12 October 2000
Hansard: Ontario Legislative Assembly
The House met at 1000.
PRIVATE MEMBERS’ PUBLIC BUSINESS
INQUIRY INTO POLICE INVESTIGATIONS OF SEXUAL ABUSE AGAINST MINORS IN THE CORNWALL AREA ACT, 2000
LOI DE 2000 PREVOYANT UNE ENQUETE SUR LES ENQUETES POLICIERES SUR LES PLAINTES DE MAUVAIS
TRAITEMENTS D’ORDRE SEXUEL INFLIGES A DES MINEURS DANS LA REGION DE CORNWALL
Mr Guzzo moved second reading of the following bill:
Bill 103, An Act to establish a commission of inquiry to inquire into the investigations by police forces into sexual abuse against minors in the Cornwall area / Projet de loi 103, Loi visant a cr6er une commission chargee d’enqu6ter sur les enqu6tes men6es par des corps de police sur les plaintes de mauvais traitements d’ordre sexuel inflig6s a des mineurs dans la region de Cornwall.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Michael A. Brown): The member for Ottawa West-Nepean has up to 10 minutes to make his presentation.
Mr Garry J. Guzzo (Ottawa West-Nepean): We live in a great country and we live in a most cherished section of that country, for which we should all be grateful. But what makes this country so desirable and great—the rule of law, the security of all citizens and the guarantees of equality—must surely be protected. They’re merely verbiage if our police forces are not independent and are not willing to protect our citizens, thereby sacrificing their public trust.
The bill I introduced this morning addresses a problem in the city of Cornwall, which no one has yet denied. This bill speaks to a breakdown in our justice system, which no one has denied. This bill attempts to shed light on the operation of a pedophile ring which has operated for years in that city, which no one has yet denied and which continues to operate today as we stand here and speak.
If no one denies the foregoing, why would there be so much politicking and opposition to my bill? Why has there been continued opposition to the fact that I have raised these matters in a very professional and dignified manner and on a confidential basis? Why is this bill even necessary?
Three and a half years ago, I began by asking questions of those in authority—my Premier, my Attorney General and my Solicitor General—after I had uncovered information that I myself had difficulty believing.
In 1992, the Cornwall Police Service conducted an internal investigation and concluded there was nothing amiss and no charges to be laid with regard to allegations of a pedophile ring. In 1994, the Ontario Provincial Police did an investigation of the Cornwall force and made the same finding. On Christmas Eve 1994, at a press conference, the provincial police stated that they had left no stone unturned and could find no persons to charge and no evidence of any wrongdoing on the part of the Cornwall police.
But in 1995 and 1996, the Cornwall citizens committee, using their own funds and doing the work of the Ontario Provincial Police, turned up evidence to the contrary. On April 8, 1997, this committee served on the Attorney General of this province and the Ontario Civilian Commission on Police Services, after the Solicitor General had refused to accept service, four boxes of evidence, which included affidavits, statements and documentation which apparently had been totally overlooked in not one but two previous investigations.
The Ontario Provincial Police then quietly embarked upon Project Truth. The same two individuals who headed the initial investigation for the OPP in 1993 and 1994 were assigned to head Project Truth. As a result of Project Truth, as of October 1, 2000, 115 charges have been laid, and 112 of those, by my examination, took place long before Christmas Eve 1994. The evidence of all those 112 charges was clearly available when the two investigations by the Cornwall police and the Ontario Provincial Police took place.
Some 67 weeks after April 8, 1997, on July 31, 1998, the Cornwall citizens committee served on the lead investigator of the Ontario Provincial Police Project Truth copies of the documentation contained in those four boxes that had been left 15 and a half months earlier with the two agencies of the Ontario government, and the lead investigator, Inspector Hall, signed a letter on July 31, 1998, acknowledging receipt of those four boxes of evidence and stating he had not seen this evidence prior thereto.
He had heard comments on an Ottawa radio station, CFRA, from the sister of one of the
members of the Cornwall citizens committee, and he stopped the brother on the street and said, “What is your sister talldng about?” and he told him. As a result of that, four days later those documents were served on Mr Hall, and he signed that letter. A very experienced police officer signed the letter: “I’ve never seen this before.”
