Archdiocese names ombudsman to deal with abuse complaints

Radio Canada International [Montreal, Canada]

May 6, 2021

By Lynn Desjardins

The Roman Catholice Archdiocese of Montreal has established an ombudsman and a revamped process to handle complaints about abuse or inappropriate behaviour. The move comes after an investigation into how church officials dealt with the case of a priest convicted of sexually assaulting two minors. In 2019, former priest Brian Boucher was convicted and sentenced to eight years in prison.

The church hired Justice Pepita Capriolo to look into the matter and she concluded that the church was bent on protecting the Boucher’s reputation rather than dealing with the issue of sexual abuse. Among her recommendations, she said the archdiocese should hire an ombudsman.

External firm would investigate

Lawyer Marie Christine Kirouack was chosen by the church and is said to have extensive expertise in crisis intervention. She is mandated to handle complaints regarding all forms of abuse “be it sexual, physical, psychological, spiritual or financial, committed by any priest, staff member or volunteer working within the Archdiocese of Montreal.” The complaint may come from a victim of any age. While Kirouack will not inform police, where the victim is a minor, she will inform government youth protection officials. Her activities will be made public.

Abuse complaints will be referred to a new advisory committee made up of one survivor and four lay professionals said “to contribute relevant expertise and reflect Montreal’s cultural diversity.” If the committee recommends an investigation, an external company will handle it.

Awareness and training for staff

The archdiocese also announce and awareness and training program for all members of the clergy, staff and volunteers in the Catholic Church of Montreal. The stated goal is “to sensitize them about the impact of abuse on victims and the importance of remaining vigilant, so that any unacceptable or worrisome behaviour or situations are reported without delay to the Ombudsman.”

Sexual abuse by members of the Catholic clergy is such a broad problem that survivors in Canada and other parts of the world have created lists of those who have been accused of it. The public broadcaster CBC reports that “in some cases, the allegations were never tested in court. In other cases, victims signed non-disclosure agreements, preventing the details from being made public.”