Church Considered Another Payout

By Trevor Prichard

July 23, 2008

Eight years before David Silmser's $32,000 payout became public in 1994, church officials considered negotiating a similar settlement with another abuse victim, the Cornwall Public Inquiry heard yesterday.

Sr. Claudette Pilon was one of three people assigned by the Alexandria-Cornwall Roman Catholic Diocese to look into sexual abuse allegations against Rev. Gilles Deslauriers in 1986.

Among the witnesses the ad hoc committee -which also included Msgr. Bernard Guindon and diocesan lawyer Jacques Leduc - met with was Benoit Brisson, one of Deslauriers' victims.

Pilon said the committee was "really afflicted" after hearing Brisson's story and wanted to come up with a way to help him.

"We discussed the fact it might be possible to give him some money and to also ask him for confidentiality," said Pilon, who testified in French.

"But this was not actually the chosen solution." Pilon said the specific amount the committee discussed was $32,000. She told commission lawyer Pierre Dumais she couldn't remember whose idea the settlement was.

In September 1993, Silmser agreed to accept $32,000 from the diocese in exchange for not pursuing charges against Rev. Charles MacDonald. MacDonald had allegedly abused Silmser decades earlier when he was an altar boy at St. Columban's Church in Cornwall. He was charged by the Ontario Provincial Police in 1996 with sexually abusing a number of boys, but the charges were stayed six years later after a judge ruled they'd taken too long to go to trial.

Leduc represented the diocese in those negotiations.

Silmser wasn't named when the first media reports about the payout surfaced in January 1994, and Pilon said she originally believed Brisson was the recipient of the money.

"I thought right away of Benoit," she said. Deslauriers pleaded guilty in November 1986 to abusing Brisson and three other Cornwall teens between 1979 and 1981. He was given two years' probation.

Pilon is scheduled to retake the stand when the inquiry resumes today at 9:30 a. m.


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