Sex-Abuse Inquiry Can't Heal Wounds
But a Survivor Does Hope the Long-Awaited Public Inquiry, Starting This Week, Will Shed Light on Victims' Pain, Jorge Barrera Reports
By Jorge Barrera Jorge.Barrera@ott.sunpub.com
Ottawa Sun [Canada]
February 12, 2006
ALAIN Seguin says he was groped while sitting in a pew watching the 1974 installation of Gatineau-Hull Bishop Adolphe Proulx.
The touches were merely brushes, a hand pausing momentarily. It was later, in a Lord Elgin Hotel room, where Seguin said he was molested by a Cornwall high school photography teacher who claimed to be good friends with Proulx, a former Cornwall-Alexandria bishop.
Proulx is dead. The teacher lives in Montreal. The Cathedrale St-Redempteur de Hull, where the ceremony was held, is now a retirement home. And Seguin still lives with a gash in his soul in Cornwall.
Seguin, 45, doesn't believe a public inquiry, beginning tomorrow, into an alleged Cornwall pedophile ring will be a balm to any of his wounds. But he hopes the public will understand what he, and many others, lived through in the small city.
"It will open up the eyes of the public," said Seguin, who wore a gag at a protest in October 2002 to symbolize the gag orders he said are imposed of abuse victims who settle civil suits against the Catholic Church.
Death threats, suicides, pedophile priests and crooked cops have all made an appearance in this sordid, decades-old story about high-profile local officials, professionals and clergy preying on children for sexual thrills.
Victims and local citizens, aided by former Tory MPP Garry Guzzo, clamoured for a public inquiry after several police investigations and court cases. The province called the inquiry in April 2005 and appointed Ontario Court Justice G. Normand Glaude to examine how Cornwall's pillar institutions -- police, courts and the Catholic Church -- handled the allegations.
The Cornwall police, Ottawa police and the OPP took on the case successively, but each claimed there was nothing to find. Public outcry forced the OPP to take another look. It launched Project Truth in 1997, which led to 114 charges against 15 men, including doctors, lawyers and priests, in 2000. The effort resulted in one conviction.
Peter Engelmann, lead lawyer for the Cornwall inquiry, said the multimillion-dollar inquiry will try to answer the obvious questions that overshadow the hours of police and court work spent on the matter.
"Those concerns are ... essentially they are that a number of institutions didn't do their jobs," said Engelmann, a veteran human rights lawyer. "There are allegations of a cover-up that are still out there."
While the first witness will be called before Glaude tomorrow, the inquiry's three investigators and five lawyers have been interviewing potential witnesses and gathering documents since the fall.
Cornwall Mayor Phil Poirier hopes the inquiry will cut loose the "albatross" around the neck of his beleaguered city.
Cornwall is facing the March closure of a major Domtar mill that will erase 1,000 high-paying jobs and $80 million in payroll from the local economy. The city of 45,000 has lost 2,500 manufacturing jobs in a year.
"I would like the inquiry to bring closure to all of this," Poirier said. "It has been an albatross over our community."
Cornwall Deputy Police Chief Danny Aikman, a 25-year veteran of the force, said the inquiry will give the police a chance to tell its side of the story and describe improvements to victim services.
"For the majority of the service, who weren't directly involved," said Aikman, "we had nothing to be embarrassed of."
Nothing to be embarrassed of, except when it comes to former Cornwall officer Perry Dunlop, who accused the force of corruption.
"I would rather not comment on Perry Dunlop," said Aikman.
Dunlop now lives in Duncan, B.C., where he runs a renovation business. His wife, Helen, said the family wanted to wait and see how the inquiry unfolded before commenting. "If you have done your homework on the last 13 years, you will see why," said Helen, a nurse.
Steve Parisien, 47, who says he was abused, doesn't have much faith the inquiry will reveal the truth. The work is too big, the timelines stretch to the 1950s and inquiry work only began late last year.
"I don't think we will get the answers," said the Cornwall resident.
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