Bathurst diocese defends sex abuse conciliation in ad
Posted: Aug 24, 2012 5:20 PM AT
Last Updated: Aug 24, 2012 6:35 PM AT
The Catholic Diocese of Bathurst has taken out a half-page newspaper ad, defending itself against criticism over a conciliation process offered to 80 sexual abuse victims.
An Ontario lawyer and some of the victims, abused by clerics between the 1950s and 1980s, have argued there wasn’t enough transparency in the process, but in the newspaper statement, the diocese maintains it did everything right.
It hired retired Supreme Court of Canada justice Michel Bastarache a couple of years ago to oversee the process, which included compensation and apologies.
“Eighty out of 86 victims of sexual abuse by Levi Noel, and other clerics of the Bathurst Diocese, participated in the process and accepted awards made, representing a 93 per cent success rate, one of the highest ever achieved in such a process,” the statement, signed by Most Rev. Valery Vienneau, the bishop-administrator of Bathurst states.
“The Ontario lawyer who now publicly criticizes the process and the diocesan effort represented a number of people who successfully participated in that process and who, with his counsel, accepted awards,” Vienneau states.
Some of the victims are in the process of launching a lawsuit.
Nothing to hide
“They suggest that their lawsuit is about seeing that further details come to light, intimating that they believe the diocese is hiding something or has denied its failures in acknowledging mishandling of Noel and others. This is simply incorrect,” states Vienneau.
“When I initiated the reconciliation process, I had learned the extent of Noel’s abusive actions. I publicly acknowledged the failures of my deceased predecessor bishops to recognize and curb his abuse. It led me to extend the process to others known and unknown in an effort to be fair to all victims.”
Levi Noel, who worked on the Acadian Peninsula for 30 years, was sentenced in 2010 to eight years in prison after pleading guilty to 22 sex-related offences.
The victims were boys between the ages of eight and 16 at the time of the abuse, the court heard.
“We’ve done what we could, we do believe, as far as, you know, having a helping hand for the victims, offering them the counselling and compensation with the process that we do have,” the diocese’s vicar general, Father Wesley Wade told CBC News on Friday.
“Our concern was for the victims. We did what we could. And also to respect our diocese financially. So I think that process has helped us tremendously,” he said.
“It’s a very painful experience of course. And most of these cases were many years ago. But we have to take our responsibility — both for the victims to respect them, compensation, financially-speaking, and counselling,” Wade said.
“But also we’ve got a process, a protocol, to avoid these situations in the future as much as we can,” he said.
Similar process in Moncton
The Archdiocese of Moncton also hired Bastarache earlier this summer to oversee a conciliation process for people who were sexually abused by former priest Camille Léger in Cap-Pelé.
Ontario lawyer Robert Talach urged victims to choose litigation over church-sponsored conciliation, arguing confidential payments only allow the diocese to keep the abuse shrouded in secrecy.
Several people in the small, southeastern New Brunswick village came forward earlier this year to talk about being abused by Léger.
The priest died in 1990 and was never convicted of any crimes.
Archbishop André Richard apologized in March to anyone who was abused by Léger.
2 Moncton priests removed amidst sex abuse allegations
Ontario lawyer criticizes archdiocese over timing of announcement
Posted: Jan 3, 2013 5:56 AM AT
Last Updated: Jan 3, 2013 9:31 AM AT
The Archdiocese of Moncton is facing criticism by an Ontario lawyer for its recent announcement of two priests being removed from ministry based on allegations of sexual abuse of children.
The archdiocese informed parishioners during mass last weekend that Father Yvon Arsenault, who was removed in July, and Father Irois Després, who retired in 1992, have been removed “from any ministry whatsoever following allegations of serious sexual abuse on minors.”
Retired Supreme Court of Canada justice Michel Bastarache — who was hired by the archdiocese in June to handle a conciliation process for the victims of another priest in Cap-Pelé — brought the latest allegations to the archdiocese’s attention, according to a Dec. 30 statement posted on its website.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
Robert Talach, a personal injury lawyer, says he is “concerned” about the timing of the announcement because he understands the archdiocese was aware of allegations against at least one of the priests for decades.
Talach says one of Arsenault’s alleged victims told him he “had discussions with the archdiocese as early as 1998” about the allegations.
It’s not surprising, said Talach, who is representing about 14 alleged victims of abuse in Moncton and another 19 alleged victims in Bathurst.
In May, Normand Brun told CBC News he took his complaint about being abused by the late Léger to the Catholic church in 1997 and received financial compensation.
Brun, who now lives in Vancouver, was unable to discuss how much money he received due to legal reasons, but said the abuse started when he was nine years old and continued for four years.
Talach questions timing
Talach also noted that the archdiocese removed Arsenault from church duties on July 4.