Twenty-three months after April 8, 1997, after the serving of this documentation on two government departments, on March 8, 1999, I received a call at my home in Florida from a person who stated he was the number one person in the Ontario Provincial Police with regard to criminal investigation. He identified himself as Deputy Commissioner Frechette. He said quite clearly that he did not know of what I was speaking in my letter of February 23, 1999, to the Premier. A copy of this letter had recently come to his attention through the Solicitor General’s department. At that point, he did not have my initial letter of September 18, 1998.
I make it clear that I believed Deputy Commissioner Frechette, and I arranged to have my file turned over to him upon my return to Toronto. But two weeks later, when I contacted the deputy commissioner, he advised me that he no longer needed to see me and no longer needed to see my file. He had now seen this evidence. He admitted, “I have it now. I’m the number one man for criminal investigation, but I didn’t see it for 23 months.”
The issues here are clear and easily stated, but they’re difficult to understand. How is it possible that the Ontario Provincial Police went from zero charges on Christmas Eve 1994 to 115 charges on October 1 this year? How is it possible that for 67 weeks after the delivery of this documentation, on not one but two departments of the Ontario government, lead investigators on Project Truth had not been aware of the documentation? How is it possible that 23 months after the service on the Ontario government, the number one man responsible for criminal investigation in Ontario did not know of the documentation and, in particular, did not know of the affidavit of one individual which, in my opinion, was an inculpatory statement? That man had not been interviewed by the police at that point in time.
We have here the makings of a very significant problem. Either the first two investigations were totally incompetent, or there has been a massive cover-up. There is no other possible answer. Why would there be a cover- up in a matter such as this? For what purpose? For whose benefit? I have received no answer to my questions in my confidential letters of September 1998 and February 1999 to the Premier. I do not wish to proceed in this manner, but six months after that first letter, I was advised by the chief of staff of the Premier that he had not shown my letters to the Premier, and I have to ask why. It’s as strange an admission as holding a press conference on Christmas Eve.
In addition, I have written to the Attorney General and the Solicitor General individually
, as lawyer to lawyer, for some assurance that our government, of which I am a part
—admittedly an insignificant part—could not be held responsible for what was clearly
occurring in Cornwall, and to date I have received no such assurances.
I have interviewed some 45 to 50 alleged victims. All of them approached me or were referred to me by their legal advisers. I have not accepted everything that each has said, but I have, however, no problem in believing a large portion of many of their statements. Some I have questioned on two or three occasions and they have held up well under cross-examination.
Some of these men have turned to a life of crime. Nobody should be surprised at that. Some of them have done exceedingly well, putting these issues behind them. Some of them have gone public and some of them haven’t told their spouses or their children, and in one case, his aged mother. Some have vivid recollections and to some it’s just a blur. I’ve had experienced lawyers and police officers with me on occasion when I’ve interviewed them, and one police officer, a veteran, was sick to his stomach after having to listen to one description of what had taken place.
In my life as a city councillor, a lawyer, my time as a judge, I have a record of dealing with children. I have dedicated some of my life to working with children and I’ve never witnessed anything as tragic and as questionable as this situation.
The Acting Speaker: Further debate?
Mr John C. Cleary (Stormont-Dundas-Charlottenburgh): I am pleased to rise today in
support of Bill 103. This has gone on far too long and I have run into the same stumbling
blocks as the former speaker. I know that many of the people in my community are very
supportive of what’s being done here today and I know there are many innocent people
on the list of names that is out there who have to be given time to heal.
Since last June 21 when this bill was introduced, many things have happened. This bill called for a public inquiry undertaken by the police forces that are investigating sexual abuse against minors in the Cornwall area.
No matter where I go in Ontario, I get this issue thrown in my face.
If the bill passes, a commission of inquiry will look at investigations undertaken both by police forces and private individuals. No matter what the fearmongerers in the community say, we have a good legal opinion that the two investigations could go on side by side.
The commission will inquire into the following: whether the police force investigating complaints of sexual abuse after 1989 failed to conduct an investigation with enough diligence, why no charges were laid at this time and whether or not evidence was concealed.
The bill will also look into why private individuals decided to take on an investigation on their own and if these private investigations led to charges being laid by police forces.
