February 19, 2001
An upright Ontario cop resettles in the West, as the sex scandal he exposed continues to swirl.
By Terry O’Neill (with permission from the author)
Note: When I was charged with contempt in the trial of Jacques Leduc, I was forbidden by Judge Colin McKinnon to publish the following article on Perry Dunlop as according to him, it was "too laudatory".
From the front deck of his newly rented house just outside Duncan, B.C., Perry Dunlop enjoys what real estate agents like to call a peekaboo view of Bird’s Eye Cove, which is less than half a mile down the hill, Jacques Cousteau was fond of scuba diving in these Vancouver Island waters. Mr. Dunlop observes. It is easy to understand why. The cove, surrounded by verdant mountain slopes, is a lovely little body of water. During this mild mid-January noon hour its calm, dark surface is broken only by gentle swells trailing the stern of a passing fish boat.
There is nothing like this back home in Cornwall, Ont., Mr. Dunlop remarks. But he then takes a deep breath and corrects himself. The faint rotten-egg odour from the Crofton pulp mill just up the road reminds him all too well of the paper mill in his hometown. It seems there are some things a man cannot escape.
The irony does not go unnoticed. For, the truth is, Mr. Dunlop uprooted his wife, Helen, and their three daughters this past summer and travelled 2,000 miles across the country for the express purpose of escaping what the couple says is the “denial and apathy” of Cornwall. Nevertheless, Mr. Dunlop is the first to acknowledge that, just as a sulphurous smell reminds him of the city in which he was born, was raised, was married and where he built a career as a police officer, the memory of what went on in Cornwall over the last seven years will never be far enough away.
In fact, while the 39-year old Mr. Dunlop is anxious to put the Rockies between his old and new homes, he is equally committed to telling as many people as he can the story of just what it was forced him to leave Ontario.
It is a story that some find unbelievable but others say is all too typical. It is a story that is disturbing and yet inspiring, as complicated as a tangled web of lies but as simple as the unvarnished truth.
It is, precisely, the story of how one man bucked official indifference and antagonism to expose widespread child molestation and pedophilia in his community. To many, Mr. Dunlop is a hero. But his single-mindedness and determination to protect children at all costs also earned him enemies within the Cornwall police force, the community at large and the local diocese of the Roman Catholic Church, some of whose members figure prominently in the scandal.
Most of what went on in Cornwall has been publicized in Ontario and by some national media. Nevertheless, even though the story may be more disturbing than Newfoundland’s Mount Cashel scandal, few western Canadians have heard of it.
It began in late 1992 when a male complainant told Cornwall police that, while serving as an altar boy at a Cornwall Catholic church in the 1970s, he had been sexually assaulted by a priest. The next year, the victim accepted at $32,000 payment from the church in exchange for dropping his allegations. The following month, however, then-constable Dunlop came across the complainant’s statement: knowing his colleagues were not following up the case and believing other children were at risk, he turned the statement over to the local Children’s aid Society.
After the existence of the $32,000 deal was made public, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) stepped in and launched a new investigation. However, the force announced on Christmas Eve 1994 there were no grounds to lay criminal charges against the priest. Meanwhile, Mr. Dunlop was charged under the Ontario Police Services Act with inappropriate conduct. A board of inquiry cleared him, but officials appealed the ruling.
The OPP reopened its investigation into the priest in 1995. During the same year, Mr. Dunlop was cleared once again but, despite having twice previously been named Officer of the Year in Cornwall, his career was in tatters. Also, in 1995, Malcolm MacDonald, a former federal crown attorney who had acted on behalf of the church in making the $32,000 payment to the victim, pleaded guilty to obstructing justice. He received an absolute discharge in a closed court in Ottawa.
The following year, police finally charged the accused priest, Father Charles MacDonald, with seven counts of indecent assault on three former altar boys. But there was more to come. In 1997, Mr. Dunlop presented OPP officials with two volumes of victim’s statements he had collected on his own time. The documents were explosive. They alleged the existence of a widespread pedophile “clan” in the Cornwall area, comprising many leading citizens. The OPP officials asked Mr. Dunlop what he wanted done with the material, and he answered, “I just want the truth to come out.” Shortly thereafter, the force announced the formation of Project Truth.
