Records military fought to keep secret show pedophile priest had multiple child victims

By David Pugliese
Ottawa Citizen
November 16, 2020

DND's Carling campus
Photo by Tony Caldwell

Chaplain Capt. Angus McRae obituary photo. McRae died in 2011.

The Canadian Forces has fought for 40 years to keep such details under wraps, even to the point of falsely claiming the original charges against pedophile Chaplain Capt. Angus McRae couldn’t be revealed to the public.

A Canadian Forces chaplain took children to his quarters at an Edmonton military base and gave them alcohol before sexually assaulting them, according to newly released court martial transcripts.

The Canadian Forces has fought for 40 years to keep such details under wraps, even to the point of falsely claiming the original charges against pedophile Chaplain Capt. Angus McRae couldn’t be revealed to the public.

But the newly released transcripts from 1980 show the military knew McRae had multiple victims and knew of previous allegations against the priest related to incidents in Kingston and Cornwall.

McRae was convicted of sodomizing a child at CFB Edmonton in 1980 and was kicked out of the military. In 1989, McRae was arrested by civilian police in the Toronto area for sexually molesting two boys. He pleaded guilty to sexual exploitation and sexual interference for fondling the buttocks of boys aged 12 and 14. McRae, then 63, was given three years’ probation and avoided any jail time. He died in May 2011.

The release of the heavily censored court martial transcripts is a victory for Bobbie Bees who was sexually assaulted in 1980 at CFB Edmonton when he was seven years old. Bees, whose father was in the military, had been fighting the Canadian Forces and the Department of National Defence unsuccessfully for eight years to get McRae’s records and court martial transcripts released under the access to information law.

Bees had maintained the court martial record would show the Catholic priest had sexually assaulted a number of children and the Canadian Forces leadership knew about those crimes. He has also been pushing for military police to conduct investigations into McRae’s other sexual assaults and links to other individuals who associated with the priest.

The release of the court martial transcripts came after this newspaper published articles in August and September about the ongoing efforts by the military and DND to block Bees from getting the documents.

“I wasn’t surprised what I saw in the transcripts,” Bees said in an interview. “I always suspected there were multiple victims, but the transcript finally proves it.”

Bees believes the Canadian Forces spent years fighting the release of the records because it was concerned McRae’s victims could use the information in a class-action lawsuit and the military would also have to face embarrassing questions about why no other investigations were conducted into the priest’s actions.

The transcript shows McRae originally entered a not guilty plea to the charges, which included buggery, indecent assault on a male and gross indecency. But as more details were presented in court, including testimony from one of his victims, the priest changed that to a guilty plea.

McRae admitted to police he gave alcohol to the children, but couldn’t say how much they drank, the transcripts showed. He described his assaults as “fooling around.”

The Canadian Forces also had a list of kids who were at McRae’s quarters or his chapel and the priest admitted to military police he had “sexual dealings” with other boys besides those interviewed by law enforcement officers, the court heard.

McRae also signed a confession on June 10, 1980, admitting to the Catholic Church he committed “indecent acts with several minors over the past couple of years.”

That confession was presented to the court martial and among the documents released to Bees.

McRae had his supporters. Col. J.E. Troy, at the time the command chaplain for the air force, wrote the court to request that in sentencing it take into consideration, “that the present matter will be placed in the context of a life of doing good.”

McRae’s lawyer, in asking for leniency, noted: “It’s probably not necessary to say that Father McRae will not likely be involved again in a situation of that nature.”

Right from the beginning of McRae’s arrest, the Canadian military surrounded his case with a cloak of secrecy. The military cited the need for “protecting public morals” for closing the court martial to the public.

The priest was sentenced to four years in jail. The military, at the time, refused to provide any details about McRae and even declined to state where he would serve his sentence.

And the secrecy surrounding the McRae case worked to the chaplain’s advantage. It later turned out he only served 10 months of his sentence and McRae was allowed to continue working as a priest. MacRae was in front of the courts again in 1989, charged for sexually molesting two boys in the Toronto area.

Bees had been trying to get the McRae transcripts since 2012, using the access to information law. DND refused to disclose any documents; it also falsely claimed details about the charges McRae faced couldn’t be released when, in fact, the charges had already been made public in 1980.

Bees complained to the Information Commissioner of Canada but received little support. In 2019, Bees received an email from the office of Information Commissioner Caroline Maynard suggesting he submit another access request to DND for the trial transcripts as DND had agreed to process the records after another individual had also complained about not receiving the documents. Bees received the records from DND on July 31, 2020. But the 266-page transcript was completely censored.

The access law allows members of the public to pay $5 to try to obtain federal documents. But there has been ample evidence over the years of bureaucrats putting various roadblocks in the way to prevent the release of records.

DND and the Canadian Forces told this newspaper they couldn’t release the McRae information because they needed to protect the pedophile’s privacy even though he died nine years ago. After additional questions from this newspaper, Minister of Defence Harjit Sajjan noted Aug. 31 that military officials concluded the transcript could not be released, but that he had asked them to re-examine that decision.

Bees said he has faced an uphill battle over the years to sound the alarm about the sex abuse that occurred on military bases. But he’s been persistent.

His research also uncovered other military records related to such crimes. Among those were documents related to Donald Joseph Sullivan who was accused of sexually abusing 11 boys when he was a leader with Scouts Canada in the 1970s. A police investigation into Sullivan’s assaults during his time as a Scout leader only began in 2018 and ended with a conviction and a six-year sentence which Sullivan began in 2019. Sullivan was also caught molesting a child in 2005.

But Sullivan managed to avoid carrying a criminal record for his sex crimes until that 2005 incident because of how the military legal system handled his conviction for five counts of gross indecency at CFB Gagetown in 1984, records obtained by Bees showed. Sullivan was sentenced to four years, but was effectively pardoned by the Canadian Forces judicial system and released after only serving one year.


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