In the early 1 990s, an investigation into sexual abuse against minors began in the Cornwall area after the police services board received a number of inquiries. On that police services board are provincial appointees and municipally elected people. The Cornwall police looked into these complaints but claimed there was no evidence supporting the claims.
In 1994, the Ontario Provincial Police came in to review the investigation that the Cornwall police had undertaken into the sexual abuse allegations. In December they announced there was no evidence of any wrong-doing.
Between December 1994 and 1997, private citizens in Cornwall decided to investigate on their own and finally it prompted the OPP to come back into Cornwall and launch Project Truth. As a result of Project Truth, 115 charges were laid against 15 individuals.
I know we’ve run into many stone walls on this issue, the same as the previous speaker, and after the bill was introduced in the House last June 21, many of my constituents came into the office and wanted to know what they could do to support me and who was going to get to the bottom of this issue.
Some of the same correspondence and material that came to my office also came to Mr Guzzo’s office. I spoke to Mr Guzzo in the Legislature last June and he told me that his number was coming up and he was going to introduce a private member’s bill and try to get to the bottom of the issue that way. I told him I was very supportive at that time. That was on June 21, and before I could get back to Cornwall, the local press were calling every half-hour to try to get my reaction. I told them that my goal was to support the Guzzo bill and get it to an all-party committee.
Many of my constituents came to my office—very experienced people in law, education, public health, and I could go on and on—and wanted to know what they could do to support this issue. I said, “The best thing I can tell you is that we can have a meeting in my constituency office. I can bring you all together and you can decide. You know this community as well as I do and anything you could do to help, I would be very supportive of that.”
So they did form an organization and they had one meeting in my constituency office. No matter what any-one back home tries to tell you, there was one meeting there. They found their own meeting rooms after that.
They brought back to me a petition signed by over 11,000 people supporting the bill. Opposition to that bill has had a hard time to muster 100. They wrote letters and they gathered information. They have worked very hard and they are the salt of the earth. I owe them a great debt for what they have tried to do to bring justice on this issue.
As an elected person for some 28 years, I never saw anything that divided the community like this has.
Our local press didn’t help much on this issue. They’ve fanned the flames. They haven’t shown a leadership role. There are things they could have done to try to solve some of these problems but they did not. We heard all kinds of issues from them. In other words, they fanned the flames.
The bill is before us and I am very proud to support the bill. I am very interested to hear what others may have to say. It’s an issue that is not going to go away, and it cannot be swept under the rug any longer.
The Acting Speaker: Further debate?
Mr Peter Kormos (Niagara Centre): First, let me indicate quite clearly that the New
Democrats will be supporting this bill. As well, let me applaud Mr Guzzo for his tenacity
in pursuing this matter. This is an extremely troubling thing, not just because of what the
various reports indicate may have happened, but because of what happened after Mr Guzzo began his efforts to bring some light to this matter.
As troubling as the prospect of a flawed or failed or corrupt police investigation is, it’s equally troubling that not just one Attorney General but two Attorneys General would rebuff quite frankly any member of this Legislative Assembly who would bring such a serious matter to his attention, but in this instance one of his own colleagues, Mr Guzzo, a man whom I trust. Although the Attorney General and I don’t agree on very many things, I trust the Attorney General agrees with me in terms of my assessment of Mr Guzzo as a person who’s extremely familiar with the areas of the law and as a person whose integrity, certainly in this matter, is beyond reproach. I trust him. That’s one thing the Attorney General and I can agree on.
Is the matter of a corrupted police investigation beyond the scope of reality? Is the prospect of even political interference beyond the scope of possibility? This seems outlandish in this post-Watergate era, but I’ve read and re-read the Hansard transcripts of Donald MacDonald here in this Legislature when he rose in this assembly and confronted the Tory government of its day about the incredible litany of abuses that were taking place in training schools.
Please, refer to those Hansards. The response was one of laughter and derision. Donald MacDonald and the New Democrats were mocked for daring to suggest that the august leadership in any number of training schools would have had any role in sexual abuse of children and sexual assault—some of the most heinous sexual assaults, sexual assaults that resulted in pregnancies by teenage women who were placed into the custody of the state for so-called safekeeping, if you will. I read the Hansards, and I remember as a young person the phenomenon.
