The middle child in a Roman Catholic family of seven children, André Lavoie was born 22 November 1952 and raised in Cornwall, Ontario.
In 1967 at the age of 14 (turning 15) started Grade 9 at St. Lawrence HS. He completed his high school education in 1972.
André’s Grade 9 French teacher was Robert Sabourin, the Roman Catholic teacher, friend of Bishop Adolphe Proulx and photographer for the Diocese of Alexandria-Cornwall who became Andre’s molester for the next four to five years.
Sabourin, a married man and father, molested a number of young boys, including Alain Seguin who also testified at the Cornwall Public Inquiry. Sabourin was eventually charged, pled guilty, and was sentenced to two years less a day.
Following are excerpts from André’s testimony of 17 and 18 October 2006 at the Cornwall Public Inquiry. The text from André’s testimony is dark brown. theinquiry.ca comments and headers are in red. (bullets are red or dark brown depending on the whim of the software!)
Robert Sabourin initially seemed to have a genuine interest in assisting young André with his studies. Sabourin then honed in on the young lad’s interests and offered his assistance.
- Well, he very rapidly identified my interest in literature, music and film. It was perfect. So I was a perfect victim for him because he was sort of a role model. He took an interest in me. You know, say, “You’re interested in music? Well, I’ve got music at home that I can show you, a nice stereo system, all kinds of records and stuff” and he would play me all on those things. So he immediately satisfied whatever cravings a kid might have.
- …the encouragement in literature, film and music did not come from my parents… . as soon as somebody would take an interest in me and in this case, that teacher, as soon as he took an interest in me, I felt great. I mean, “Gee, here is somebody that can line me up and make sure that I do my very best academically and artistically.” That was my first reaction. “Wow, this is wonderful.” But that’s soon turned sour.
- I did book reports. I’d tell him — you know, he’d ask me, “What are you reading?” It ran the gamut, you know, Jules Verne to Dostoevosky. Nothing was sacred. Then in terms of music, popular music that was happening around that time, especially anything involving the saxophone, I was deeply interested in. So he had these saxophone type records. And in films, we had these nice Nikon camera with interchangeable lenses that was an absolute joy to behold. And I had access to all that stuff. [in his basement apartment]
- So he would encourage my studying habits. He would show me ways to make notes out of books so that I could remember parts of them better. A real lesson how to study and how to memorize information so that you could do better at your exams. That’s the way it started.
And then the seduction. . . .
- And then following — a few weeks later, he would say, “Well, now you need to know how to relax. You have worked pretty hard, so why don’t you lie down on the bed here and I will turn down the lights and things and I will see you in a few minutes.” And it progressed to where he would come over and give me massages. And over a short period of time, it was “Well now, you can take your shirt and relax here. You know, you’re fine”, followed by, “Now you can get your pants down. You will be much more comfortable. You can get your underwear off because. You know, you trust me. You know, I’m quite comfortable here” to eventually, you know, stroking my penis and he was actually quite — comment je dirais ça? — he actually asked me after stroking my penis and getting me to have an erection, he asked me, “Do you want me to put your penis in my mouth?”
In other words, the onus was on me. I gave him permission to do that and from that moment, the trap was closed.
Andre was regularly abused on Tuesdays and Thursdays (“I considered myself Tuesdays and Thursdays.” There were other days, but Tuesdays and Thursdays were constant.
The sexual abuse transpired in a variety of locales: in the classroom closet, in Sabourins office, in the nursing station beside the classroom, in Sabourin’s home both before and after Sabourin’s wife and son relocated from Montreal, in the Lavoie home, in Quebec City, in Montreal, in the car and while driving the car, and during a trip to a teachers conference in Timmins, Ontario.
- he had a classroom and in the back of the classroom there was a small closet, approximately six feet by four feet wide, a bunch of books in there and just enough space so he could lay down his little blanket in there. He would lock the door from the inside sort of — However, a few times it happened that the cleaning staff would come into the classroom of course to do their work and would want to clean up the closet, so they would either knock or whatever. If he heard them, his excuse was always, “We have an opened roll of film. We cannot or I cannot open the door just now.”
