Cornwall abuse inquiry set to deliver report
The Canadian Press
Published Sunday, December 13, 2009 11:35AM EST
An inquiry spurred by murky rumours of a clandestine pedophile ring and cover-up conspiracy in eastern Ontario will release its final report Tuesday, four years after being struck.
The release is the culmination of the Cornwall inquiry, which ended up with a $53-million price tag examining institutional responses to historical allegations of sex abuse.
Some have openly questioned the value of an inquiry that spent so many years and so many millions of dollars probing how public institutions operated decades ago, as practices governing how abuse allegations are dealt with have since changed.
"I've always wondered how (the commissioner) is going to make recommendations on issues from the 1960s and '70s when so much of this has been taken care of already," said Claude McIntosh, a columnist for the Cornwall Standard-Freeholder.
"I would not want to say the inquiry was not needed, but when you look at the cost of it... it's a lot of money to spend."
The government estimates the final tab for the Ministry of the Attorney General will be $50 million, in addition to a $3.2 million special assistance grant for the city from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Social Housing for costs the city incurred up to March 31, 2007.
Since that time, the city of Cornwall has had to pay $1.7 million itself for legal fees for representation of its police service. About $3.7 million of the money from the Attorney General's office has also gone toward those legal fees, but the city has been told it won't be reimbursed for the extra $1.7 million, said chief administrative officer Paul Fitzpatrick.
Lead commission counsel Peter Engelmann said the scope of the inquiry -- decades of institutional responses to sexual abuse -- forced them to take time to ensure everyone's voices were heard.
"When you look back on something you can always think of ways you could have done things faster or perhaps more efficiently," he said.
"But part of the big issue was not just looking at this issue, but looking at it thoroughly."
While the abuses discussed at the inquiry happened decades ago, the sexual abuse of children is an ongoing problem, and institutions everywhere can still learn lessons, Engelmann said.
It has been 10 months since closing submissions, in which the pedophile clan theory was cast as a fabrication spread by a misguided police officer and embraced by a panic-stricken community.
Public agencies ill-equipped to handle sex abuse allegations, the equation of homosexuality with pedophilia and the presumption of guilt of accused abusers were all also put forward as factors in how rumours of the sex ring took root.
While not officially in the inquiry's mandate, Commissioner G. Normand Glaude was urged in closing submissions to once and for all debunk the sensational pedophile ring tale.
To that end, Glaude is expected to touch on the saga of Perry Dunlop, the crusading police officer whose off-hours investigation is credited with unearthing genuine sex abuse allegations but also with fuelling rumours of a powerful, backroom pedophile clan.
Dunlop refused to testify at the inquiry largely of his own making, saying he had no faith in the justice system. He served several months in jail for contempt of court convictions.
Many eyes will also be on the Glaude's counselling recommendations. In closing submissions victims groups urged specialized support services for male victims of sexual abuse as well as a provincial ombudsman dedicated to their plight.
"It became very apparent through the inquiry how there are so few services for men who are survivors of sexual abuse and sexual assault that I can't imagine the report not making a recommendation about that," said David Bennett, who represented the Men's Project at the inquiry.
The Men's Project is based in Ottawa but established a branch in Cornwall through the inquiry, though funding is currently set to expire Jan. 15. They would like to not only see funding for that branch made permanent, but other such centres established around Ontario.
"My biggest concern is that the government will say, `We don't have funding for this,"' Bennett said.
"Our view on that is to not fund it will cost the citizens of Ontario a lot more."
The Men's Project estimates it would cost about $400,000 to $500,000 a year for them to operate in a mid-size city.
While the government hasn't given victims groups "any reason for optimism," they are hopeful at least some of the counselling funding recommendations will be implemented.
"I think they have to do something," said Dallas Lee, who represented the Victims' Group.
"You can't have an inquiry of this length and frankly of this expense and not do something."
In 1993, Dunlop was a Cornwall police officer when he came across documents showing one alleged sexual abuse victim had received a $32,000 payout from the Alexandria-Cornwall Roman Catholic Diocese.
Some of those involved believe Dunlop's hunger to root out pedophiles pressured victims to fabricate stories of a pedophile ring, while others believe he naively latched onto such tales in his blind pursuit.
The inquiry's watershed moment came in June 2007, when Ron Leroux recanted his admission to Dunlop that he had witnessed a clan of pedophiles who wore robes, burned candles and sexually abused young boys during weekend meetings in the 1950s and '60s.
Ontario provincial police launched their Project Truth investigation in 1997 and by its completion in 2001 they had laid 114 charges against 15 people, but found no evidence of a pedophile ring.
Of the men charged only one was convicted. Four died before their cases came to trial, four were acquitted, four had the charges against them withdrawn and two had the charges against them stayed over delays.
The Ontario government established the inquiry in April 2005 and it began hearing from witnesses in February 2006. When it was still plugging away in October 2008 the government stepped in and set an end date, with the report ordered due July 31, 2009.
As that deadline approached the inquiry asked for an extension and one was granted until October, but a second extension request pushed back the release until Tuesday.