The New Democrats, as I say, were rebuffed by the government, some very senior members of the government—again, I appreciate that things have changed— who had direct involvement in the appointments of any number of the people to their positions of power and leadership in these various institutions.
So I submit it’s not beyond the scope of possibilities that there can have been, in Cornwall, an inappropriate use of power, influence or control to suppress an appropriate investigation.
Let’s be very clear, because I don’t think there’s any member of this Legislative Assembly who’s going to in any way prejudge the guilt of those persons who have been charged as a result of a renewal of the investigation—by no stretch of the imagination. There’s no intent here to prejudge the guilt of any of those people charged, or quite frankly any of the suspects who may have been named, and no interest in prejudging the outcome of the inquiry being proposed by Mr Guzzo. But that’s exactly the point. We’re dealing here with the most heinous crimes that can be committed.
There are two things, I suppose, that all Ontarians—I mean fair-minded or civilized persons—would find repugnant. One is that it’s repugnant that a person who commits these crimes against these children should not be identified, prosecuted and dealt with. It’s equally repugnant that anyone should have to live under a cloud of suspicion without being adequately cleared.
I’m familiar with small-town Ontario. The city of Welland is very much like the city of Cornwall. It’s small-town Ontario, where people live pretty intimately, where people share what goes on in that community.
So, as I say, the cloud of suspicion over an innocent person is repugnant, but very repugnant is the prospect that guilty people could remain unapprehended and free of prosecution and justice, not only from the point of view of the community but from the point of view of any number of victims. There’s no doubt, I suspect, in a whole lot of people’s minds that there have been victims.
I read the reports of the role of Perry Dunlop. While I want to be very careful about prejudging or suggesting what facts may or may not be put forward to an inquiry, here’s one about which I have little doubt, and that is that Perry Dunlop, as a police officer, had the audacity to suggest that in the instance—again, I don’t think there’s any doubt about it—of a deal struck by the employers of one of the perpetrators and the victim—a settlement, cash, to suppress the matter—one that was struck on the condition that there be no discussion or disclosure of the terms of the settlement. Perry Dunlop said, “Fine and fair,” although that sort of deal has been criticized subsequent to that, and then suggested that at the same time there’s an obligation for the acknowledged or admitted perpetrators by virtue of the settlement to be reported to family and children’s services for their registry of offenders. He not only was rebuffed; he was told to keep his nose out of it, as far as I read, and was told words to the effect of “the matter’s done and over with; the case is closed.”
Certainly there can’t be any doubt about the fact that citizens felt compelled to initiate private investigations. What in God’s name, in this kind of country, is going on when citizens can’t rely upon their police force to adequately investigate a matter, to adequately investigate a crime, where they have to go and hire private investigators?
The courts had an opportunity to deal with that recently. You’ll recall the recent fraud trial here in the city of Toronto. The victims of the fraud—the perpetrator was convicted—were compelled to, because in that instance the police were so understaffed that they said simply said, “No, we can’t prioritize a fraud. We haven’t got officers to work on it,” and so they retained Brian Patterson, whom I quite frankly know well as a very accomplished forensic auditor and investigator. They paid a huge amount of money for the work that was done—a whole lot of work and effective work, because it resulted in a prosecution—but the judge very, very clearly criticized the utilization of private-sector investigators for Criminal Code offences. He deplored it, as I understand the comments, as something that was “very dangerous” in terms of the whole criminal justice system, in terms of the integrity of the criminal justice system. I’m inclined to agree with him.
So if only for paragraph 5 in the proposals in the bill in terms of the terms of reference of the inquiry, if only for that—and that is the question whether private investigators contributed to laying the charges—and its predecessor, paragraph 4, the circumstances that led to the commencement of private investigations, I urge all fair-minded members of this assembly to support this legislation, and quite frankly to go one step further and to spare it the hypocrisy of sending it off into legislative orbit once it is passed so that it never sees a committee room.
