Ontario Premier to Apologize for Decades of Catholic Training School Abuse

By James McCarten
Cnews [Canada]
February 2, 2004

TORONTO (CP) - Victims of physical and sexual abuse at two long-defunct Catholic training schools have been promised what they've been waiting years to hear: an apology from the premier of Ontario.

Dalton McGuinty will deliver a formal apology to the victims of a tragic legacy of abuse that spanned four decades at the St. Joseph's and St. John's training schools for boys, the premier's office announced Monday. "It's important to the victims that they hear an apology directly from the premier in the legislature - and that's what they will get," McGuinty said in a statement.

"Victims will finally get the apology they've been seeking for so many years."

A 1992 settlement agreement called on the premier of Ontario to apologize, but instead it was Charles Harnick, attorney general at the time, who stood up in the legislature to apologize in 1996.

That prompted David McCann, an unofficial spokesman for the victims who attended St. Joseph's in the 1950s and who helped negotiate the deal, to file suit against Harnick's boss, former premier Mike Harris.

That suit, with McGuinty's name in place of Harris, was scheduled to go to trial this week, said I.H. Fraser, McCann's lawyer.

"It's been a long time coming," McCann said in an interview Monday from Vancouver.

"I'm delighted, but not surprised that he's done it. He was open to the idea and it's much appreciated."

No specific date has yet been set for McGuinty's apology, but it will take place after the legislature resumes sitting March 22, the premier's office said.

McCann said it was former Ontario premier Bob Rae, who held power in 1992 when the settlement was reached, who insisted during negotiations that it be the premier who delivered the apology.

"Bob Rae personally intervened and said, 'No, the premier of the province will - not may, will - (apologize), and he understood," McCann said, fighting back tears.

"He understood the importance of it, and I think Dalton McGuinty does as well."

McCann, meanwhile, was at the centre of a class-action lawsuit launched in 2002 in a bid to recover more than $1.7 million still owed to some victims of abuse at St. Joseph's.

A $1.1-million settlement was approved Friday, Fraser said, and $780,000 of that is currently being distributed among the known victims. Roughly 30 others who are eligible for compensation are still being tracked down, he added.

Revelations about systemic physical brutality and sexual abuse spanning several decades at other secular training schools once run by the Ontario government also surfaced last year.


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