Residents Hope Hearing Will Foster Healing

By Tobi Cohen
Ottawa Sun [Canada]
February 14, 2006

CORNWALL -- In Cornwall's rough-and-tumble east end where the streets are lined with pawn shops and used furniture stores, it's hard to find anyone who hasn't heard about the town's infamous sex abuse scandal.

An inquiry into the alleged child abuse ring involving high-ranking officials began yesterday a few blocks away. It's supposed to finally clear the dark cloud that's hung over the industrial town of 45,000 for 40 years.

And for a city facing new challenges this spring when Domtar shuts its mill, residents are looking forward to putting at least one problem behind them.


"It's so ongoing you get fed up with reading about it," said 57-year-old Reina Labelle during a smoke break outside the Montreal Rd. sewing shop where she works.

"Hopefully they can deal with it and get rid of it ... so everybody can go on with their lives. It's been too long."

Danalda Lalonde, 72, said she knew one of the priests accused of sexual abuse and hasn't been to church since learning of the allegations.

"We used to think the world of him and when they said he was one of them, I just lost all faith," she said.

She believes it's also had a lasting effect on townsfolk.

"I find people are not as open to one another as they used to be," she said. "At one time, strangers talked as if you knew them forever."

Though 50-year-old William Poitras admits the scandal has shaken people's faith in the criminal justice system, he believes much has changed since the 1960s.

Children, he said, are more likely to speak up sooner and police have dedicated units that deal with child sexual abuse.


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