Cornwall Sexual Abuse Inquiry Begins

CBC News [Canada]
February 13, 2006

A judge opened an inquiry into an alleged pedophile ring in Cornwall on Monday, saying he expected it to allow healing in the eastern Ontario city.

Justice Normand Glaude said the inquiry would be "a lengthy and sometimes difficult process."

The commission is investigating how the justice system responded to allegations that high-profile members of the community sexually abused children over 50 years.

Some people have accused the police and other authorities of covering up the alleged sex-abuse ring because it involved people in positions of power.

Others have questioned the allegations, describing them as a form of mass hysteria or witch hunt that damaged the community and wrecked the reputations of innocent people.

Initial investigations by local and provincial police found no wrongdoing, sparking the first allegations of a coverup.

In 1997, a provincial police investigation called Project Truth resulted in 114 charges against 15 men, including a doctor, lawyers and three Roman Catholic priests.

But only one person, unconnected to the alleged sex ring, was ever convicted of sexual offences.

Some of those who said they were abused claimed that since the perpetrators were in positions of power in the community of about 50,000, those responsible were able to manipulate the system so that they were never arrested.

In 1992, a former altar boy came forward, saying he had been sexually abused by two Catholic priests in the late 1960s.

The Alexandria-Cornwall Roman Catholic Diocese agreed to pay him $32,000 in exchange for a promise of silence. The man then refused to co-operate with police and the investigation was dropped.

A lawyer for one of the priests was later charged and found guilty of obstruction of justice over his role in the deal.

The inquiry, which is expected to last until November, is to examine how the police, the courts and the Children's Aid Society, and how the Catholic Church handled the sexual abuse allegations.

It will not draw any conclusions about criminal liability.

Several civil lawsuits have been launched in the case.


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