There were no opened rolls of film, only, as Andre testified, a naked little boy.
The Lavoie home
- We’ve had boarders coming from all nationalities for years and years and never have I been abused. He was in the process of moving his family from Montreal to Cornwall and he was purchasing a house. He needed a place to stay in the meantime. So he asked my parents very kindly could he stay in our house. Of course my parents said yes. He went on to say to my parents, “Would it be all right if Andre slept in my bedroom because I’m teaching him studying skills and we might go on quite late in the night? And he seems to be doing very well at school.” So yes, I did share his bedroom in my family house for about six weeks
In the Car and Driving
- It happened in his car, driving lessons. Every single driving lesson was paid with, yours truly, abuse. That could be happening in a field anywhere. He would park the car anywhere and he would be quite satisfied. He could be doing that while I was driving. He particularly enjoyed that one. I think he had a sense of danger.
- Driving to Timmins. I remember driving to Timmins and it’s dark, this road is under construction and they were building at that time and I see this rock base and I’m going, “I’m going to smash the car into the rock base and end this stuff now.” I just didn’t have the strength to do that.
At a Teachers Conference in Timmins,Ontario
- he took me over to a teacher’s conference in Timmins for two or three days.
Well, of course, he always has a reason to have me around, and in this case he had to go up to the conference in the evening and he didn’t like driving at night. So he needed his driver, myself.
So I drove him up there and we got to the hotel where the conference was supposedly happening. He had rented a room; finds out they only have rooms with two single beds. So he proceeds to do a huge, huge fit, screaming, “I want a double bed. I want a double bed.” And so it could not be accommodated, and so we left. He went to another motel until he found a motel with a double bed.
The next morning, he takes me over to the conference, where the conference is being held and all the teachers are sitting at these long tables. Of course, I recognize a few teachers from my own school. There were teachers from up north
So I walk in there in the company of the abuser and it’s surreal because I feel so fragile. So I walk in there and he’s been doing his regular — being very charming, sort of thing. Jeannine Séguin is sitting there. She’s the Dame Judy Dench of high school principals. You can see she’s totally in control. I don’t know what’s wrong with that picture, but I would think that something might not be just right. I would have some concerns about a teacher taking a student to Timmins for a conference for which he has no use, but no questions were ever raised.
André estimates there were perhaps 8 to 10 teachers from St. Lawrence attending the conference. (Jeannine Séguin was the Prinicipal of St. Lawrence High.)
André testified that he came to refer to himself as “Tuesday and Thursdays” because those became ‘his’ days to be molested. Every Tuesday and Thursday he was molested by Sabourin. There were other days, but Tuesdays and Thursdays were a constant. And, according to André, Sabourin seemed to relish the added thrill of ritual, the knowledge that a naked little boy was sitting in his office – waiting.
- So he’d ask me during the day or at any given time in that day to show up at his office at 4:00, which I’d do, and then he would say, “All right. Now, get undressed and I’ll come back in 10 minutes”, which I would do, I guess. Then he would leave and then come back in 10 minutes and do whatever he needed to do. I think he enjoyed that little 10 minutes of knowing that he’s got somebody in his office that he is expecting to visit. He enjoyed that kind of thing.
Did No One Know or Suspect?
Young André was frequently in and seen in Robert Sabourin’s company. Andre served as Sabourin’s projectionist at the school, running films with Sabourin standing at his side. He had free access to Sabourin’s car which was parked by the school entrance. The staff, or at least some of the staff, apparently knew that Andre had ready access to Sabourin’s car. On occasion he was asked to run errands by teachers. He has no recollection of ever being questioned about his relationship with Sabourin.
“I am not invisible”
- The windows to his office were always masked with black paper and stuff so nobody could see inside. I am not invisible, so yes, people would see me entering that space, but I was never challenged. I don’t recall being challenged.
“Nobody raised an eyebrow”
- it’s just not natural to be in the presence of a teacher at such a frequency.. . I just don’t understand why it was not spotted. I think there were different situations that presented themselves. You know, he’s amongst other teachers and stuff and there’s this little kid that’s hanging around. Nobody raised an eyebrow about that, but we’re not talking about the ice age. I believe that in the ‘70s somebody should have been curious to find the situation that was going on.
