Shaver Testifies at Inquiry

By Trevor Pritchard
June 9, 2008

The man who ran the city's police force just before allegations of mishandled sexual abuse investigations hit the media will begin answering questions about his tenure at the Cornwall Public Inquiry today.

If all goes according to schedule, Claude Shaver will take the same witness stand this morning where, over the past three-and-a-half months, some of his former subordinates have been highly critical of his leadership of the Cornwall Police Service.

"He is an important witness," said lead commission counsel Peter Engelmann, who will be conducting Shaver's initial examination.

"He was the chief of police here in Cornwall for about 10 years, and those were an important 10 years," he said.

A former RCMP officer, Shaver joined the local force in 1983 and took over as chief a year later.

He was only 51 when he announced his retirement in November 1993, citing stress as a major factor in his decision.

At the time, Cornwall had been rocked by a number of high-profile crimes, including a bombing at a local pool hall and a handful of smuggling-related incidents.


But behind the scenes — as some CPS witnesses have testified at the inquiry, which is probing how institutions dealt with historical sexual abuse allegations — other things also seemed to be in turmoil.

The inquiry has already learned that in 1990, six of the CPS' highest-ranking officers signed a letter calling for Shaver's ouster.

Last week, Shaver's deputy chief, Joseph St. Denis, testified his relationship with his boss had deteriorated to the point he felt Shaver might try to have him charged under the Police Services Act.

A personal letter bearing Shaver's name suggested he felt other officers were carrying out "coups" against him.

Shaver was "ultimately responsible" for the actions of officers under his command, said Dallas Lee, an attorney for the Victims Group.

He will have to explain why he was directly involved in some sexual abuse investigations, while appearing to have washed his hands of others, Lee said.

One case lawyers are expected to canvass in depth with Shaver is how the CPS handled allegations David Silmser made in December 1992 against a city priest and a former probation officer.

Police closed the case in 1993 after Silmser accepted a $32,000 settlement from the local Roman Catholic diocese and refused to pursue charges.

When Silmser's statement hit the media in early 1994, it helped spark a chain of events — including Project Truth, a provincial police investigation into allegations a pedophile ring was operating in Cornwall — that eventually led to calls for a public inquiry.

"If you would have asked in the first week of the inquiry who we would have most wanted to hear from, (Shaver) would have been in the top five," said Lee.

Now living in Florida, Shaver has willingly returned to Cornwall to give his side of the story.

His desire to testify may be driven by the fact his name appeared on a now-defunct website,,


that linked him to the purported pedophile ring.

Shaver has always denied those rumours, and in 2007, he launched his own website to defend his reputation.

He told the Standard-Freeholder this January that he would be appearing at the inquiry "no matter what."

"I don't think he had to come, because he was living out of the country," said Paul Scott, the president of Citizens for Community Renewal, a local group with standing at the inquiry.

"I think he wants to give his side of the story, and that's really encouraging."

Shaver was originally slotted to be the final police officer to testify, but the inquiry's schedule had to be adjusted since he was arriving from outside the country, Engelmann said.

St. Denis will return to the stand later this month, and the inquiry will be calling another former chief, Anthony Repa, said Engelmann.

Shaver will have his own lawyer at the inquiry — a first for a CPS witness, he added.

"There have been many things written and said about Claude Shaver," said Engelmann. "I think people should wait to hear his evidence before they pass judgment on his actions at the time."


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