A sexual assault trial of a former doctor from southeastern Manitoba has been delayed to address evidence that may have been lost or destroyed. 

Dr. Arcel Bissonnette is facing 22 sexual assault charges for alleged offences against several female patients when he worked in Ste. Anne, Man.

The trial was supposed to hear from its first witness on Monday, but Bissonnette's lawyers said they have concerns about missing documents from the town's police department that detail claims against the doctor beginning in 2017. 

The former lead investigator in the case told court she kept detailed records in notebooks, which she left with the Sainte-Anne Police Department when she accepted a new job in 2019. 

The defence says there are significant concerns about the investigation because they have only received a few pages of notes. 

The judge-alone trial has been adjourned to give time for the Crown and police to track down the documents or determine whether they were destroyed. 

"Where are the notebooks? … That is the key evidence," Lisa LaBossiere, a lawyer for the doctor, said Monday. 

LaBossiere said the defence was notified about the missing notebooks at the end of last month. 

Jacqueline Lawford, the lead investigator, who was a constable at the time, said she left several notebooks in a drawer at the station.

"I would think that there would be more notes," Lawford told court when presented with a copy of the notes in evidence. 

Court heard that emails from police suggest they have not been able to locate the notebooks. 

Police are trying to retrieve access to Lawford's account and emails, which Lawford deleted when she left, to see if they can find supplemental documents. 

LaBossiere said it is concerning there are aspects of the investigation with no documentation. 

"There are unanswered questions," the defence lawyer said.

Crown prosecutor Paul Girdlestone said the court can look at the issue one step at a time as the trial progresses. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 16, 2023.