A Montreal errand
- [Jeannine Seguin, the principal] also knew that I had access, unlimited access to Sabourin’s car, to the point where I think it was grade 12 she came over to see me with Sabourin and said, “We would like you to go to Montreal to pick up a singer/performer who is performing at the school this afternoon. Would you care to do that?” and I said,“Yes, sure, of course.”
“Please do Something”
- I would be walking beside my abuser or whatever or showing up at that conference in Timmins, you know, I’m looking at [Jeannine Seguin] and I’m going “If she is such a professional, why is she not asking questions at all? Does she find this normal? I guess she does.” And, you know, she was one of the few teachers that I would sort of look in the eye and beg, “Please do something”, but without saying the words, of course.
Previous sexual impropriety?
- my abuser had repeatedly told me that he was tossed out of Montreal because of sexual impropriety, I cannot in my mind rationalize that that information would not have gone from that school to St. Lawrence High School. I just don’t understand how he managed to pass the test of integrity to get into the school. Were there not measures, screenings of any sort?
The Boy Scout Incident
- I do remember, for example, 1967 or ’68, I was in the Boy Scouts and I was invited to do a presentation. My abuser had a whole series of slides from Expo ’67. I put the slides together, brought the kit to the Boy Scout Local or wherever we met and my abuser was there, and within about five minutes, my Scout leader comes to tell me, “Get this guy out.” That’s all he needed to say. I knew exactly what he meant and I went to the abuser and said, “You’ve got to get out of here.” …my Boy Scout leader never came back to me, asking me questions or anything like that. That did not happen.
As a boy, André never told his parents that he was being sexually abused. He told no one. Silence. For nearly thirty years
The dirty little secret
- From the age of 14 on, I was living what you might describe as a reign of terror. I was terrorized. I was going through this abominable situation over which I had no control and he was extremely manipulative and he had ingratiated himself with my family, my friends. I mean, who do you turn to? I mean, you’re carrying this dirty little secret. At best, I figured I’m there; I’m going to deal with it myself. But it took quite a toll.
My friends sometimes would ask me, “Andre, does anything happen with Sabourin?” And I would always inevitably deny and deflect the question.
The Abuse Took its Toll – thoughts of suicide
André dropped out of school. He temporarily escaped to what he saw as a safe environment, renting a house with friends who had formed a band, practicing all day, playing the odd gig at night. Eventually he was persuaded by a Guidance Counselor to return to school and resume his studies. He did. The abuse began again.
There were other attempts to escape. As he mentioned elsewhere Andre ran from Timmins – out into the dark. Hitchiked to Toronto. Got into LSD. And drugs. But try as he might to leave it behind, the abuse haunted him day and night.
- I just wanted to get out of that hellhole. I mean I was going through — from the age of 14 when the abuse started until this very day, I don’t think there is one day that goes by — there might one or two — without myself truly, deeply thinking how to end the pain, and the only solution that I can find is suicide. So I have been living with death my whole life because every time that he abused me, I would die basically, because I just couldn’t take it. So I would split my body from my spirit; “Take the body, take whatever you want. Have fun. When you’re done, I’ll try and recombine the two”, which is not easy to do because you’re dragging around a piece of dirt and then you live with that for the rest of your life.
And the pain starts.
- So you know, I have faced the muzzle of a 12 gauge shotgun and looked at it and just pondered, this could end right now. The only thing that stopped me is the one question, what if. What if something happens that changes my future in a dramatic way in the next second, but I just pulled the trigger, right. Also, I don’t like a mess.
- So the final solution that I have come up with, which is really, truly elegant is an excellent bottle of scotch and a blend of carbon monoxide, and that is so satisfying knowing that that solution is there for me and I can take it anytime.
- Now, why at my age should I be thinking about that kind of thought? There is only one reason and that’s because some asshole took it upon himself to abuse me and many others. And I think if you listen to the victims that will be coming through here, if you just touch that little suicide note, you will find that we are all on the same page.
