Commish Lays down the Law
Project Truth Inquiry Head to Protect Witnesses from Being Revictimized

Ottawa Sun [Canada]
February 21, 2007

Cornwall — It will take a combined effort to ensure witnesses testifying about child sexual abuse at an inquiry probing the institutional response to allegations of systemic sexual abuse in the area are not revictimized, the commission's judge said Tuesday.

In outlining how he expects witness testimony to flow in the coming weeks and months, Commissioner Normand Glaude said he intends to keep an eye on how counsel for all parties, including commission counsel, handle witness testimony and cross-examination.

"Their evidence is essential in order to fulfil this inquiry's mandate," said Glaude. "Not all witnesses will sail through their evidence, particularly cross-examination. "We must determine how to elicit evidence in a manner that is both effective and non-threatening."

In recent weeks, some witnesses who have come before the commission to testify about abuses they say they suffered as young children have found cross-examination difficult.

In hearing those concerns and considering other feedback the commission has received about the way testimony is being called and examined, Glaude said while parties have a right to question witnesses about their evidence, he put in place some rules he said will aid the commission in its goal to hear as much evidence from as many witnesses as possible.

Witnesses will be more widely examined by commission counsel in order to cover a broader spectrum of evidence prior to cross-examination.

Documents expected to be put to the witnesses during their time on the stand will be provided to them in advance of their testimony so they may review them.

Lawyers cross-examining witnesses have also been instructed to restrict their questions to public institutional response as it relates to their clients and should "exercise discretion" when addressing the personal opinions or impressions of the witnesses.

"This is an opportunity for parties to help the inquiry succeeding in fulfilling its mandate," Glaude said.

On Tuesday, Glaude also ruled on a number of motions.

Lawyers for the Alexandria-Cornwall Roman Catholic Diocese had asked for funding for an additional 760 hours of paralegal time in order to cover the administrative costs of sorting through documents disclosed to the parties, but Glaude approved only 400 hours.

Glaude also approved a number of requests for confidentiality.

Two witnesses expected to testify in the coming weeks will receive varying levels of identity protection due to the fact they've not disclosed the abuses they say they suffered to family and friends and their allegations have never received any significant publicity in the past.


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