Sessions until Christmas: Engelmann

By Trevor Pritchard
August 22, 2008

Black binders containing reports, memos, and personal e-mails surround Comm. Normand Glaude's desk at the Cornwall Public Inquiry. More than 2,000 exhibits have been entered into evidence since the inquiry's first witness testified in early 2006.

With the Beijing Olympics in full swing, perhaps it's not surprising that athletic metaphors are on Peter Engelmann's mind.

"What you typically see in a public inquiry, towards the end, (is) a bit of a sprint," says Engelmann, lead counsel for the city's own olympian undertaking, the Cornwall Public Inquiry.

Hearings have been on hold since Aug. 1, when former Bishop Eugene LaRocque left the stand, complaining of fatigue.

But on Monday, the Weave Shed will once again be buzzing with questions, objections, and surprising revelations as the long-running tribunal resumes after a three-week hiatus.

"I'm pretty sure we'll be sitting almost until Christmas," said Engelmann, who on Thursday promised a "very aggressive" pace over the next four months.

When Premier Dalton McGuinty announced in 2004 that the province was launching an inquiry into how institutions like the diocese handled historical sexual abuse allegations, the early predictions were that testimony would last a year, maybe a bit longer.

Those guesses, however, were wildly optimistic. When witnesses for the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services -the first institution to testify -took the stand last November, the inquiry had already been up and running for nearly two years.

Now, after 267 days of testimony, there are still five more institutions to come: the Children's Aid Society, the Ontario Provincial Police, the Ministry of the Attorney General, and the public and Catholic school boards.

There are also the final diocesan

witnesses: LaRocque, current Bishop Paul-André Durocher and, health permitting, Msgr. Donald McDougald.

LaRocque, who helmed the diocese for nearly three decades, is set to continue testifying Monday.

The inquiry should begin hearing the CAS's evidence after the Labour Day weekend. Engelmann said it's expected their witnesses will testify for 10-13 days, while the testimony of both the OPP and the Ministry of the Attorney General will take about 20 days each.

The two school boards, he added, will be "very brief." As for whether the public will still be paying attention by Christmas, Engelmann said between 400 and 500 people follow the inquiry daily on its webcast, and that number spikes when high-profile witnesses like LaRocque are on the stand. "You'll see ebbs and flows," he said. "I think that's true of any case, particularly long inquiries."

Here's a look back at some of the more significant developments since the first institutional witnesses began testifying:


Heading into 2008, it was obvious former city cop Perry Dunlop would be facing consequences for refusing to appear at the inquiry -an inquiry his actions helped spark -in October 2007. Those consequences were made clear in March, when the Ontario Divisional Court handed Dunlop a six-month sentence for contempt.

Reaction to the ruling -which made national headlines -was swift and heartfelt. Some called Dunlop a hero, finding it bitterly ironic he'd spend more time behind bars than many convicted pedophiles. Others claimed the inquiry was too important for Dunlop to flaunt its rules. While Dunlop's sentence is almost up, he could still face more jail time for ignoring a subsequent court order to return to the inquiry. Dunlop has yet to be sentenced on that charge.


In February, commissioner Normand Glaude excused Const. Heidi Sebalj from the inquiry after a psychologist's report declared she was too unwell to testify.

Sebalj led the 1993 investigation into the allegations of David Silmser, who had accused Rev. Charles MacDonald of sexually abusing him when he was an altar boy decades earlier. She was given the case despite having only two months' experience with child sex abuse investigations. That decision helped fuel speculation the CPS was trying to cover up Silmser's complaint.

An Ottawa police review concluded that while there was no evidence of a conspiracy, Sebalj was "far too junior" to handle a case of that magnitude. CPS lawyers have also argued that another officer, Ron Lefebvre, should be excused from testifying. Lefebvre led the 1985 sex abuse investigation into Earl LandryJr.,thesonof thecity'sformerchief of police. The case was closed after Lefebvre decided there wasn't enough evidence to lay charges; 12 years later, Landry Jr. confessed to sexually abusing five boys.


The Ontario Court of Appeal ruled in January that Glaude couldn't hear evidence about how OPP officers handled an alleged rape in Alexandria in 1993 because it fell outside the inquiry's mandate.