It’s imperative that this matter be resolved promptly. I reject any suggestion that this inquiry cannot take place while criminal charges are being laid and/or prosecuted because this is entirely separate and remote and distinguishable from that process. It’s imperative that this be dealt with, dealt with promptly, dealt with in committee promptly and that an appropriate inquiry be established immediately.
Hon Jim Flaherty (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): May I begin by thanking the honourable member for Ottawa West-Nepean for permitting me to speak for a moment or two about his private member’s bill during private members’ business.
We have a responsibility to do everything we can to protect society’s most vulnerable members from the harm of sexual exploitation.
This responsibility includes ensuring that, as a government, we do not engage in activities or other inquiries that would put investigations and prosecutions at risk.
The matters that the member for Ottawa West-Nepean is bringing before the House through his private member’s bill are of great concern and should be taken very seriously.
As the Attorney General of Ontario and the chief law officer of the crown, I am obliged to inform all honourable members of the status of relevant criminal matters. There are
currently outstanding criminal matters before the courts. Specifically, there are 12 matters, nine of which are scheduled for trial and three of which will be proceeding shortly. Holding a public inquiry at this time could interfere with these legal proceedings.
In the interests of justice and to ensure that we do not hinder these cases as they proceed, holding a public inquiry now could jeopardize these cases. In addition, criminal investigations and analysis are underway. The police have worked very hard and continue through Project Truth to invest their time, energy and skills to ensure that all matters are carefully and thoroughly examined. Holding a public inquiry at this time could jeopardize these investigations. I emphasize the words “at this time.” This bill is, of course, at second reading stage and therefore not at the stage at which it would become law through third reading and receiving royal assent.
It is, however, my duty as Attorney General to provide honourable members with the information which I have provided to the House.
May I once again thank the honourable member for Ottawa West-Nepean for graciously permitting me to speak to his private member’s bill as Attorney General.
Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): First of all, let me applaud my colleague from Ottawa West-Nepean. We have many encounters and joint endeavours through-out time. I know that given his background as a family court judge this bill was not done lightly. Any of you who have read the background material that’s been sent out, any of you who have seen the reports on television, who have received the letters or e-mails or phone calls that I have received in my own riding, will know that this is something that is pervasive throughout.
I applaud the member. It has taken great courage and some risk at a time in which I know he went through a bit of a downturn in his personal health. Mr Guzzo, I applaud you for that.
I also know that my colleague from Stormont-Dundas-Charlottenburgh has received calls and has had, frankly, some pressure put on him to turn aside and not engage in supporting this bill.
I think this bill is an indictment, frankly, of the whole process of justice and investigative law officers, and obviously implicates people in powerful positions through-out many institutions, including the church. When we look, as was referred to, at the police officer who stood up and performed his duties, as one should, and then had to leave the community because of threats to his life and his worry about his wife and children, it’s a sad commentary. So we must persist.
I am not a lawyer, so I am not sure about the legalities or the inhibiting factors of an
inquiry into this matter. I hear some people say no, it can be done, with certain parameters. The Attorney General is here today, and given the facts of what is before us, I think he should call an inquiry. We should pass second and third reading of this particular bill immediately.
At the end of the day, what are we talking about? We are talking about children and young people who are being sexually abused. I’m sure all members have instances and know of personal situations from people in their own ridings of what happens when youngsters go through that, and the psychological and emotional trauma, where people have scars for the rest of their lives. That’s what we’re talking about.
I want to applaud the citizens’ committee that did this, the good people in Cornwall who stood up and provided some information and helped provide Mr Guzzo with the information to continue to pursue this venture. I will close on these comments: this is beyond partisanship. This is, first of all, a private member’s bill, but it is an indictment of all of us. It is an indictment of the established order. It is an indictment of our system of justice and our law enforcement. We must get to the bottom of this. Who knows what is happening as we speak? This is not just confined to Cornwall. This is something that goes
on even between Cornwall and other cities, and the United States of America, into Florida.
I support this. My colleagues support it. We would like to see this moved as quickly as possible so this can be addressed.
Mr Marcel Beaubien (Lambton-Kent-Middlesex): It certainly is a pleasure for me to rise this morning to speak on this issue, namely, Bill 103. I do not have a legal background, so consequently my comments are going to be somewhat different than those of my colleague from Ottawa West-Nepean.