As of last month, investigations launched by Project Truth had led to 115 charges laid against 21 men, including lawyer MacDonald, who faced two charges of indecent assault and one of gross indecency. He died in a Florida hotel before standing trial, however, Fr. MacDonald also faces additional charges; he ahs yet to stand trial.
While no proof of a pedophile ring or clan has emerged, the charges do show a strong “Catholic connection.” Besides the two MacDonalds, other prominent Catholics accused by Project Truth include Dr. Arthur Peachy, Cornwall’s former coroner, who died in 1999 before facing trial; Brother Lionel Carrière, a former teacher who was deemed unfit to stand trial; Fr. René Dubé; Fr. Roméo Major; Fr. Paul Lapierre; Fr. Ken Martin; and Jacques Leduc, a canon lawyer with the Diocese of Alexandria-Cornwall. His trial is now underway in Cornwall.
Other noteworthy men charged include a former justice of the peace, a school teacher, a reeve of a nearby township and a counsellor for troubled youth. The latter committed suicide after being charged, as did an employment worker. A third man killed himself before charges could be laid against him.
Detective Inspector Klancy Grasman, deputy director of the OPP’s criminal investigations ranch, says Project Truth “is basically wrapping up and winding down…It’s been a lengthy investigation. I guess that’s an indication of how seriously we do take this.” He adds that throughout “our investigation, we’ve never found any evidence” of an organized pedophile ring. Cornwall, which has a population of only about 50,000 (most of them Catholic), is small enough that m any of the accused knew each other, he says, but did not act in concert.
Nevertheless, serious questions remain about the way in which both the police and the Catholic diocese dealt with the initial complaints. Indeed, MPP Gary Guzzo, a lawyer and former judge, has introduced a private member’s bill in the Ontario Legislature calling for an official inquiry into the OPP’s handling of the case. “When the allegations were first raised, there were two police investigations, and nothing came to light,” Mr. Guzzo says, ”So my question is, what happened?”
He says the failure to lay charges in the mid-1990’s must be due to incompetence, a cover-up or some unknown third possibility. “I keep asking the questions, and all I get is silence. All they do is shut up and stonewall.” Chief among his concerns is that evidence gathered by private citizens, but apparently not followed up by police, indicated that many Cornwall-area men, including priests, frequented the notorious, “Birch Avenue” pedophile strip in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in the 1970s.
“There are some senior people in the community who have not been charged, and I want to know why,” the politician says. “I was told very early on that four or five persons would never be charged in this, that officials would not go past this line. That meant that they had some kind of protection program.
Somebody someplace had gotten to someone to protect this level.” Mr. Guzzo’s bill has passed second reading, but is expected to die on the order paper before it can be debated again.
Questions about the Catholic Church’s conduct go back to early 1994, when Bishop Eugène LaRocque held a news conference in which he declared the $32,000 payment was only for counselling, and did not preclude the victim’s continuing to press his complaint with the police. Less than two weeks later, however, he declared that the victim drop his police complaint. “We all make mistakes,” Bishop LaRocque explained.
Sylvia MacEachern, for one, is not impressed with the Church’s handling of the affair. As editor of The Orator, a publication of the traditionalist Saint Brigid’s Association of Ottawa, she has been keeping a close watch on events in Cornwall. She is saddened by the number of priests charged in connection with the scandal. Moreover, she is disturbed that too many of those charged are allowed to keep working before and during their trials.
“Do church leaders really believe that sodomy of a young boy causes serious damage?” she asks. “Do they really believe that sexual molestation damages a child?” That’s my concern, because if they did, they wouldn’t allow these men in the sanctuary until they’ve gone through the courts, and until they’ve conducted their own investigations…My concerns is that they do not see it as a serious problem.”
Victim statements made public on a muckraking Web site (www.projecttruth2.com), raise more serious questions. Bishop LaRocque and several other Catholic priests are now suing the site’s founder, Dick Nadeau of Cornwall, along with his service providers and an American publication and writer for defamation in connection with information on the site.
