Ritual/sexual abuse case in Cornwall, ON, Canada
The Commission of Inquiry
Commission of inquiry is opened:
In 2005-APR, a delegation, including members of Citizens for Community
Renewal (CCR) and a number of MPPs including Garry Guzzo, went to
Toronto to persuade Attorney General Michael Bryant to create a public
inquiry. Bryant agreed and took almost immediate action. On 2005-APR-11, the
provincial government introduced Bill 185:
"An Act to establish a commission to inquire into the investigations
by police forces of complaints of sexual abuse against minors in
the Cornwall area." 1
The commission of inquiry was created under Ontario's Public Inquiries
Act. It was mandated
"to inquire into and report on the events
surrounding allegations of abuse of young people in Cornwall by examining
the response of the justice system and other public institutions to the
The inquiry began in Cornwall on 2005-FEB-12,
under the stewardship of Mr. Justice Norman Glaude, a senior judge from the
Sudbury area. 3 The
commission studied allegations of decades of sexual abuse of young people
by adults in positions of authority in the community, and that why major
institutions in the community -- the Roman Catholic Church, two police
forces, and other organizations, did not respond adequately to the cries for
help by the alleged victims. It was originally expected to hear testimony from
hundreds of lawyers, police and probation officials, youth workers,
therapists and concerned citizens until the end of 2006-NOV.
|Mayor Phil Poirier referred to the inquiry as:|
"...a double-edged sword...On the one hand, it is important to
bring closure to everybody involved -- the victims, the people who
were accused, the police, the Children's Aid, the church --
everybody. But there have been a lot of innuendos and a lot of
people have suffered. This has been like an albatross around
Cornwall's neck. We didn't invent sexual abuse in Cornwall. We hope
people will realize that. I hope this inquiry will bring justice.
But I know it will also victimize the community all over again.
Nobody likes to wash their dirty laundry in public. I guess that's
the price of justice." 2
|Lawyer Paul Ledroit represents dozens of plaintiffs. He commented:
"There's a good judge and a good counsel, and they're hopefully going to
get to the bottom of this."
|Reporter Timothy Appleby, reporter for the Globe and Mail newspaper wrote:
"The inquiry's primary focus will be on the array of institutions
involved, and how they responded to claims that community leaders in their midst
were guilty of sexual abuse against children."
|Paul Scott, is president of Citizens
for Community Renewal, a 200-member group who were very influential
in convincing the Attorney General of Ontario to call the inquiry. He
describes it as "a Godsend." According to the Ottawa Citizen:|
"He says getting it called was an
uphill battle that got little support from a 'very cozy Cornwall
establishment,' which still gives it only 'muted approval.' He says,
for example, that the first attempt to get city council's support
failed in 2000 and it was only when a 'big crowd' showed up in 2002
that a supportive motion was passed.
|An editorial in the Ottawa Citizen newspaper
"Judge Glaude will have to balance the
privacy rights of the accused and accusers with the public interest. And
he will have to pass judgment on public institutions, from the police to
the Roman Catholic Church. Critics will scrutinize his conduct."
"The inquiry itself will not bring justice. But it could help Canadian
communities deal with allegations of abuse quickly and thoroughly.
It cold bring attention to gaps in social service, in particular
for abused men. It could cause religious institutions to examine their
policies and rededicate themselves to protecting children above all
else. Most important, it cold bring peace of mind to Cornwall's
A move to silence alleged victims:
On 2006-FEB-23, attorney Guiseppe Cipriano submitted a motion to the
commission on behalf his clients, Rev. Charles MacDonald and the Estate of
Kenneth Seguin. He said:
"It is our opinion alleged victims should not testify, and if they do
they should not name who these people accused of wrongdoings are.....What
we’re trying to do is protect the interests of our clients in that
accusations are not made against them."
Terri Saunders, writing for the Standard-Freeholder newspaper in
"Cipriano’s motion is grounded in the opinion the commission will have to
lend merit to any allegations it hears through the course of the Inquiry,
something he says will damage his clients."
Peter Engelmann, lead counsel for the Inquiry, disagreed with the motion. He
"We believe we need to call some evidence from alleged victims in order
to determine response to those allegations. ...This Inquiry is not about
determining whether allegations actually happened because this is not a
criminal trial or civil trial. We’re looking at institutional response and
we feel it’s important, in examining response, to know what they (the
institutions) were responding to.""
Some of the alleged victims left the hearing room in tears. One alleged
victim, Steve Parisien, assumed that the motion would be granted. He said:
"It will be over. I will stand out in front with a sign, simple as that,
and we’ll go back to where we were before."
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- "Votes and Proceedings: Legislative Assembly of Ontario #126,"
- Bob Rupert, "A time to 'clear the air'," Ottawa Citizen,
- Timothy Appleby, "Seeking the truth of Project Truth. Inquiry
starts today into the investigation of an alleged sex ring in Cornwall, Ont.,"
The Globe and Mail (Toronto), 2006-FEB-13.
- "A worthwhile investigation," Editorial, Ottawa Citizen, 2006-FEB-16.
Reprinted in the Toronto Star, 2005-FEB-17, Page A22.
- Terri Saunders, "Lawyer seeks to muzzle abuse victims at inquiry. 'It
will be all over,’ says sexual abuse survivor," Standard Freeholder
(Cornwall), 2006-FEB-24, Front page.
Copyright © 2006 and 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2006-FEB-14
Latest update: 2007-JUL-09
Author: B.A. Robinson