André thought he was the only one. Then he saw the others. And he knew. One look at their faces, and he knew.
“They had that look”
- Eventually I did find out he had other victims. I would see them come out of the very same room that I had come out of so many times and they had that look on their face that is unmistakable, that I know extremely well, intimately well. And I would see these victims come out and then say, “There’s another one and another one.” And all of a sudden I would see like five or six. This is nuts, this is crazy, but again I was paralyzed in not trying to be able to do anything for these other victims.
- I remember kids coming out of his office at different times. I knew the pattern of abuse that would happen within the school, and the look on these victims coming out of that room was unmistakable
- When I first made my statement to Heidi Sebalj I started calling other victims just to make sure that I wasn’t alone in there and I located about eight, nine other victims within a week, of which three chose to testify to Heidi Sebalj and the other people just didn’t want a thing to do with the abuse.
- So by extension there must be, like, at the hands of Sabourin anywhere from 30, 40 victims up.
- [In 1973] He went on some sort of educational mission in Africa for a few weeks. I don’t recall it’s actually under what terms and when he came back he had a young African child accompanying him that would be staying with him for weeks or months and for me it was quite obvious what he was up to. And I just — he was very good at what he did and persistent.
Sabourin’s Personal Porn
Sabourin, like most molesters, apparently had his own collection of kiddie porn. Sabourin took at least two Polaroid pictures of André – a young boy, naked, in the classroom closet, by the door, arm raised in a futile attempt to hide from the prying lens.
- The greatest invention for pedophiles over the last 50 years is the Polaroid camera which is fabulous because nobody needs to develop the film. So he had one of the first Polaroid cameras going around and he was taking pictures. He must have had a nice collection.
Breaking the Silence
André Lavoie finally contacted Cornwall police to report his sexual abuse after he had what he describes as a death defining moment
- it takes a strong trigger for victims to come out and actually to say, “Excuse me, I think I have been abused.” It takes a strong trigger and other than that, you will deny, deny, deny, reflect and as you grow up, “I think I have dealt with it, you know. I’m an adult, I can cope with this. It’s over.”
Not so over.
Death defying moment
- Before I was actually capable of breaking the silence, I had a death-defining moment a few years or a year or so before I divulged the information to Heidi Sebalj. I had an operation to correct my jaw and it corrected the jaws, so both jaws are cut open and then reattached with wire and stuff, so you can’t really breathe from your mouth. You can only feed yourself with a tiny syringe. Anyway, it’s quite a mess.
Anyway, I was at home recuperating and for the first time within three days of that operation my wife had to go to run errands, pharmacy and stuff. So I decided to lie down and all of a sudden I feel like something is not right. I’m checking my nose and all of a sudden the blood started spurting as if an artery had been cut. And so I went downstairs because I didn’t want to bleed on the carpet. I went downstairs to the kitchen to call 911.
While this is happening, I’ve got blood all over the place. I’m choking. I’m basically drowning in my own blood and I’m going to be falling unconscious at any point and I could just feel myself going.
And that was the most perfect moment I have ever had in my life because at that point, at that very moment I could make a decision. I could let myself go, right there and die. Perfect. End of problem. Or, I could fight this thing and survive on one condition, integrity; “Lavoie, stop whining to yourself, stop protecting that asshole and go on with your life.”
So that was my defining moment and from then on, once the wires were out and stuff, I did call up the Cornwall Police to say, “I want to make a statement.”
Who’s watching the Altar Boys?
When André decided to shake the shackles of silence and report Sabourin he drove to Cornwall to tell his parents. During the visit he talked with a neighbour and close friend of the family. It was during that conversation that André learned that Sabourin was at that very time attempting to take charge of the altar boys at St. Felix Church.
- I went to see Mr. Émard and I said, “Monsieur Émard, do you know if Sabourin is still involved in church activities or is he doing anything in the parish?” He says, “Yes, of course. He says he wants to be in charge of the altar boys.” I just went, “No, no.”
He said, “Yes, he wants to be in charge of the altar boys, leur formation, their training.” I went, “Holy shit, no,this can’t be.”
