Diocese Failed to Follow Protocol;

By Trevor Pritchard

July 17, 2008

The Alexandria-Cornwall Roman Catholic Diocese failed in 1993 to follow its own protocol for dealing with priests suspected of sexual abuse, its former lawyer told the Cornwall Public Inquiry Wednesday.

Jacques Leduc had been retained by the diocese to help negotiate a settlement with David Silmser after the one-time altar boy at St. Columban's Church accused Rev. Charles MacDonald of sexually abusing him in the 1960s and 1970s.

Leduc, 57, testified that a press release the diocese issued in January 1994, after the story of Silmser's $32,000 settlement hit the national media, was inaccurate.

The church's protocol was breached twice, said Leduc: no one was designated to take Silmser's complaint to the Children's Aid Society, nor did the diocese generate a written report on the case.

"Those are the two matters set out in these guidelines that I knew about and that I can point out to you," Leduc told commission counsel Karen Jones.

Silmser had met with Leduc and two diocesan priests in February 1993 to seek a letter of apology from MacDonald.

Seven months later, Silmser settled with the diocese in exchange for not pursuing criminal or civil charges.

Leduc testified Tuesday that before the settlement was drawn up, he made it clear to both MacDonald's lawyer, Malcolm MacDonald, and then-bishop Eugene LaRocque that it could not impede any criminal proceedings.

Leduc said Wednesday he trusted Malcolm MacDonald -- a former Crown attorney and a "seasoned lawyer" -- to follow those instructions when he crafted the settlement.

That was why, Leduc said, he didn't open the sealed envelope containing the signed documents before passing them along to the diocese.

"I had no reason to expect anything else from the documents than that which we had agreed to," said Leduc. "That's the explanation. It's not an excuse -- it's an explanation."

"But you do agree obviously you should have read that before letting it proceed any further?" asked Jones.

"Yes," Leduc replied.

Malcolm MacDonald pleaded guilty to obstructing justice in September 1995.

He was given an absolute discharge a month later.

Charles MacDonald was charged with sexually abusing minors in 1996 by the Ontario Provincial Police. A judge stayed 19 counts against the priest six years later.

Leduc was at first unwilling to speak about the diocese's press release, saying it was a rule of "professional conduct" not to say anything negative about a client's actions.

Inquiry commissioner Normand Glaude ordered Leduc to answer the question.

Glaude then asked if that "principle" had influenced any of Leduc's previous testimony over the previous two-and-a-half days.

"Absolutely not, Mr. Commissioner," said Leduc. "My testimony was truthful and very direct."

Leduc also denied ever meeting with Malcolm MacDonald and Sean Adams -the lawyer who gave Silmser legal advice about the settlement -- at the office of Duncan MacDonald, another Cornwall attorney.

Duncan MacDonald's legal assistant, Karen Derochie, told the inquiry last year her boss met with the three lawyers in either late 1992 or early 1993 -- an encounter, she said, that left Duncan MacDonald visibly upset.

"I was never ever present at Duncan MacDonald's office with Malcolm MacDonald or Sean Adams, with or without each one of them, or with anyone else, ever," said Leduc.

Under cross-examination, Leduc told Helen Daley, an attorney for the Citizens for Community Renewal, that he received abuse complaints against priests from three people while the church retained his services between 1978 and 1994.

Leduc said he was bound by solicitor- client privilege and "never" would have told the diocese about those allegations.

"I received their information and suggested they see other counsel," said Leduc.

"In two instances I recall, it was the need of this person to tell me what had happened, not wanting me to do anything about it."

Leduc himself was charged with sexually abusing minors during the OPP's Project Truth probe -- a four-year investigation into rumours a pedophile clan was operating in the Cornwall area.

Leduc was one of 15 men arrested during Project Truth.

His charges were thrown out in 2004 after a judge ruled his right to a speedy trial had been infringed upon.

The inquiry -- which is probing how institutions reacted when faced with allegations of historical sexual abuse -- has given nearly every witness the opportunity to speak about their experiences with those institutions.

Leduc, so far the only institutional witness who was also charged with sexually abusing young people, declined to talk about how he was treated by the justice system.

"I have decided not to make any comments or recommendations in relation to these matters," he said.

Leduc's testimony is expected to resume today.


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