McGuinty to Apologize to Victims of Sex Abuse

By Darcy Henton
London Free Press [Canada]
June 2, 2004

David McCann travelled 4,492 kilometres to Queen's Park this week but it took him 14 years to get there. When he hears Premier Dalton McGuinty apologize for the abuse he endured as a

child at a provincial reform school, it will mark the end of a long and painful journey.

McCann will not be alone.

Since he came forward in 1990 to accuse the Ontario Christian Brothers of abuse, about 1,600 victims followed in what became one of the largest sexual abuse investigations in Canadian history.

Many of them were expected to cram into a visitors gallery at the legislature today to hear the apology they expected to hear in 1996 as part of a $16-million deal they negotiated with the province, Catholic archdioceses and the Christian Brothers.

For McCann, who was branded a liar and forced to go into hiding for his own protection at one point, it's a very important day.

"I can walk away from this and say everything I promised, I delivered," he said yesterday.

"This is closure for me."

Bringing forward the allegations of abuse, he said, was never about money and always about trying to protect children.

"We knew we couldn't change the past, but we hoped and prayed we made the world a safer place for children, and I think we have."

After McCann spoke out in 1990, police were flooded with hundreds of calls from victims of abuse at St. Joseph's in Alfred, Ont., east of Ottawa, and St. John's in Uxbridge, north of Toronto.

Between 1992 and 1993, the Ontario Provincial Police laid nearly 200 charges against 29 former employees of the two church-run, government-funded institutions.

Sixteen persons were eventually convicted, and 12 were sentenced to prison terms as long as six years.

McCann owns an art store on Vancouver's trendy Granville Island. When he negotiated the 1992 deal, he insisted on the apology and threatened to walk away from the deal if he didn't get it.

The NDP's Bob Rae was the premier at the time but by the time it came to apologizing, Mike Harris's Tories had taken over.

Harris, who was absent from the legislature the day the apology was to be given, relegated the duty to attorney general Charles Harnick.

McCann sued Harris for violating the agreement and spent $70,000 suing each successive premier until McGuinty agreed in February to apologize and pay the legal fees.

"Premier McGuinty is going to do the right thing," an aide from his office said yesterday.

Senator Doug Roche, who chaired the negotiation process, applauded McCann for not giving up on his quest. He also congratulated McGuinty for accepting responsibility when his predecessors did not.

"Financial compensation is important and counselling is important, but the apology in a genuine spirit of reconciliation is absolutely essential," Roche said.

"Without it, there can be no full recovery from the trauma experienced by the victim."


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