Inquiry's First Task
Understand the Terrible Pain of Child Sex Abuse: Expert Testimony to Open Cornwall Probe into Decades of Alleged Sexual Abuse
By Bob Rupert
Ottawa Citizen [Canada]
February 13, 2006
The first objective of an inquiry that opened today into alleged decades of sexual abuse of young people in Cornwall will be a "broader understanding of the historical, legal and social perspective" of child abuse.
During the first two weeks of the inquiry, scheduled for 100 days between now and November and held in a room in a former cotton mill in the city's once-thriving industrial district, Commissioner Justice Normand Glaude, his staff and the 14 parties with standing at the inquiry will hear from expert witnesses on sexual abuse, incidents in the past and how legal and social institutions responded to them.
The inquiry will first hear testimony from David Wolfe, a university of Toronto professor of psychiatry and psychology who is an authority on physical, sexual and domestic abuse. Mr. Wolfe's special interest is the impact of childhood sexual abuse on its victims.
Among other professional roles, he is chairman of a United Nations international committee on child abuse in peacetime. He also maintains a clinical practice in Toronto for children and adults exposed to traumatic events in childhood.
Nicolas Bala, a Queen's University law professor and the next witness, will outline the evolution of legislation, law and legal processes involving children victimized by sexual abusers. He has appeared before 18 parliamentary committees, advised provincial and territorial governments and provided insight to the 2000 Robbins Report on child sexual abuse in schools.
Also scheduled to testify in week one are Nico Trocme, who occupies a social work chair at McGill University and is an expert on reporting of child sexual abuse, and John Liston, a child protection authority who will inform the inquiry about child welfare response to allegations of child sexual abuse.
In the second week, also set aside for "context setting," the inquiry will hear expert information about the past training and performance of police investigating these cases.
After that, says lead counsel Peter Engelmann, the inquiry will move on to "factual evidence." It will deal with specifics of the Cornwall affair -- with testimony from alleged victims.
The "factual evidence" portion is the high-stakes area for parties alleged to have been directly involved in the alleged sexual abuse as perpetrators and/or responders, victims or investigators.
The inquiry will look at allegations of decades of sexual abuse of young people in Cornwall by adults in positions of power and trust.
It will also look into allegations that powerful institutions within the community, including the Roman Catholic Church, two police forces and other organizations and institutions, failed to respond adequately -- sometimes not at all -- to the victims' cries for help.
Initial investigations of child sex abuse resulted in no charges, and sparked allegations of a coverup by the city's powerful institutions.
Then after years of rumour and allegations, the Ontario Provincial Police opened an investigation in 1997 -- Project Truth -- that resulted in 114 charges against 15 men, including doctors, lawyers and Catholic priests.
Only one person was ever convicted and the final case was dismissed in October 2004 after a judge ruled it had taken too long to come to trial, leaving the city further frustrated at the inability to get to the bottom of the allegations.
Several civil lawsuits have been filed.
Judge Glaude said his "guiding principle" in granting standing to all 14 applicants for standing at the inquiry was "to include as many people as possible."
But he added that because parties who can prove they have a genuine interest in the inquiry, but can't afford legal counsel, are entitled to provincial funding, he also had to be mindful that "the public purse is being depleted."
He said the inquiry would follow the principles of transparency and openness, but added that some of the inquiry might be held in camera, because of its sensitive nature and the witnesses' discomfort with testifying in front of an audience.
The commissioner said witnesses with a "compelling reason" could ask him to "take measures to protect their identity."
The institutional party with perhaps the greatest stake in the inquiry is the Diocese of Alexandria-Cornwall and Bishop Eugene LaRocque. In an application for standing and funding, the diocese's lawyer, David Scott, who has played different counsel roles in many judicial inquiries, describes now-retired Bishop LaRocque as a cleric who demonstrated "dedication and exceptional ability" in a distinguished career.
It says Bishop LaRocque, who now lives in Windsor, was a leading member of the Cornwall community, who worked to eradicate abuse and strengthen families.
The application requests funding for the diocese and for Bishop LaRocque, saying the diocese, which is a registered charity, does not have sufficient funds to do so. It says Bishop LaRoque's net taxable income for 2004 was $27,638.14.
Judge Glaude had suggested the diocese tap its $5-million to $6-million fund because of the cloud the scandal had placed over Cornwall and the diocese, but he later recommended the diocese receive funding.
The application notes that a number of priests employed by the diocese were charged with criminal offences, but there was no evidence to support the charges against them.
The exact rate of provincial funding for legal counsel is, however, still up in the air. Diocese senior counsel David Scott asked the commissioner for $500 per hour for himself, $300 per hour for intermediate counsel David Sheriff-Scott and $150 an hour for junior counsel. This compares with the $192 and $132 per hour the provincial government is paying senior and junior counsel acting in the ongoing Ipperwash inquiry into the death of aboriginal activist Dudley George, who was killed by the OPP during a demonstration in that Western Ontario community.
Judge Glaude has also recommended funding for: Citizens for Community Renewal, a 200-member group that played a key role in getting the inquiry called; The Victims Group, 48 alleged victims of sexual assault; and for The Men's Project, an Ottawa-based therapeutic and counselling service for men who are victims of sexual assault.
The commissioner also recommends funding for Jacques Leduc, a 54-year-old Cornwall lawyer and legal counsel to the diocese whose application states that "his life was shattered when he was charged with various sexual offences" in Project Truth. (The charges were later stayed.)
Mr. Leduc's application for standing describes him as a husband, father and respected professional whose reputation was irreparably tarnished and his family terrorized as a result of intense media and community scrutiny after he was charged.
The application says Mr. Leduc has "maintained his innocence throughout," and his once-stable financial situation declined to extreme indebtedness as many clients took their legal business elsewhere.
The commissioner granted partial standing to the Coalition for Action on Child Sexual Abuse in Cornwall. The coalition's application says its lead activist and spokesman is Carson Chisholm, brother-in-law of Perry Dunlop, the Cornwall police constable who defied his supervisors and gave a copy of an allegation of sexual assault to the Children's Aid Society.
The application says Mr. Dunlop, now living in British Columbia and not expected to testify before the inquiry, "May well be the single greatest catalyst of the events leading to the inquiry."
Judge Glaude initially reserved ruling on the coalition's application for funding and asked for more information. There was no response, so he did not recommend funding.
Other parties with standing, none of which requested funding, are: the Cornwall Police Service, which initially investigated the allegations of sexual abuse; the Ontario Provincial Police, which conducted the Project Truth investigation; the Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, employer of two probation officers who took their lives when allegations against them were made public; the Ministry of the Attorney General; and the Children's Aid Society.
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