Reality Check

Commentary on news from Cornwall, Ontario, Canada

February 22, 2005

Cornwall Victims of Sexual Abuse Seek Justice

Three victims have come forward in Cornwall with civil lawsuits, one seeking as much as $3.1 million for damages due to sexual abuse.

At a Press Conference held in Cornwall on February 22, 2005 in Cornwall, the law firm of LedroitBeckett from London, Ontario indicated that the lawsuits were still being issued.

The Alexandria-Cornwall Catholic diocese is being sued, as well as previous Bishop Eugene LaRocque and present Bishop Paul-Andre Durocher. Father Charles MacDonald, also of the same diocese, and former lawyer for the diocese, Jacques Leduc are being sued as well.

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John Swales, a representative with LedroitBeckett, and Robert Talach, a litigation lawyer with the same company explained the process in civil lawsuit cases. Swales is himself a victim of sexual abuse.

Under a heavy media presence and a crowded public gallery, the three victims were introduced and each spoke in turn.

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Stuart Labelle is suing Cornwall lawyer, Jacques Leduc for $3.1 million for the pain and suffering he is claiming to have endured since being abused by Leduc. Labelle still thinks about the abuse every day and has difficulty coping. He wants to deal with the lawsuit and then move on with his life.

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Choking back tears, Albert Lalonde responded to questions by the media about his abuser, Father Charles MacDonald. Lalonde has been on a disability pension since 1992, because of a series of health problems including heart and stomach ailments and anxiety attacks. Separated from his wife for seven years, and with his life in disarray, Lalonde is also looking for closure in what has been a horrific life since being abused by Father MacDonald.

Robert Renshaw is also claiming that he was a victim of Father Charles MacDonald, and that he has endured the suffering for 13 years. Renshaw stated that he wants justice and closure for himself, but that he wants pedophiles off the Cornwall streets so that our children and grandchildren are safe.

At another venue in Queen’s Park later in the day, Attorney General Michael Bryant was questioned about the delay in beginning the Public Inquiry into sexual allegations in the Cornwall area. The Minister responded by saying that a Commissioner will be named likely within the next 10 days, at which time the Inquiry will begin.

Today will be remembered as the day in which three victims of sexual abuse in Cornwall bared their souls to the public in an attempt to find justice and inner peace. Other victims of sexual abuse in the audience will undoubtedly be watching closely and may come forward at some point.

The community is looking for truth- just as it did in 1994- when the first investigation was launched. What is unknown in the civil cases is whether they will eventually be settled out of court. If that happens, there will be no further ‘truths’ forthcoming because of gag orders likely imposed as part of the settlements.

Let’s hope the lawsuits go before the courts, and reveal the truth about the abusers for which the community has been patiently waiting for over 10 years.

But more importantly, if these three civil suits force the hand of the provincial Public Inquiry, and open the floodgates to the pedophile crisis not just in Cornwall but across the country, then in the end we will all be part of a healthier society.