So what I did is I drove back to Ottawa and I hit the phone, called up l’Église St -Felix-de-Valois and I end up with Curé Desrosiers
So I make the call to Curé Desrosiers and I said, “I heard that Sabourin wants to be responsible for the training of the altar boys.” I said, “I’m going to be pressing charges, criminal charges, against him because he’s a pedophile.” I said, “You can’t let him around kids.” And his response was, and this is precious, “On a toujours gardé un oeil dessus.” “We’ve always kept an eye on him.”
At that point I didn’t have anything more to add to this conversation. I hung up the phone…
I have been told by other sources that Sabourin was involved with altar boy training.
Some time after André left Cornwall he heard that Sabourin had been reported for possession of child pornography. Mrs. Sabourin allegedly reported her husband to school authorities.
- My recollection — and I don’t recall who told me the story. My recollection is that his son found — his son by that time would have been, what,16, 17, 18?
So of a decent age to recognize something is not right. He found those photographs. They were turned over to his mother who I guess at that point figured enough is enough and as the story goes, she went to the school to report that he should be taken out of there.
The Police Investigation
André reported his sexual abuse to the Cornwall Police Service in 1996. After starting to confront his demons he sank into a depression
Two full years elapsed before charges were laid against Sabourin. During those years André felt there was little communication from police keeping him abreast of the investigation. He felt alone, isolated and very concerned the whole thing would fall through the cracks. He also became actively involved in attempting to track down other Sabourin victims.
- the depression started manifesting itself in small and insidious ways in the sense that I could not concentrate on very mundane tasks, to the point where I became completely paralyzed about tasks that I would do normally. So it was a form of mental paralysis that I was stuck in, a form of extended brain cramp, I would call it. That lasted for many years, anywhere from three to six years. Of course, I took myself out physically from any professional work as a director for a long period of time, still trying to do the odd project to keep my sanity in some point, but I really played a low profile because it would have been professional suicide. You cannot have an impaired director on set. That doesn’t work. So I took myself out of there and tried to survive the best I could. I had a very supporting wife and I plodded through those years as best I could. I am getting a little bit better now. I’m still on the medication, still under the observation of a psychologist, psychiatrist. It’s an ongoing process.
Left in the dark
- I didn’t get information in terms of the evolution of the investigation. Oftentimes after a certain moment of time with no information, I would panic and call Heidi in a very fragile state, an emotional state, and I would say, “Heidi, you can’t let this fall through the cracks” because I was assuming that nothing was being done since I wasn’t getting any information.
- I got very little information coming from the police service about the progress of the investigation. My immediate reaction sensing that, you know, things might be falling through the cracks was to try and locate other potential victims and within a matter of weeks I found about eight or nine, of which I think four might have decided to meet with Heidi Sebalj because I would tell the victims or potential victims, “If you know anyone or yourself have been abused, please contact Heidi Sebalj.”
Calls to Officer Heidi Sebalj
- I was in a total mess mentally and you can imagine in terms of my mental state my mind was in sort of a vice. So I would sit at my desk at home for weeks on end doing essentially nothing, just waiting for a phone call, information, give me something, and that was not forthcoming. So at some point I just couldn’t take it anymore and I called Heidi and said, “What’s happening? Do you have information? Are you moving forward with this?” I don’t know if she could not provide me with information, was there some reason, judicial reasons for not divulging any information. I don’t know what that language is all about, but in any case, I felt very much alone.
- I remember leaving a number of messages to Constable Sebalj. I often got her voicemail, but at least I would hope to leave sufficient information in my message that she could pursue her investigations.
- I mean, I was just not getting much information and at some point she was taken off this investigation. I heard that she was on sick leave or something like that and then another person stepped to the plate.
- I remember that day. I had complete psychic fit. I just went ballistic. I was crying. I drove up to my psychologist’s office. I don’t remember how I got there; I remember driving, but it was like driving through a tunnel. It was a reaction to the fact that whatever actions I had undertaken previously to get to this time and place, there was that moment. There it was. I was responsible for this moment, and you know, how do you want to — how did I react? I mean, I was totally devastated. And I should have been elated, but I was devastated.
