Cornwall Standard Freeholder
Friday, June 22, 2007 – 08:00
Local News – Officials with the Ministry of the Attorney General Thursday jumped to the defence of a Crown attorney in the wake of allegations he socialized with alleged child abusers.
Gerald Renshaw testified at the Cornwall Public Inquiry Wednesday he saw local Crown attorney Murray MacDonald at a home in Summerstown owned by Ken Seguin, a city probation officer, and at a cottage on Stanley Island owned by former Crown attorney Malcolm MacDonald in the 1980s.
“This allegation was thoroughly investigated by the Ontario Provincial Police on a number of occasions and was found to be baseless,” said Brendan Crawley, media spokesperson for the ministry.
“The allegation will be vigorously denied by Mr. (Murray) MacDonald when he testifies at the inquiry,” he said.
Seguin, who has been the subject of allegations of sexual abuse at the inquiry, committed suicide in 1994 before any criminal charges were laid against him. Malcolm MacDonald was charged with three sex-related offences in early 1999, but died in Florida in December of that same year before the charges went before the courts.
During testimony Wednesday, Renshaw described Murray MacDonald as having been in his 40s in the 1980s.
At that time, Murray MacDonald would have been in his 20s and he did not become the Crown for the region until 1992.
“The ministry maintains that he has consistently demonstrated the highest standards of professionalism and integrity in that position,” said Crawley.
Murray MacDonald wasn’t the only prominent member of the community whose name was bandied about by Renshaw during his testimony.
A number of police officers, priests and other professionals were also identified by Renshaw as having been at either Seguin’s house or Malcolm MacDonald’s cottage in the 1980s.
During cross-examination of Renshaw, a lawyer for the Alexandria-Cornwall Roman Catholic Diocese told Comm. Normand Glaude he wanted to fully examine any dealings Renshaw with other witnesses prior to the start of the inquiry as well as address things such as criminal records and documented substance abuse.
“I want to know what was going on and what his involvement was,” said David Sherriff-Scott, “because … his story will not up about a lot of things, including my clients.”
Sherriff-Scott said while it’s not his intention to dispute any of the allegations of sexual abuse leveled at Seguin by Renshaw, he does believe it’s his duty to suggest the other claims made by the witness are false.
“He’s made all these statements about all these people, including a number of people connected with my client and other institutions,” said Sherriff-Scott.
“(They) are assertions of essentially impropriety, of a behaviour, of a group, of a clan . . . all through the attachment of these people to a variety of locations and activities.
“We should be entitled to explore the credibility of these assertions very, very significantly.”
Dallas Lee, a lawyer who represents The Victims Group of which Renshaw is a member, said Thursday any individuals who are alleged to have any connection to any of the matters being put forth at the inquiry retain the right to defend themselves in person before the commission. He also took issue with the ministry’s decision to refute the allegations in the media.
“The purpose of this commission is to gather information relevant to its mandate from any and all sources,” Lee said.
“All accused persons, persons of interest, community members and community leaders have been repeatedly and publicly invited to come forward as witnesses at the inquiry to help the commission understand how allegations, rumours and innuendo have affected individuals and the community, as well as to help us understand how the relevant institutions have treated them.
“The witness box is the proper forum to reply to a witness’ evidence at the inquiry, not the newspaper.”
Glaude once again put his take on the issue on the record Wednesday, suggesting he isn’t about to start placing gag orders on witnesses who come forward to testify before him.
“It has been my practice, and it will continue to be my practice, to permit as much as possible the full exploration of a person’s testimony and of the cross-examination,” said Glaude.
“What we have to do here is take the evidence that we have: people that have been affected by this inquiry and have something to say.” The inquiry resumes Monday.