That decision -which overturned a ruling from a lower court -led to a flurry of arguments from the CAS, the CPS, and a lawyer for MacDonald, all of whom claimed the new precedent rendered the testimony of two dozen witnesses who'd already taken the stand irrelevent. In the end, Glaude ruled three witnesses' testimony would not be used to find fault against the institutions.

Not only did the various arguments for and against excluding witnesses take up valuable time, but it also devastated those whose testimony was affected. One witness, Andre Bissonnette, said the decision had left him feeling "victimized all over again."

BOTCHED INVESTIGATIONS Poor communication, inexperience, overwhelming workloads, jaw-droppingly low morale -each were named as reasons why city police failed to lay charges in a number of historical sexual abuse cases over the past three decades. At least one abuser, Landry Jr., would go on to abuse more children after police closed their initial investigation.

In the Silmser case, the Ottawa review called the CPS investigation "inept and ineffective." In another case that never led to charges -the allegations of CAS ward Jeannette Antoine -an CPS audit found "systemic" problems with recordskeeping and internal communication. However, no review found any evidence of a conspiracy or a cover-up. A number of CPS witnesses testified that while they were hurt by those accusations, their jobs prevented them from speaking up.

THE BISHOP'S BOMBSHELLS While LaRocque was in charge when the

Silmser settlement came to light, it was arguably his revelations about Rev. Gilles Deslauriers and Rev. Carl Stone that garnered the most media attention.

Stone had left a New York State diocese after a conviction for what LaRocque described as an "affair with boys." The bishop testified he nevertheless hired Stone in 1981, assigned him to two care homes on the condition that he stay away from young men, and lobbied the federal immigration minister to let him stay in Canada.

LaRocque would later fire Stone after learning he was inviting young men up to his room. LaRocque also called Deslauriers - who pleaded guilty in 1986 to four counts of indecent assault involving young men -a "master manipulator."


There was little doubt that Claude Shaver, who ran the CPS from 1994 until 2003, was eager to take the stand.

The former chief had been dogged by Internet rumours that he had been part of an alleged ring of pedophiles. Before flying to Cornwall from his home in Florida, Shaver had started his own website to counter those rumours, posting articles about the inquiry that cast him in a positive light.

When he testified in June, Shaver was verbose and emotional, appearing more than once to be on the verge of tears. The allegations, he said, had driven away friends who felt it was "better to be safe than sorry," and he called on Glaude to recommend that spreading unfounded rumours online be made illegal. Shaver also revealed, without going into details, that he was almost a victim of abuse himself -or as he put it, "it almost happened to me."


Rick Abell -yes Murray MacDonald -yes Shelley Hallett -yes Pat Hall -yes Msgr. Donald McDougald -maybe Perry Dunlop -doubtful Justice Colin MacKinnon -no Some big names are still to come, while others aren't on the list, says lead commission counsel Peter Engelmann.

Abell was the executive director of the CAS when Perry Dunlop turned over David Silmser's abuse allegations. He will be among the CAS witnesses taking the stand after the Labour Day long weekend.

Corwnall's current Crown attorney, MacDonald played a major role in deciding if there was enough evidence to prosecute charges against suspected sexual abusers.

The Toronto-area Crown prosecuted former diocesan lawyer Jacques Leduc's sex abuse trial. Leduc's charges were stayed when the judge ruled Hallett withheld evidence; Hallett was later exonerated by the Ontario Court of Appeal.

Hall was one of the top officers involved in the OPP's four-year Project Truth investigation. Although 15 men were charged with 115 sex-related offences, the investigation only led to one conviction.

Former Bishop Eugene LaRocque testified it was McDougald's repsonsibility to make sure the church's draft policy on sex abuse complaints was followed. But McDougald's health, said Engelmann, may prevent him from testifying.

While his six-month sentence for refusing to testify is almost up, Dunlop faces more time behind bars for disobeying a court order to return to the stand. So far, the former cop has shown no sign he'd testify in exchange for getting out of jail.

MacKinnon was the judge at the Leduc trial, and as a lawyer had represented Cornwall police. The "independence of the judiciary" prevents the inquiry from asking a sitting judge asking about his decisions on the bench, Engelmann said.


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