Thoughts on the police response to his allegations
My God! What do I know about the justice system, the way those wheels work? I can only comment on the fact that in my own experience I was certainly hoping to get more information coming in from the investigation, at least get a sense that they took this seriously and they were turning — or leaving no stones unturned. And it would have been easy enough. I mean, I just felt that I was in a vacuum and, again, seeing the list of names of victims that I personally referred to Heidi, if they had done a proper investigation, I would think other names would have come up. As far as I can tell, those names never appeared.
Sabourin Court Appearances
André believes he attended all of Sabourin’s court appearances, a minimum of six – he is unsure of the number. But he recalls the remands, and the guilty plea which meant the world would never know the horror and magnitude of Sabourin’s crimes, and he remembers the sentencing hearing, and being denied a voice either as a witness or through reading his Victim Impact Statement. He spoke wryly of the guilty plea which would presumably spare him the trauma of testifying…
- I would say a minimum of six, I guess, but you walk in there and within five minutes it’s remanded for six months from now and lasts five minutes, that sort of thing.
- he pled guilty and in his great kindness, by pleading guilty, a victim did not have to testify. So the magnitude of his crime was never really expressed.
- I felt very much alone in all of this and when they started defending his good behaviour in order to lessen the time he’d spend in jail, I felt that was in bad taste at best. And then when the sentence came down two years less a day, well, it was vindication but, in my mind, this was far too lenient in terms of the sentence.
- He got two years less a day and I got a life sentence and I think it would be interesting to reexamine sentencing of pedophiles, especially when they have multiple victims, in this case, that I know of, upwards of 40, 50, 60 victims and counting.
Let the Victims Speak
- Spared the trauma. I mean, the trauma of the victims is visceral. They’re living with it every day. I mean, testifying in front of the stand would be far less traumatic than having to live with the shame for the rest of their lives.
These are opportunities where the full magnitude or maybe some sort of — put a human element to these sentences. Put individuals who have been damaged, faces, telling their own story of what happened to these sentencing hearings because when he was sentenced it was faceless. It was victims, four counts. You know, it’s totally antiseptic. I think we should really consider the human aspect to the sentencing of pedophiles and, for God’s sake, let the victims that choose to do so — let them speak.
- …I think [my Victim Impact Statement] draws a fairly, in a nutshell kind of picture of what I’ve been through and the way I saw the abuse. It’s just to provide the courts with further information. You know, it’s just to go in there a little deeper.
- The victims are — c’est quoi les mots que j’ai utlisés — they are irritants in the court system, you know. So include them into these types of proceedings. Let’s hear those voices and maybe then it will make a bit more sense and forget two years less a day. Give them five, ten years, twelve years. I don’t care; these are criminals, the worst type of criminals. Probation, that’s surreal. Where does that come from? What is it based on? I have no idea.
Victim Impact Statement
- It took me about four months to write this thing. It was the most horrible experience one can have because you’re entering into the darkest secrets that you have kept in isolation for all these years. And all of a sudden, you have to dive right in there and try to put words to situations that can only be considered as terrifying and trying to be as polite as I could in writing it also.
Excerpts from Victim Impact Statement
The following excerpts from André Lavoie’s Victim Impact Statement were read publicly and into the record by André during his testimony at the Cornwall Public Inquiry
- “How can I articulate the impact on me personally of events that transpired years ago? The horrors of those times were buried in the farthest reaches of my mind, yet they would haunt every moment, every day of my life.
“Ambitions were crushed. I had no right to fulfill my dreams. I was not worthy of love or success. I have been punishing myself for letting the abuse happen, blaming myself for letting the abuser into my life. How can I measure the impact of my relationship with others, my family, my friends, my wife?”
- “It is now Autumn ’98, 30 years since I was plunged into the world of lies, deceit and sexual decrepitude; 30 of shame, silence and anger; 30 years of loneliness, of living what can only be described as emotional solitary confinement. I survived by creating the conditions that would assist in protecting the damage inflicted upon me, conditions that I must do away with today. I created survival skills that can only be appreciated by someone who has spent too many years in solitary confinement. Finally released from the shackles of a mediocre psychological existence, I have been getting help from professionals and will require continuous therapy for as long as it takes to heal.”
