Wed, February 23, 2005

Lawyer, ex-priest sued over sex-abuse claims

By NELLY ELAYOUBI, Ottawa Sun

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Alexandria-Cornwall is facing two $3.1-million lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by a former priest. A Cornwall-area lawyer has also been slapped with a $3.1-million lawsuit alleging sexual abuse.

A long list of sexual abuse and misconduct by the lawyer and the priest is alleged in the three suits and could take years before getting to court.

Albert Lalonde, 47, and Robert Renshaw, 42, name Fr. Charles MacDonald, the Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation of the Diocese of Alexandria-Cornwall, current Bishop Paul-Andre Durocher and his predecessor, Eugene LaRocque, for alleged negligence.

CHRONIC ANXIETY

The allegations have not been proven in court.

An emotional Lalonde told reporters he has been on permanent disability since January 2002.

He suffers from chronic anxiety attacks after coming face-to-face with MacDonald in 1990, 21 years following his encounters with the priest as an altar boy.

"I got through most of my life, somehow. Just keeping it hid and tucked away," Lalonde said.

Renshaw alleges he was abused in 1983 while receiving counselling from MacDonald after his father died.

An irritated MacDonald, now 72, had little to say when contacted by the Sun at his home in Glen Robertson last night.

"You know perfectly well that I'm not going to make any statement without my lawyer being present," he said.

Plaintiff Stuart Labelle, 31, has filed his civil suit against lawyer, Jacques Leduc.

Leduc calls the allegations "false."

"I will be putting forth a very vigorous defence and of course the defence will include a denial of any allegations which are quite vicious and I'm contemplating a counter claim," Leduc said from his Cornwall home last night.

The three plaintiffs are represented by Ledroit Beckett, a London-based law firm specializing in sexual abuse cases.

"Mr. Lalonde's abuse commenced in 1969 when he was the age of 11 and occurred for the next two years," lawyer Robert Talach told a press conference.

'LAST CHOICE'

"This is the last choice that we have to try to get these people to be accountable," said Renshaw.

Premier Dalton McGuinty has already promised an inquiry into how police handled the claims.

"I expect to have a decision from our potential commissioner within the next 10 days and I hope to have an announcement within the next couple of weeks," Attorney General Michael Bryant said in the legislature yesterday.

The lawsuits come after 114 charges against 15 men under "Project Truth," resulted in only one conviction.

Cornwall has long been linked with accusations of sexual abuse by high-profile local officials, professionals and clergy who allegedly tormented the city's children for decades. Some of the allegations dated back to the 1950s.

The investigation began in the 1990s and the final case was dismissed last October after a judge ruled it had taken too long to come to trial.