Ottawa Sun November 4, 2004

 

Abuse inquiry set

Premier calls probe into Cornwall case

By ANTONELLA ARTUSO, Queen's Park Bureau

PREMIER DALTON McGuinty yesterday announced a public inquiry into allegations that highly placed officials operated a pedophile ring in Cornwall for decades. Alain Seguin, of the Coalition for Action Cornwall, who was sexually abused as an 11- and 12-year-old, said the inquiry will finally allow the Eastern Ontario town to begin healing.

"Everybody's had a family secret, right? Well, this was a little community secret, and now it's time to break that," he said.

"As a victim, I know it's going to be very difficult for a lot of males out there," he added. "I am hoping that they'll see it as a victory, that they'll see it as an admission of some type of error on the part of different layers of society and different layers of our government."

Proponents of a public inquiry allege that officials in positions of trust abused up to 1,000 boys over three decades in an organized ring that saw the victims passed around like possessions.

While OPP investigators laid 114 charges against 15 men, including doctors, lawyers and Catholic priests as part of an operation dubbed Project Truth, which began in the early 1990s, four of the accused died and most of the other cases were thrown out after delays in getting to trial.

Only one person, who was not connected to the alleged sex ring, was ever convicted of sexual offences.

'GIGANTIC' STEP

Former Tory MPP and provincial judge Garry Guzzo, who tried unsuccessfully to get his own government to launch a public inquiry, said the Liberals have taken a "gigantic" step to end the years of cover-up and secrecy.

"This is a complicated issue. This is a situation that people of Ontario have to be prepared for some very bad news here," Guzzo said.

"This is going to be an eye-opener and this is going to shock a lot of people."

Paul Scott, a spokesman for Cornwall's Citizens for Renewal, said McGuinty called the inquiry only after they brought intense pressure to bear on him.

"There's no question in my mind that if we hadn't held the government's feet to the fire that we would be sitting at home in Cornwall and not making any progress towards an inquiry," he said.

However, Scott still has his doubts, noting he's concerned about the terms of reference for the inquiry.

He'd like it to take the form of a commission that includes wide subpoena powers and protection for victims who signed gag orders as part of their financial settlements.

The inquiry must also focus on both the police investigation and the prosecution of the individual cases, should cover the wider Cornwall area and should be held in the city itself, he added.

McGuinty said it will be launched in 12 days when the appeal period ends on a final related criminal matter. The last accused before the courts had his charges stayed last month after a judge ruled that it took too long for the matter to go to trial.

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Toronto Star - November 7, 2004

Inquiry to probe pedophile ring allegations

FROM CANADIAN PRESS

The Ontario government will launch a public inquiry into shadowy allegations of systemic sexual abuse and cover-up that have long plagued the city of
Cornwall, Premier Dalton McGuinty said today.

The border city an hour's drive southeast of Ottawa has long been linked with allegations of sexual abuse at the hands of high-profile local officials, professionals and clergy who allegedly tormented the city's children for decades.

But after a provincial police investigation christened Project Truth resulted in 114 charges against 15 men, including doctors, lawyers and Catholic priests, only one person has ever been convicted, the last remaining case has been tossed out of court, leaving critics and victims alike crying foul.

McGuinty repeated his pledge of an inquiry as activists from Cornwall pressed the province to examine why it took so long for police to lay charges and why virtually none of them resulted in a conviction.

"We will, in fact and indeed, hold such an inquiry," McGuinty told the legislature during question period.

The inquiry won't be launched until after the appeal period in the last remaining related criminal case, which was tossed out of court last month, elapses in 12 days, he added.

"We also look forward to working with the community of Cornwall to ensure the appropriate terms of reference are drafted and guide that inquiry."

Abuse victim Alain Seguin, co-ordinator of the group Coalition for Action Cornwall, estimated more than 1,000 men between the ages of 30 and 60 currently live in Cornwall who were sexually abused as children.

Seguin said he wants the inquiry to probe why it took so long for what was allegedly going on in Cornwall to come to light and why so few successful prosecutions have taken place.

"For the victims, I hope we get some type of justification for the fact (their claims) weren't believed or accepted through the whole situation," Seguin said.

"There's a lot of males in our city that have had to deal with this type of abuse as children, and I hope they're feeling vindicated today."

But Paul Scott, a spokesman for the Cornwall group Citizens for Renewal, said he's not going to take McGuinty's comments to heart until the inquiry is well and truly underway.

"We have to be always vigilant about this situation," Scott said. "We've had promises before, and they were broken."

Scott said he's also concerned about the terms of reference for the inquiry, which he said should be a commission that includes wide subpoena powers and protection for victims who signed gag orders as part of their financial settlements.

The inquiry must also focus on both the police investigation and the prosecution of the individual cases, should cover the wider Cornwall area and should be held in the city itself, he added.

A chapter in the saga ended in October when a judge tossed the last case linked to the controversial Project Truth probe out of court because it took too long to come to trial.

The police investigation that began in the early 1990s eventually resulted in 114 charges against 15 high-profile men in Cornwall, including three Catholic priests, a doctor and a lawyer.

Only one person, unconnected to the alleged sex ring, was ultimately convicted of sexual offences.