Church panel didn’t share tales of sex abuse

Outside agencies weren’t told about historical allegations

Ottawa Citizen

Monday, July 14, 2008

Neco Cockburn

CORNWALL – A church committee set up in the mid-80s to look into allegations of historical sexual abuse by a priest did not recommend that outside agencies be notified about the complaints, a public inquiry heard yesterday.

Jacques Leduc, a Cornwall lawyer who acted for the Alexandria-Cornwall Catholic diocese “from time-to-time” between 1978 and 1994, was on an ad hoc three-member committee that, in May 1986, made six recommendations in a case involving Rev. Gilles Deslauriers.

The recommendations included suspending the priest and barring him from public ministry, the inquiry into the institutional response to allegations of systemic historical sexual abuse heard yesterday.

But there was no suggestion that other agencies, such as the police, should be told about information received by the committee. Commission counsel Karen Jones asked Mr. Leduc whether that stemmed from the allegations being historical in nature, with the alleged victims being adults when the complaints were received.

“I am fairly certain that is the reason why,” Mr. Leduc, 57, said.

Police did receive a complaint, however, and in July 1986, Father Deslauriers was charged with several counts of indecent assault and gross indecency. Four months later, he was sentenced to two years probation after pleading guilty to four charges of gross indecency involving youths between 1979 and 1981.

Mr. Leduc’s testimony at the inquiry, which is hearing testimony from people associated with the church, is expected to continue until at least tomorrow and touch on some of the key events that have formed the basis for the public probe.

Mr. Leduc acted as a lawyer for the diocese to negotiate a $32,000 settlement with David Silmser in 1993 to have him withdraw a criminal complaint. Yesterday, the inquiry heard that in 1986, Mr. Leduc interviewed priests, community members, alleged victims and their families in connection with allegations against Father Deslauriers.

Mr. Leduc had feared that the committee’s recommendations would not be followed, but he did not follow up with his client when the report was completed, he said.

Two days before the committee delivered its report, Cornwall police received a complaint and launched an investigation that eventually led to charges against Father Deslauriers.

Mr. Leduc was not questioned by police during their investigation despite his participation in the committee, the inquiry heard. Mr. Leduc himself eventually appeared on police radar as a result of allegations that a group of pedophiles had been operating around Cornwall for years, with high-ranking members of the community trying to cover it up.

In June 1998, Mr. Leduc was charged with sex-related offences that emerged from the OPP-led Project Truth probe. Charges were stayed twice: in 2001, after a judge ruled the Crown had withheld information; and in October 2004, when a judge ruled the case had taken too long to get to trial.