National Post

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Thursday, May 04, 2000

Judge rebukes foster mother over relationship
Ian Bailey
National Post

Murray Mitchell, National Post
Valerie Hetu, right, yesterday received a stiffer sentence than the prosecution sought for sexual exploitation of her former foster child, now her lover, Candice Prince, left. After the sentencing, they said their relationship will continue.

KAMLOOPS - Valerie Hetu will carry on her romance with her former foster daughter despite a conditional six-month sentence imposed yesterday for sexually exploiting the teenager.

After a scolding from Provincial Court Judge William Sundhu, Ms. Hetu and her 18-year-old partner, Candice Prince, told reporters they will go on with their lives together although the origins of the relationship will mean a criminal record for Ms. Hetu, 31.

"I have no regrets," said Ms. Hetu, standing outside the downtown courthouse in this city about 400 kilometres east of Vancouver.

"It's been a long, hard haul and everything, but our hope is that one day we can be free and live the life we wanted from the very beginning," Ms. Hetu said.

That life will include the couple raising Ms. Hetu's nine-year-old son by her former husband.

"I love her very much," Ms. Prince said of Ms. Hetu.

In court, Judge Sundhu essentially said love -- and Ms. Hetu's sexual orientation -- were side issues to the fact that Ms. Hetu violated the trust of caring for a foster child.

"The principle is the same whether the [offender] is heterosexual or homosexual," a clearly indignant Judge Sundhu sternly told Ms. Hetu.

Judge Sundhu, who convicted Ms. Hetu after a one-day trial in March, also ordered the woman to perform 100 hours of community service and seek counselling.

Ms. Hetu's lawyer, Alexander Watt, said he would appeal the sentence.

Ms. Hetu found Judge Sundhu's comments "pretty extreme," but declined detailed comment due to the appeal.

Jonathan Oliphant, the Crown prosecutor, said he was surprised by the ruling, which went beyond the suspended sentence he recommended. "He disagreed with both the Crown and the defence, which is his right," he said.

Ms. Hetu and the girl met at church in the fall of 1998. Ms. Hetu, then married, sought permission from the British Columbia Ministry of Children and Family Services to become Ms. Prince's foster parent.

Ms. Hetu conceded yesterday that Ms. Prince was the spark for raising questions about her sexuality that she previously had ignored.

"I never believed [the doubts] could be real," she told reporters. "Considering I was in the church, that would be something I would just push away from my mind," she said. "When it came to Candice, it was just a little too overpowering to push away."

One night around Christmas, 1998, Doug Hetu, then Ms. Hetu's husband, saw her kissing Ms. Prince, who was 16 at the time, in the living room of the family's home. That prompted an argument that ended the couple's 10-year marriage.

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