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Snowbirds pilot headed for trial amid sexual assault accusations

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Accused of sexual assault, former Canadian Forces Snowbirds pilot Maj. Steven Hurlbut appears headed for trial.

Wednesday morning trial dates were supposed to be put on the record in the Barrie courthouse when a representative for Hurlbut's lawyer, Karl Toews, expressed concerns about the defence counsel's availability before the proposed late August trial dates.

The defence also noted it was not willing to waive Section 11(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which protects an accused person's liberty, security and the right to a fair trial in a reasonable timeframe.

Criminal cases in the Ontario Court of Justice are expected to be completed within 15 months under the recently introduced Jordan-compliant trial scheduling direction.

The 48-year-old Hurlbut from Alberta, who's been a pilot for more than 30 years, was charged with sexual assault against another member of the military last June around the time the Snowbirds took flight for their annual Barrie Airshow.

The Canadian Forces National Investigation Service charged Hurlbut about a week after the military said its investigation began into alleged sexual misconduct. The charge, however, is now being handled in civilian criminal court in Barrie and not within the military system.

A publication ban protects the complainant's identity.

Before the charges, Hurlbut had been a member of the Snowbirds for two years, served as a lecturer at Royal Military College, and was a fighter pilot on 36 combat missions in Syria and Iraq starting in 2014.

Hurlbut, also known on the aerial acrobatics team as Stu, was flying lead solo in the number nine jet when the Department of National Defence said, after the Barrie Airshow, Hurlbut had been removed from the team and reassigned. At the same time, the Snowbirds performed with eight aircraft.

On Thursday, the Department of National Defence confirmed to CTV News Hurlbut is no longer a member of the Snowbirds and is currently employed with 4 Operations Support Squadron at 4 Wing Cold Lake, Alberta.

The matter returns in a virtual courtroom next week to address the defence's concerns.

The allegations against the accused have not been tested in court.

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