A Worthwhile Investigation
Toronto Star [Canada]
February 17, 2006
The overdue inquiry into sexual abuse in Cornwall will be worth the time and expense, if it brings an end to that city's long nightmare.
It won't be easy to find the truth in the old rumours, contradictory gossip and half-remembered facts.
Justice G. Normand Glaude faces a web of relationships and allegations no less complex than the one Justice John Gomery had to untangle in the sponsorship inquiry.
In 1992, a former altar boy complained of being assaulted more than two decades before by a Cornwall priest and probation officer.
He dropped the case after receiving a settlement from the diocese.
A Cornwall police officer, Const. Perry Dunlop, wasn't satisfied.
He went to the Children's Aid Society with the allegation. The police force treated him as a renegade. To many others in Cornwall, he was and remains a hero.
Several investigations by the Cornwall police and the Ontario Provincial Police went nowhere.
Meanwhile, more complainants came forward and stories emerged about abuses by prominent members of the community, some as long ago as the 1950s and '60s.
In 1997, the OPP began a probe called Project Truth, which resulted in more than 100 charges against 15 alleged abusers. Only one was convicted.
Many in Cornwall continue to believe not only that there were many abusers, but also that their crimes were connected.
There have been stories of a recruitment ring that passed young victims from one rapist to another, but this has never been proven.
This situation should not have been allowed to fester for so long.
Several alleged abusers are dead, and further criminal trials are unlikely after so much time has passed.
An inquiry has finally begun, but it will be many months before it provides any answers.
There are many matters of fact that must be addressed. There are, for example, the infamous pornographic videotapes. Did the OPP destroy tapes showing the abusers and victims?
Judge Glaude will have to balance the privacy rights of the accused and accusers with the public interest.
And he will have to pass judgment on public institutions, from the police to the Roman Catholic Church. Critics will scrutinize his conduct.
The inquiry itself will not bring justice. But it could help Canadian communities deal with allegations of abuse quickly and thoroughly.
It could bring attention to gaps in social services, in particular for abused men.
It could cause religious institutions to examine their policies and rededicate themselves to protecting children above all else.
Most important, it could bring peace of mind to Cornwall's parents.
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