Soundings

Different outcomes

In Eastern Ontario, Cornwall and Prescott are only 80 kilometres apart on Highway 401, both on the St. Lawrence River. The communities were ground zero for two of the largest and most intensive child sexual abuse investigations in Canadian history - first Project Jericho in Prescott, followed by Project Truth in Cornwall.

Sorting out what happened would take years. In Prescott, there would be numerous criminal convictions. In Cornwall, there would be only a handful, but an inquiry commissioner in 2009 would find widespread systematic institutional failures. While claims of pedophile rings, Satanic and ritual abuse did not bear out and the abuse was not shown to be organized it did prove to be interconnected in Prescott. Eventually, 119 perpetrators and 275 victims would be identified in Prescott. The conviction rate on criminal charges was an astounding 93 per cent. Project Jericho ran from August 1989 to December 1993. Project Truth in Cornwall took place between July 1997 and March 2001.

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In Prescott, the local Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit noted afterwards "although the abuse was not 'organized' it was interconnected. Particularly at the beginning, there were many links between the victims and the perpetrators the proportion of males was thought to be unusually high - 42 per cent of the first 40 victims were males. Overall, males constituted slightly more than one third of all victims. Of the perpetrators, a high proportion were also developmentally handicapped. Eighteen per cent of the perpetrators were women, reflecting a higher number of females than generally thought to be involved with the sexual exploitation of children. Many of these women (about 60 per cent) were accomplices to their male partners."

By the time police wrapped up their investigation in Cornwall, more than 670 people had been questioned, 115 criminal charges had been laid and 15 of Cornwall's most high-profile citizens were accused of sex offences dating back to the 1950s against young victims. The accused included doctors and lawyers, justice officials and several Roman Catholic priests from the Diocese of Alexandria-Cornwall.

Father Gilles Deslauriers, from the Co-Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Cornwall, had already been convicted in November 1986, while Father Paul Lapierre, acquitted in September 2001 of indecently assaulting a 13-year-old Cornwall Classical College student and former altar boy in Alexandria, about 30 kilometres northeast of Cornwall, between March 1964 and June 1968, was later convicted in Montreal in June 2004 for indecently assaulting the same boy in Quebec in 1965. Cornwall Classical College offered Grades 9 to 13, as well as college courses, and opened in 1949 as an all-boys Catholic school. The college closed its doors in 1968.

Normand Glaude, regional senior judge for the Northeast Region of the Ontario Court of Justice, who served as commissioner for the $53-million Cornwall Public Inquiry between 2006 and 2009, launched by the Ontario government after the criminal proceedings ended, found systematic institutional failures by the Cornwall Police Service, Diocese of Alexandria-Cornwall, Children's Aid Society and corrections and probations officials.

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