when he first stood up for his younger brother. He said that his mother invited Shawn to touch him sexually and that Jonathan knew he was not okay.

“At the time, there was something about it,” Jonathan said. “Like, no, my brother can’t go through this either.”

Judge congratulates brothers

Jonathan said “reliving and repeating” his experience won’t be easy, but he accepts that burden to inspire other potential victims.

“If it encourages them to step up, great,” he said.

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

“You shine a light on the kind of evil that happens in private so that others who are enduring bad things don’t feel so alone and powerless,” he said in court.

“One hopes that through the frank and open way she is choosing to navigate her unfortunate circumstances, she will be better able to get through her experience.”

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