Mr. Nadeau seems untroubled by the lawsuit. “Sue me! That’s always been my position,” he says. “If I’m so far out of line, let the people I’ve accused show me…We have so many witnesses to bring forward, they couldn’t withstand the kind of questioning they’d be under.” (Two weeks ago, Mr. Nadeau was also found in contempt of court for posting information about the Leduc case, which is now underway in Cornwall. He was to be sentenced February 15.)
David Scott, an Ottawa lawyer who represents the bishop, will not comment on the lawsuit. “For reasons that may be obvious, we are not communicating about this case at all.” The bishop’s statement of claim indicates, however, that he and his fellow priests will argue that the charges made against them are all imaginary or based on gossip.
The bishop’s suit against Mr. Nadeau is not only civil action underway. Among other cases are several suits filed by sex-abuse victims against alleged molesters and government agencies; a suit filed by the bishop against his own lawyers over the original $32,000 settlement; and a $1.2 million suit (revised downward from the original $72 million) filed by Mr. Dunlop in 1996 against several agencies and men, including two former Cornwall police chiefs, in which he claims his whistle-blowing ruined his career. “He can’t go back to work because he’s been ostracized by all the officers,” lawyer Charles Bourgeois said of his client at the time.
In fact, Mr. Dunlop did eventually return to work after three years of stress leave (paid by his own long-term disability plan), but found himself confined to a small, windowless office with a single computer and no telephone.
It was the latest manifestation of years of ostracizing and insults the Dunlops had endured within the church, the community and, for Mr. Dunlop at his workplace.
And there was worse. In August 1997, a sex-abuse victim alleged he had overheard several alleged abusers conspire in 1993 to murder the Dunlop family.
“I’ve been asked, ‘Would you do it again?’ And I always answer, ‘Yes, absolutely’” says Mr. Dunlop, who is currently looking for work with the RCMP in B.C. “And then they sometimes ask me, “How do you feel?’ And I tell them I feel that I’ve been shot down behind enemy lines. And that kind of says it all.”
This is not to say that Mr. Dunlop’s stand against official indifference to pedophilia has gone unnoticed. The Vancouver Island Human Rights Coalition honoured the Dunlops with an award in 1999. As well, the Texas-based Southwestern Law Enforcement Institute gave Mr. Dunlop its Ethnical Courage Award last October. “The thing that attracted us to him,” says spokesman Dan Carlson, “was the fact that he did the right thing. In fact, not only did he do that, but it appears to have cost him dearly for doing that.”
Ottawa Sun reporter Jacki Leroux agrees, and points out Mr. Dunlop could not have carried on without the total support of his wife. “I just love them,” says the writer. “I just can’t even begin to say enough good things about them. What they went through for seven years is unbelievable. It would have crushed most marriages. But not theirs.” Declared the writer, “They are the only true heroes I have ever known."
Two to the power of love
From the start of Perry Dunlop’s crusade against pedophilia, his wife Helen has been his strongest supporter. But their seven-year fight, in which their home became a clearinghouse of information and an informal counselling centre, eventually took its toll. “Everybody wanted a piece of us,” Mrs. Dunlop 44, says, explaining why the family moved to B.C. “You can’t built your house on a battlefield.”
Why, then, did they risk so much? “I couldn’t turn my back on children,” Mr. Dunlop says. “I could tell this was deep-rooted evil. When I read that first victim’s statement, I imagined myself 20 years down the road, mowing my lawn, and someone coming up to me. He was a victim and he wanted to know why I hadn’t done anything. That made the decision easy.
It is just as clear what should be done now. Mr. Dunlop rattles off a list of suggestions:
Helen was raised Catholic and
Perry converted to the faith when they married in 1989, but both no longer
attend church because of what they learned of priests and “complacent”
congregations during the past seven years. However, they believe in God,
read scripture and teach their children the Ten Commandments.
It is a faith that has helped them survive thus far, says Helen, and will undoubtedly see them through to the end, even if they end up abandoned by friends and colleagues. “It’s lonely at the top, eh, honey?” she asks. “Yes it is,” Perry replies.