[French] I am not a social worker and I have no experience in social work, but it is my understanding, and we have to realize, that when young people are abused they are scarred for a lifetime. That is not acceptable. That is a social cost we cannot afford. We must put an end to this type of abuse because we are short-changing and, more importantly, impairing these individuals from forging their own life destiny. It is a terrible legacy we are leaving, as they have to live with this on a daily basis for the rest of
I quote from an article that appeared in a newspaper in Cornwall recently. I’m not going to quote names, but this individual was charged with sexually abusing a boy under his supervision. The judge, calling it an isolated event, sentenced him to four months in jail and 18 months on probation.
We all realize that we have roles to play in society. We all have responsibilities to assume. Surely, as we enter this millennium, we must send a strong message. We must take a firm position that we must put an end to the abuse of young, vulnerable individuals.
Mr Brad Clark (Stoney Creek): I’m going to ask the members of the House and the people who are listening to imagine for a moment what a child who has been sexually assaulted has to go through to come to their parents and advise them that they have been molested.
Imagine the courage and the strength and the faith and the trust that that child needs in their parents, because pedophiles abuse the children not only physically but mentally. They put a tremendous amount of guilt and fear upon them so that they are afraid to come forward. But at the end of the day, they come forward to their parents because they know their parents can make it right. They know their parents can make it better. Their parents embrace them lovingly and they reach out for help from the authorities.
Imagine, if you will, the parents now in the same position that the child was just in. They
now need the strength and the courage and the trust and the faith in the authorities to step
forward and ask for help. They know they can’t protect their child alone. They have to
appear before the police and ask for help from the people who serve and protect. Put
yourself in the shoes of the parents when they step forward and the police come back after an investigation and state that there’s no substance to the allegations. Put yourself in the shoes of the child, who has stepped forward with great courage, and they’ve been told that there is no substance to the allegations. The parents reach out again and, through public outcry, another police body is brought in and again the answer comes back: they have left no stone unturned and there is no substance to the allegations.
Then the parents have to do something very unusual. They have to reach out into their community and do a covert investigation to prove that what their children were telling them was true and that something had gone dreadfully wrong in our justice system and had failed these children, had failed to protect them, had failed to bring the perpetrators of this heinous crime to justice.
What kind of message does it send to the community when the justice system fails our people? The police are the great defenders, the great equalizers. They are the guardians of the public interest. They are the guardians of law and order. When it fails children, we have a major problem that needs to be looked into.
I’m not going to ask members in this House to vote one way or the other on the bill. I’m
going to ask you to ask yourselves one simple question: have we done everything we can
do to ensure that justice prevails for the citizens in Cornwall? If you can come into this
House and can answer honestly in your conscience “Yes,” then you know how to vote. But if you come into this House and you answer honestly in your conscience “No,” or “I don’t know,” then you also know how you must vote.
Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and the Islands): Let me start off by congratulating the member who brought this private member’s bill forward. It isn’t very often that we do this sort of thing in the House by members of other political stripes etc, but I can tell y
ou, when I read his brief yesterday, it literally sent shivers up and down my back. The seven-page letter, in which he details his own involvement since he heard about this situation, how he tried to deal with it and what the people of Cornwall have gone through over the last 20 or 25 years, calls into question not just whether a public inquiry should take place here but calls into question the reputation of all our institutions. For a member of the government to take the courageous step to bring this bill forward so it can get a public airing, so we can collectively do the right thing, I think is not only courageous but he ought to be complimented for that.
Time will not allow me to go through each of the seven issues he outlined in his letter, but each issue on its own merits would require an inquiry to take place. I know the Attorney General is saying, “We can’t have a public inquiry at this time because of the criminal charges that are still outstanding.” I say that is absolute nonsense. That is just another way in which we can once again take this situation, which in some cases has gone on for 25 and 30 years, and push it aside a little further, hoping that people will forget, that people will die off and that this mystery surrounding what may or may not have been happening in Cornwall over the last 25 or 30 years will just continue.
