CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) [Toronto, Canada]
July 23, 2021
By Yasmine Ghania
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon has released a report on historical cases involving serious misconduct and sexual abuse reported in the diocese. It says it only outlined complaints that were fully investigated internally or in the courts.
The diocese said it found nine cases over 60 years. None of the cases are related to residential schools, as there were no schools located within the diocese.
Seven priests are alleged to have committed serious misconduct or sexual abuse, along with two employees or volunteers of the diocese.
There are 10 victims total, including a boy younger than 13 years old, five teenage boys, three adult women and one adult man.
‘Culture of silence in the Diocese of Saskatoon:’ lawyer
Robert Talach is an Ontario-based lawyer and victim’s advocate who has sued the Catholic Church for sexual misconduct more than 400 times.
He said he believes the numbers in the report are heavily underestimated and criticized the diocese for only looking at fully investigated complaints.
“It’s a joke. I mean, the only thing that [the report] really proves or concludes is that there’s a heavy culture of silence in the Diocese of Saskatoon,” Talach said.
Diocese only released 3 of 9 names
The diocese only released names of three of the nine of the people alleged in the cases, and those names were already public knowledge through courts and media reports.
In 2013, Father William Hodgson Marshall pleaded guilty to the indecent assault of two Saskatoon boys. He was already serving time for abusing 17 other minors in Ontario.
Father Ephraim Mensah’s case of serious misconduct not involving young people was made public last year.
The last named person is volunteer Harold Jones, who was sentenced in 2008 to eight years in prison for sexual abuse.
The diocese claims not all the names were released out of respect for the victim’s wishes and because it didn’t have enough evidence to release them.
Talach said the diocese could have done more to release the names of all the accused.
He said victims usually want their perpetrators’ names out in the world and that the diocese could have found ways to name the accused while protecting victims’ identities.
“If there’s one thing I know about victims and survivors is they want to help other victims and survivors. But they (the diocese) take any excuse and any reason not to name the priest,” he said.
“They want to keep these numbers low. They don’t want to face the scandal of the truth. They don’t want to face the cost of litigation that comes from it. They don’t want to face criminal prosecution.”
‘Justice is still waiting’
Talach said he believes the report will discourage other victims abused by members of the Catholic Church from coming forward.
He said people should know there’s no time limit in Canada to report an allegation of sexual assault or other misconduct.
“If you’re still ticking, justice is still waiting,” he said. “You can go to the police at any stage. You can practically engage litigation at any stage. And you can start to heal at any point.”
The diocese has declined to further comment on its report, but has announced updates to its “Safer Church, Stronger CommunitiesSafeguarding” action plan.
It said updates include a commitment to give an immediate response to allegations within 48 hours and that it will share trauma support resources online.