- “I feel warm breathing on my crotch. Then one December evening, he demands, ‘Do you want me to put your penis in my mouth?’ And he repeats, ‘Do you want me to put your penis in my mouth?’ Until I finally replied ‘Yes’. I thought it was all a mistake, that it would end right there. My approval that first time still echoes in my mind, but I hear myself screaming with rage to this day. I can still picture my body on that small bed, naked and confused. At the age of 15, I lost my innocence. I lost any right to a normal life, lost the privilege of defining my own persona. I became an accomplice to a deranged individual. Until recently, I felt like a whore who had compromised his ambitions to satisfy the hunger of a vulture. I return to the abuse so not to lose the privilege of access to film making, access to my dreams and ambitions.
- In response to that first “yes” that I told him:”That one word set off a chain of events that would forever change my life or damage my life. On that snowy December evening, I lost my youth, my right to explore my own sexual life, gave up any chance to a normal future. I had just begun puberty. My body had just begun to change. The vulture fed on my first drop of semen. That first event would lead to repeated assaults.
“Throughout high school my life would be turned upside down by the premeditated control of someone who would make me swear allegiance and silence. I was threatened that breaking that silence would result in severe consequences for myself and the abuser. Thus began my personal hell.”
- “How can I survive this torment? I have no desire to be here speaking of the abuse. I did not choose this. My body, that body on the floor, I detach myself from any responsibility from that body. It is no longer mine. In the years to come, I will feel only contempt for my body. It is only a shell, and I am determined to neglect it for the indiscretions suffered at the hands of this perverted being. For all I care, my body is dead, caught in the need to experience some sort of sexual pleasure, which I will deny myself forever after. I can only hope to save my mind, my dreams, but even these are now bonded to the lessons taught by a mentor who has transcended his responsibility. My future will be scattered with the remains of shattered dreams, of self-inflicted acts of professional sabotage, of dashed hopes for success. He can have my body. I hope to save my mind.”
Paedophile back out on the streets
In no time Sabourin, a convicted and known paedophile, was back out on the streets and free to prey upon young boys.
- I got a phone call approximately 14 to 16 months after his incarceration telling me that he would be out in the general population and that he was to have no contact with myself or members of my family. And that is all I recall.
Institutional response of the Justice system
André Lavoie’s perception of the institutional response of the justice system to his sexual abuse allegations against Robert Sabourin
- Generally speaking, I was not kept informed of the process as it evolved until he pled guilty, so I really have very little to say about that process. I am pleased that there was a guilty verdict entered in the process. I am disappointed that part of that guilty plea also excluded victims from taking the stand, which I feel is quite regrettable to examine the full magnitude of the horror that was done to those victims.
- I feel that victims’ voices should have an opportunity to be heard even if somebody does plead guilty.
- The process was long, laborious. He got two years less a day, which again I feel is too little. I say that time should fit the crime. In this case, the time certainly did not fit the crime. That is my humble opinion and that’s my response for now.
The Perry Question
I realize this sticks out like a sore thumb – as it did while André was on the stand at the Weave Shed! – but questions regarding contact with Perry Dunlop or those affiliated with Perry Dunlop have become an integral component of every witnesses’ examination in chief.
MR. RUEL: Did you ever contact or were contacted by an individual called Perry Dunlop?
MR. LAVOIE: No, I just know of him through the media.
MR. RUEL: Have you ever met him?
MR. LAVOIE: No. I’m not sure why I’m being asked that question.
THE COMMISSIONER: C’est la vie.
MR. RUEL: Did you ever speak or hear from any — Mr. Dunlop’s wife, for example? I think it’s Mrs. Helen Dunlop?
MR. LAVOIE: Neither.
MR. RUEL: Did you ever speak to that person?
MR. LAVOIE: I have never had any contact whatsoever with the Dunlop family.