Every now and then it takes courage in this House for any particular member to do something that may not be all that popular. I realize there are people on both sides of the issue in the city of Cornwall itself, those who want a full inquiry and those who don’t want a full inquiry. It’s a very contentious situation. I can well understand that. But to do the right thing and say to the people of Ontario that what these people have gone through and the cover-up— that’s the only word I have for it—that has taken place within the Cornwall police department and perhaps by the Ontario Provincial Police as well—we have to get to the bottom of this.
I would urge each and every member of this Legislative Assembly to put our partisan differences aside, do the right thing and vote for this bill. Let’s have an inquiry. There may be certain aspects that the inquiry may not be able to deal with because of the criminal charges, and that can be left aside until the criminal charges are dealt with, but the vast majority of the issues he has raised in his letter can be dealt with right now. The fact that there are criminal charges outstanding right now has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not an inquiry can take place at this point in time.
I urge each and every member of this assembly to do the right thing. Government is about transparency, and surely to goodness, with the kind of situation that has occurred there for the last 25 to 30 years, a public inquiry is demanded. The people want it and I congratulate the member for bringing this issue forward.
Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton West): At the outset, I wish to add my voice to those who have already complimented the member from Ottawa West-Nepean for bringing this forward. It’s not the smartest politics in the world in terms of what happens within the caucus of the government, but I think it has shown to this Housethat this member, who in a former life was a judge, felt strongly enough to take the action he is taking. It doesn’t happen very often.
If people are unsure whether or not there should be an inquiry, if you need no other evidence, then look at the fact that it’s a government member, a former judge, who is ringing this forward. It’s been supported by the Liberal member for the area involved. Our justice critic in the NDP caucus, the member for Niagara Centre, has lent his voice on behalf of our caucus to this cause, and for what it’s worth, I want to add my voice, not just as a member now but as a former Solicitor General, in fact a former Solicitor General whose time was in the early part of this encompassing part of what’s happening. In fact, the initial investigation that took place was during my tenure as Solicitor General.
People will know that the Solicitor General in the province of Ontario has ultimate responsibility for all police because he or she is accountable for the legislation that provides the foundation for all policing. In fact, the Solicitor General is the de facto police services board for the OPP. The direct accountability back to private citizens, to the public, for the OPP is through the Solicitor General. The issues raised here are so important because they deal with not just the activities of local police but the provincial police. The OPP has a special place in our configuration of policing, and they’re very unique.
It also gets into the area of public and political accountability in terms of Solicitors General and Attorneys General sitting at that time and now, and whether or not there are reasons why Solicitors General and Attorneys General haven’t taken action before now— huge implications.
I have one minute left. Let me say very emphatically that I do not believe it is mutually exclusive that you can hold the greatest respect for the police and the work they do and still believe strongly that there has to be public accountability, because without public accountability, civilian oversight, the answerability to elected people, we don’t have the standards that ensure we have the kind of policing that we have.
And let me say we have the finest policing in the world, but nothing is perfect. People aren’t perfect; systems aren’t perfect. If the citizens of Cornwall have not been able to find justice, in their opinion, through the existing procedures, then their last hope is this place, and if they don’t find justice in this place, where are they going to find it? For the Attorney General to say that we can’t do this because there’s an ongoing investigation, let him make that submission to the inquiry. This inquiry needs to happen for the basis of democracy—
The Acting Speaker: Thank you. Further debate?
The member for Ottawa West-Nepean.
Mr Guzzo: I wish to express my thanks to the members opposite and my colleagues who have spoken on behalf of the proposed legislation.
I have to make a couple of comments. I have to interject with regard to the comments of my colleague the Attorney General. There are examples in this province and in this country where criminal charges have proceeded along with an inquiry of this nature, without disruption. Having said that, I also have to comment that if the OPP is looking at laying additional charges at this time, I don’t think that’s a legitimate excuse. I don’t think we can sit back and wait. They have had since 1993, and the evidence in the most recent charges was available years before Christmas Eve of 1994.
I also want to draw to your attention that the Ontario Provincial Police have announced the windup of Project Truth on four occasions.
Four times they have said to the press, “We’ll be out of there at the end of the month.” The most recent was May. They said, “We’ll be finished by June.” We’re now told they’re looking at additional charges. Every time they made that announcement, additional charges flowed.
