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Edmonton man charged with sexual assault of homeless women | CBC News


Edmonton police say they believe a 60-year-old man charged with sexual assault was targeting women experiencing homelessness and there could be more victims.

Police say Donald Burnett, who has also been charged with forcible confinement, goes by the names Don or Donald Davidson.

According to police, Burnett is accused of befriending women at shelters and bringing them home, then confining and sexually assaulting them.

“He often tells the vulnerable females not to go to police, as they will not take their complaints seriously,” Staff Sergeant Harry Grewal told journalists Thursday.

‘We’re here today to put this message out there, that we want all the survivors to come forward and provide us the complaint and give us the details so that it will be investigated thoroughly.” 

Police launched their investigation in January and charged Burnett on May 10 with two counts each of sexual assault and forcible confinement.

Police say officers uncovered two incidents that allegedly took place in July 2015 and December 2022.

“That’s all kudos to our west division beat members who spoke to the vulnerable females out in the community, gained their trust and built a relationship for them to be able to feel comfortable and come forward and actually lodge the formal complaint,” Grewal said.

Burnett was released on July 19 with conditions that include a ban from Hope Mission, Bissell Centre and the Christian Care Centre. He is not allowed to have women in his residence or vehicle.

Man dressed in button down shirt and jacket stands near the Edmonton courthouse.
Mark Cherrington said police can strengthen relations with marginalized communities through meaningful support of the victims. (CBC)

Mark Cherrington, an advocate with the Coalition for Justice and Human Rights, said sexual assaults experienced by marginalized people often go unreported, and can be difficult to investigate and prosecute.

He says the reasons are many, and often include trauma, addiction, mental health and extreme poverty.  Fear of reprisals and a distrust of police are also major barriers. Cherrington said.

It’s also challenging for authorities to establish relationships with people who don’t have stable housing or a phone. 

“It’s a very tragic reality that we’re dealing with persons that have been victims of assaults, who think, ‘That was yesterday, but today I have to eat. I have to find somewhere to get shelter from the rain or from the cold. That’s my priority.'”

Cherrington said this latest case is “an amazing opportunity” for the officers “to really establish and entrench themselves within this community” by providing ongoing face-to-face support.

Burnett is scheduled to appear in court again in August.


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