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Minister to meet local groups

By Greg Peerenboom
Front Page - Thursday, November 18, 2004 @ 10:00

Premier Dalton McGuinty has asked the attorney general to meet face-to-face with Cornwall residents by the “end of the month” over the Project Truth inquiry.

In a telephone interview with the Standard-Freeholder, McGuinty cautioned the impending inquiry “may bring back some painful memories for the people involved.’’

“(But) it could be a healthy development in the history of Cornwall,” the premier said.

Some Cornwall and area residents have repeatedly asked an inquiry be held to look into the sex abuse investigation and alleged abuses which resulted in 115 charges against 15 suspects.

Attorney General Michael Bryant couldn’t get into specifics about when he and Stormont, Dundas and Charlottenburgh MPP Jim Brownell will hold the first meeting.

“We’re working feverishly to move forward as quickly as possible,” Bryant said.

Community dialogue will help Bryant and Brownell advise the Ontario cabinet on establishing the terms of reference that will guide the yet-to-be-named inquiry commissioner.

“We have to make sure the terms of reference are appropriate so we have a commission in place which is going to give the public inquiry a measure of independence,” Bryant said.

McGuinty and Bryant both emphasized Brownell will be the point man.

“A very important way for me to get input is through your excellent MPP,” Bryant said.

Brownell said it’s likely one of the two groups which have long pined for an inquiry — the Coalition for Action and the Citizens for Renewal — will be the first to contribute.

Although it’s his first involvement with a provincial inquiry, Brownell has some ideas of what might be revealed from the Cornwall Community Police Service and the Ontario Provincial Police.

He said the inquiry could shed light on how police handled the investigation when “the public gave verbal and written information. . . find out how come some cases took such a long, long time? Was it a transparent process? Were there obstacles in the way that may have not allowed justice to be served in a quick and fair way?”

Cornwall police Chief Daniel Parkinson and the police service welcomes the onset of the inquiry.

“(It’s) an opportunity to once and for all clear the air with regards to issues surrounding the Project Truth allegations pertaining to the Cornwall Community Police Service.

“A public inquiry would allow (police) the privilege to speak without breaching their oath of secrecy and bring out the facts and issues pertaining to the allegations made of the Cornwall police and its members.’’