THE CANADIAN PRESS
SHILO — A court martial for a Manitoba-based soldier on a sexual assault charge involving another soldier has heard about so-called tickle parties in the forces in which an unsuspecting member is held on the ground, tickled and slapped.
The trial, which began Thursday at Canadian Forces Base Shilo for Cpl. Robin Gobin, was told soldiers at the Manitoba base regularly engaged in such activity during an infantry training course in Wainwright, Alta.
Gobin — a member of 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry — is accused of assaulting a fellow battalion soldier in December 2014.
A defence witness, retired soldier Cody Huttinga, said a group of soldiers would tackle unsuspecting members and, in some instances, pull their pants down and rub a heating cream between their buttocks.
The complainant testified he did not recall such activities during his time in Alberta, but said he was forcefully penetrated while clothed on the last night of the 3 1/2-month exercise.
Gobin testified that he slapped his accuser on the backside numerous times as a harmless greeting, but rejected the allegation that it went further than that.
Huttinga, who was the defence’s first witness, said teasing during the training exercise happened “all the time,” name-calling “hourly almost,” homophobic slurs levelled by “just about everybody” and butt-slapping “wasn’t out of bounds.”
“Everybody seemed to take it quite well,” he said. “It was just the nature of the job.”
The complainant, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, testified that he experienced physical discomfort for a year after the alleged incident.
He said he did not report it immediately or seek medical treatment because he was embarrassed. He first reported the assault to a chaplain at CFB Shilo in the summer of 2016.
During cross-examination, Gobin’s lawyer, Lt.-Cmdr. Brent Walden, said the complainant had made up the allegation to get back at Gobin.
The court was told there were no witnesses.
Gobin told the hearing that the complainant struggled to fit in with the other soldiers and initially helped hold guys to the ground during “flash mobs.”
But after he was a victim of one attempt, “he got really hostile when somebody tried to tickle him.”
He said the complainant lashed out, dropped profanity and called his fellow soldiers homophobic slurs or responded with punches and kicks.
The slaps on the butt would continue, despite his objections.
“It was done in a light spirit,” said Gobin, adding that the physical touching was never done maliciously.
Gobin also testified that the physical contact between soldiers during the training exercise was “beyond a reasonable amount.”
Gobin has pleaded not guilty. His court martial continued Friday.