Leader of Project Truth Takes the Stand Starting Monday

By Trevor Pritchard
November 8, 2008

The Cornwall Public Inquiry is set to begin hearing the inside scoop on the Ontario Provincial Police's four-year probe into allegations a pedophile ring existed in the city.

Retired Det. Insp. Tim Smith, who led the OPP's Project Truth team, is one of two witnesses scheduled to take the stand when hearings resume Monday.

Smith is the first Project Truth investigator to testify at the inquiry, which is exploring how institutions like the OPP handled allegations of historical sexual abuse.

Between 1997 and 2001, the investigation laid more than 100 sexual abuse charges against 15 men.

However, only one of those 15, Newington bus driver Jean-Luc Leblanc, was convicted on charges stemming from Project Truth.

A second man, Rev. Paul Lapierre, was convicted in Quebec in 2001 after being acquitted in Ontario. Some of the other alleged perpetrators died before their trials - some of natural causes and others by committing suicide - while others were found to be too ill to testify.

In addition to leading the Project Truth team, Smith also headed up the OPP's investigation into allegations that a now-retired Catholic priest, Rev. Charles MacDonald, had sexually abused former altar boy David Silmser in the 1960s and 1970s.

After Cornwall police decided in 1993 not to lay charges, the OPP reopened the investigation. They charged MacDonald with sexually abusing a number of young boys in 1996, but those charges were stayed six years later after a judge ruled the priest's right to a timely trial had been violated.

Hearing dates have been scheduled over the next six weeks - a brisk tempo that was unheard of before mid-October, when the province announced the final piece of evidence must be heard no later then Jan. 30, 2009.

Previously, the inquiry tended to sit for two or three weeks at a time, followed by a one-week break.

More than 140 witnesses have testified since hearings began in February 2006.


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