“Someone has to ask them, you know — if you had enough evidence to remove him in July, why didn’t you go public in July?”
Archdiocese officials have declined to comment, but in a statement read aloud at all diocesan churches said Archbishop Valéry Vienneau asks for “forgiveness from the victims and their families.”
Arsenault, 70, of Moncton, and Després, 82, who lives in a seniors home in Shediac, could not be reached on Wednesday for comment.
“Let’s remember, we’re talking about an institution that treats itself as the highest moral authority in the land,” said Talach.
“One would hope that such an institution would immediately involve the secular authorities — the police — when they find out one of their employees has multiple allegations of sexual abuse, not simply remove him with pay and pension.”
Talach said he believes the archdiocese chose to announce the removal of Arsenault and Després now because “it was likely going to come out elsewhere.”
At least one of the complainants has already gone to the police, he said.
Talach is urging any other possible victims to do the same.
“I am concerned … that there’s a message going out now to victims of these two living priests to come on down to the archdiocese and we’ll start up a compensation package. That’s absolutely wrong at this stage,” he said.
“Nobody should be doing deals right now, there shouldn’t be any talk of money. It should be simply going to the police and the archdiocese should be offering its fullest co-operation to the police on this,” Talach said.
Arsenault served in churches in southeastern New Brunswick for 44 years, including three in the Moncton area.
Després, originally from Cocagne, served in southeastern New Brunswick churches for 38 years.
Conciliation process continues
The archdiocese’s compensation process is expected to wrap up at the end of the month.
“We fully support the [conciliation] process instigated by Mr. Michel Bastarache for the victims and we pledge to be vigilant to ensure that anyone working in the church fully complies with the policies in place to prevent abuse of any kind,” Archbishop Valéry Vienneau said in a statement.
Talach previously urged victims of the former Cap-Pelé priest Camille Léger to avoid the financial compensation being offered by the archdiocese.
He argued confidential payouts would only allow the diocese to keep the abuse shrouded in secrecy and said victims should choose litigation instead of the church-sponsored conciliation process.
Léger died in 1990 and was never convicted of any crimes, but several people in the small, southeastern New Brunswick village came forward last March, alleging they were abused by him as children between 1957 and 1980.
Within a week of the stories of abuse becoming public, then-archbishop André Richard apologized to anyone who was abused by Léger.
Village council also voted to remove Léger’s name from the local arena.
Bastarache told CBC News the conciliation process would allow victims to remain anonymous because it was outside of the usual legal system.
It would also see more money go directly to the victims, he said, estimating compensation of between $15,000 and $300,000 for each victim.
Bastarache also handled a church-related sex abuse file in the Acadian peninsula. The Diocese of Bathurst hired him in 2010 after two former priests were charged with sex-related offences.
More than 90 victims came forward and close to 80 came to settlement, Bastarache had said.
Church abuse report delayed by more allegations
Retired Supreme Court Justice Michel Bastarache says process should end in April
Posted: Mar 7, 2013 7:50 AM AT
Last Updated: Mar 7, 2013 9:36 AM AT
An investigation by retired Supreme Court of Canada Justice Michel Bastarache into sexual abuse has been delayed for the third time as more people have come forward with new allegations.
The process began last spring when several people in the southeastern village of Cap-Pelé came forward alleging abuse against Father Camille Léger, who has been dead for 23 years.
Those claims forced the church to address other allegations of sexual abuse by hiring Bastarache to lead the independent investigation.
The reconciliation and compensation process was expanded after accusations were made against other two priests, Father Yvon Arsenault and Father Irois Despres.
The process was supposed to wrap up last week when Bastarache gave out compensation cheques.
But he said within the last two weeks many more people have come forward with accusations of abuse.
Bastarache informed the diocese of “serious allegations of sexual abuse” by the two priests.
Arsenault and Despres were both removed from ministry. While they remain priests they are not allowed to perform any church-related duties.
Despres retired in 1992 and is 82 years old and lives in a seniors’ home in Shediac. He served in churches in southeastern New Brunswick for 38 years.
Arsenault, 70, was the priest of two churches in Moncton and one in Irishtown, until he was removed last July.
CBC News has contacted the parish but no was able to say where Arsenault is now.
The priests are not facing any criminal charges.
Bastarache said the compensation process should be completed by the end of April.
Aside from giving victims money, there remain questions around how much responsibility the Archdiocese of Moncton still needs to take when it comes to past allegations of sexual abuse.
Bastarache also handled a church-related sex abuse file on the Acadian peninsula in 2010. The Diocese of Bathurst hired him after two former priests were charged with sex-related offences.
Bastarache has told CBC News the conciliation process allows victims to remain anonymous because it is outside of the usual legal system.
The retired justice has said this process allows more money to go directly to the victims, estimating compensation of between $15,000 and $300,000 for each victim.