I don’t know and I can’t explain and I would be speculating as to why I have been stonewalled on this and what the hesitation is in proceeding forward. I know the explanation of what happened in the 1950s. As a youngster growing up in the Glebe section of Ottawa, I played in Lansdowne Park. I saw youngsters released from the Alfred training school and on the run from the Alfred training school come into the playground bruised from their hips to their earlobes, welts the size of foot-balls on their backs. They told us, and I listened intently, like every other kid, you know, about the physical abuse and the sexual abuse that was going on there. People knew.
The late Bill Bestwick, sports editor of the now defunct Ottawa Journal, had children in the area. He took the issue to his publisher, the late Senator Grattan O’Leary, who interceded—a powerful man in government, a powerful man in the church—but to no avail.
I remember two neighbours of mine taking the matter up, two local members of the governing party—absolutely no action. I walk by the pictures of those two members every day as I walk from my office and come into this House, and it never ceases to amaze me. I never cease to ask the question, what possibly could have happened? How powerful were the forces? Quite frankly, I am at a loss to explain the forces that are taking place at the present time.
I’ve had calls and I’ve had pressure. It’s been disruptive, I can tell you, both for me and my family. It’s come from Cornwall, it’s come from Ottawa and it’s come from Toronto and elsewhere. It’s come from my profession, it’s come from my party and it’s come from my church. But the pressure I have experienced, quite frankly, is nothing compared to the pressure that the member who lives in the Cornwall area, from Stormont-Dundas, has experienced. He lives with it every day. He set a standard in this House on this bill that has to be recognized and has to be appreciated. It’s something that each and every one of us should try and emulate. I thank him for that on behalf of the very vulnerable constituents in his riding that he so capably represents by taking that steadfast position and showing the strength of character that he has demonstrated.
If this were not on family-time television, if it wasn’t possible for youngsters to be looking in, and if I was of a mind to try and inflame this situation, I would read to you
extracts from some of the statements and some of the affidavits that were served on the Attorney General and OCCPS, every bit as tragic and every bit as brutal in description of what happened as the statements that were used in the tragedy that was the training school allegations, which resulted in our Attorney General, Jim Flaherty, standing in this House and offering that apology a few months ago.
I want to sum up and say to the people of Cornwall that I appreciate the support and strength they have shown by coming forward and offering support for this bill, offering support to their member and the other members of the House. It’s not an easy issue. It does divide the community. There are two sides to the story. How far do you want to go back?
When Mr Flaherty stood in this House a few months ago and apologized three years after the payments to the victims of the training school, he said, “I apologize on behalf of every citizen, past and present, of this province.” Is some Attorney General going to stand here in the year 2050 and apologize to the victims of the Cornwall situation and their families on behalf of us? I know how I remember the members whose pictures I walk by on a daily basis. It’s not a positive feeling. Do we want to be remembered that way, and if so, why? Who is benefiting from what is happening?
In criminal law, when you get involved in situations, you know you can always follow the money. Follow the money and you get to the guilty parties. But in situations like this, there is no paper trail, there is money trail. Who is benefiting, and for what possible reason?
Are we benefiting the victims? Are we benefiting the families of the victims? Are we really here to try to protect a pedophile group? Is that what this country is all about? Is that what the party whose government I represent is all about? I sincerely hope not.
The Acting Speaker: This completes the time allotted for this ballot item. The question will be put at 12 noon.
INQUIRY INTO POLICE INVESTIGATIONS OF SEXUAL ABUSE AGAINST MINORS IN THE CORNWALL AREA ACT, 2000
LOI DE 2000 PREVOYANT UNE ENQUETE SUR LES ENQUETES POLICIERES SUR LES PLAINTES DE MAUVAIS
TRAITEMENTS D’ORDRE SEXUEL INFLIGES A DES MINEURS DANS LA REGION DE CORNWALL
The Acting Speaker (Mr Michael A. Brown): We will now deal with ballot item number 39. Mr Guzzo has moved second reading Bill 103, An Act to establish a commission of inquiry to inquire into the investigations by police forces into sexual abuse against minors in the Cornwall area.
Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?
All in favour will say “aye.”
All opposed will say “nay.”
In my opinion, the ayes have it.
We will take this division after I deal with the next ballot item.