|Suspects Didn't Know Each Other
By Trevor Pritchard
December 4, 2008
Eight men who allegedly abused Quebec lawyer Claude Marleau when he was a young man were not part of a pedophile ring, a retired Project Truth investigator told the Cornwall Public Inquiry.
"All's I'm saying is the suspects weren't all known to each other," said Det. Insp. Pat Hall, who spent his second full day on the stand Wednesday.
In 1997, Hall was assigned to Project Truth, the Ontario Provincial Police's investigation into allegations that children had been - or were being - sexually abused by prominent people in the Cornwall area.
One of the first people to tell their story to Project Truth was Marleau, who came forward in July 1997 with another man known at the inquiry as C-96.
Marleau alleged he was abused by eight people in the 1960s, including five priests. One of those priests, Rev. Paul Lapierre, was convicted on sexual abuse charges by a Quebec court in 2004 and sentenced to one year in jail.
During that trial, Marleau said he was "passed around like a beer." He repeated that sentiment when he was in the inquiry's witness box in 2006.
"If you don't qualify the gang who abused me as a ring," he said while on the stand, "I don't know what (else it could be)."
In mid-1997, Project Truth had a mandate to investigate the allegations former Cornwall cop Perry Dunlop had turned over to the London, Ont. police force, headed at the time by current OPP commissioner Julian Fantino.
Marleau and C-96 gave Project Truth nine new suspects to investigate, Hall told commission counsel Peter Engelmann yesterday.
Engelmann said Marleau made it clear to the OPP there were "associations" between his eight alleged abusers. One man he'd named had introduced him to Lapierre, and then Lapierre introduced him to "a number of other men," Engelmann said.
Engelmann then asked Hall if that was significant, since Dunlop's material claimed there had been a ring of pedophiles preying on kids in the Cornwall area.
"I'd done an analysis of the suspects, and they weren't all known to each other," said Hall. "Common victim, but they weren't all known to each other."
Hall reiterated the definition he'd given Tuesday as to what made up a pedophile ring: a group of people who know each other and operate "in concert."
In Marleau's case, "the ones at the bottom didn't know the ones at the top," Hall said.
"There was no connection," he said.
The long-running inquiry is probing how institutions like the OPP handled allegations of historical sexual abuse.
Before Marleau brought his allegations forward, Project Truth officers had been working on laying new charges against Rev. Charles MacDonald, a Cornwall-area priest who was first charged in 1996 with more than a dozen sex-related offences.
In September and October 1997, Hall's officers interviewed a number of MacDonald's alleged victims, Engelmann pointed out.
New charges were laid in 1998, but they were all stayed four years later after a judge ruled MacDonald's right to a timely trial had been violated.
Engelmann asked Hall if Project Truth ever considered putting off their investigation into Marleau's and C-96's allegations so they could "fast-track" the MacDonald case.
"I knew (time constraints in) the Father Charles McDonald case was a consideration, and the officers knew it as well," said Hall. "And I think that's why the interviews were done the dates you'd mentioned."
Project Truth wasn't fully set up until August 1997, Hall added.
By the time the final Project Truth trial began in 2001, more than 110 charges had been laid against 15 men.
The number of charged individuals could have been substantially higher, however, as a Project Truth document entered as evidence yesterday named another 22 suspects who'd died before charges were laid. Of those 22, 18 were already deceased when Project Truth got under way.
Four died during the investigation. The inquiry resumes today at 9 A.M.
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