Recommendations for the inquiry
All victims testifying are asked for their recommendations for improvement. This is André’s response…
- Where do I start?
I should set a preamble here in the sense that in society, victims of sexual abuse are often perceived as irritants, and I say this in the case that all our fine institutions do their very best to create an atmosphere of trust and integrity within communities and they do that to different levels of success. However, when confronted with a situation that this Commission is looking into, that is of a magnitude that is absolutely mind blowing, I question the responses of these institutions to prevent acts of this magnitude from repeating themselves in the future.
I take it that institutions like to paint a veneer of respectability and integrity and I respect that.
However, as victims continue to appear before you, I truly suspect that that veneer will start to become a little less shiny and will probably reveal some faults, which in themselves should be the lessons learned from this Inquiry should there be lessons learned.
About the victims, we are the walking dead. We are geese whose wings have been broken. We are the geese whose dreams have been broken. Each one of us responds to the abuse in slightly different ways, but the end result is that we are damaged for life.
I often find the victims perceived as irritants in the sense that they are compared to the league of respectable gentlemen who commit these horrible acts seem to have a different standing in terms of the eyes of our society. I think sexual abuse of children is considered to this day as a minor transgression committed by individuals in positions of responsibility. I would like to find out that each of the individuals who commit sexual acts against children are working on a plan that they have fabricated from that very early time in their own youth. They know exactly where they want to go. They know exactly how to formulate a plan where they will have access, unfettered access to the most vulnerable part of our society and that is the children. They are expert manipulators at gaining the trust of not only the children but the community and the parents and, by extension, they open up a wide net of potential victims from which they can pick and choose at will. There is nothing there to prevent them from satisfying their hunger for young flesh or whatever.
Now, how do we identify these individuals?
I myself, it took me 30 years to break the silence. For those 30 years, I was protecting him. So I have a price to pay and someday I will find a solution to that, I hope.
But it took an effort and here I am today.
So when someone is sentenced to two years less a day, to me, comes as an insult. A brush against a shoulder and somebody saying “sorry” is one thing, but by meticulously, time after time, plotting access to victims and doing it in a way that is completely regardless of any moral thought, these individuals are not moral individuals.
They are one thing and that is the worst type of predators that walk this planet.
Speaking finally for myself, I would compare my abuse to being hit on but with a baseball bat twice a week for approximately a period of five years.
My scars might not be evident, but I do feel the scars of each and every one of those times when I was sexually aggressed and, believe me, they are still there.
And they will never heal.
If we want to talk about healing, I think it’s a word that’s used maybe a little bit in a flippant manner in that I will never heal. I will try and go on with my life as best I can. I’m very fortunate to have a very supporting wife and a few friends, but what was done to me at a young age cannot be — on ne peut pardonner les actes de gens immoraux qui font sur les jeunes enfants. On ne peut jamais pardonner ces choses-là puis on devrait constamment être sur haute vigilance et, ça, selon toutes les institutions présentes ici aujourd’hui, et j’en passe. Et mon dernier commentaire c’est qu’on a une commission d’enquête à Cornwall et having this Inquiry for me is extremely important since it’s the first time in all these years that I have been given a voice. This is not about Cornwall. Let us not forget it happens to be held in Cornwall, but this phenomenon that you are looking into is a universal one and anybody that thinks that it’s only Cornwall is certainly not well informed.
So I would hope that this Commission at the end of it, with its reports, can light the light that will signify to other communities, please, look into your own backyards because it is there.
Investigating officer will testify “if she wishes”
One would assume that a public inquiry would be intent on pursuing clarity and truth and in so doing would demand that pertinent witnesses take the stand to testify. Not so.
Heidi Sebalj, the Cornwall police investigating officer in this case (and others), will apparently take the stand to testify only “if she wishes.” If Sebalj declines to testify we may never know precisely why it took two years to charge Sabourin.
Commission Counsel Simon Ruel during André Lavoie’s examination in chief
MR. RUEL: So between January ’97 and August ’97, from what I can see here, and obviously Mrs. Sebalj will be able to provide testimony if she wishes, there doesn’t seem to have been much activity on the file.