Catholic Church sexual abuse cases in Canada

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The Catholic sexual abuse cases in Canada are well documented dating back to the 1960s. The preponderance of criminal cases with Canadian Catholic dioceses named as defendants that have surfaced since the 1980s strongly indicate that these cases were far more widespread than previously believed. While recent media reports have centred on Newfoundland dioceses, there have been reported cases—tested in court with criminal convictions—in almost all Canadian provinces. Sexual assault is the act of an individual touching another individual sexually and/or committing sexual activities forcefully and/or without the other persons' consent. The phrase Catholic sexual abuse cases refers to acts of sexual abuse, typically child sexual abuse, by members of authority in the Catholic church, such as priests. Such cases have been occurring sporadically since the 11th century in Catholic churches around the world, including the United States. This article summarizes some of the most notable Catholic sexual abuse cases in Canadian provinces.

Sexual abuse cases by province[edit]

New Brunswick[edit]

As of 2017, court records indicate at least 56 cases of child sexual abuse involving the New Brunswick dioceses are currently before the courts. [1] According to one CBC report: “Almost every month for a year, lawsuits have been filed against the Catholic Church in New Brunswick by alleged victims seeking compensation for sexual abuse by priests.”

British Columbia[edit]

Hubert Patrick O'Connor[edit]

Hubert Patrick O'Connor was a Canadian Roman Catholic bishop of Prince George in British Columbia who was forced to resign following sex abuse charges filed against him.[2]

Fr. Damian Lawrence Cooper[edit]

Fr. Damian Lawrence Cooper is a Vancouver priest who was first accused of sexual abuse in 1994. He was sued in the B.C. Supreme Court along with the Archdiocese of Vancouver on September 29, 2014. The plaintiff visited the priest for counseling prior to the abuse, and was sixteen years old when the sexual abuse began. Media coverage of the lawsuit unearthed the fact that, despite initial claims of having removed Fr. Cooper permanently from the priestly ministry when the abuse was first admitted in 1994, the Archdiocese of Vancouver instead sent him to work in an Archdiocese on Long Island NY. In Long Island, he then committed "problems of a similar nature". [3] The Archdiocese's official comments to the media referred to the abuse as "an affair" which raised public expressions of concern, including questions about whether the Archdiocese was being legally aggressive or simply remained ignorant of the nature of pastoral sexual exploitation when it equated sexual exploitation of a minor and a congregant with "an affair". [4] Fr. Cooper was still a priest of the Archdiocese of Vancouver at this time, technically on leave, but had not been liaised (permanently removed from active ministry as a priest). He lives in Vancouver, Washington.


In 1988, a scandal erupted over allegations of widespread abuse of children at Mount Cashel Orphanage in Newfoundland. In 2003, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the Roman Catholic Church is responsible ("vicariously liable") for sexual abuse by its priests in the diocese of Saint George's. In February 2009, the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador ruled that the Roman Catholic Church in St. John's was responsible ("vicariously liable") for the sexual abuse of eight former altar boys by disgraced priest, Reverend James Hickey. In 2007 Reverend Wayne Dohey was charged with sexual assault and one charge of exploitation of a minor. The charges were dismissed due to insufficient evidence. The abuse allegedly occurred between 1996 and 2000 and started when the alleged victim was fourteen years old. Dohey was admitted to counseling in 2001 when the sexual relationship was acknowledged by the church. Controversy over the legality of the sexual relationship occurred because it was unclear whether Dohey was in a position of authority over the 14-year-old Anglican, who was placed at his church for mandatory community service.[5]


In Ottawa, Ontario historical cases of child-sexual abuse by Catholic priests within the Ottawa archdiocese date back to the 1950s. Newspaper records of documented cases involved at least 11 abuser priests and 41 victims.[6] Among these cases was those of convicted child sex offenders, Dale Crampton, Ken Keely, Jacques Faucher and Barry McGrory: all of whom served as priests in the Ottawa diocese in the 1970-80s under Archbishop Joseph-Aurèle Plourde, whose own role in these cases is well documented but was never held to account by the courts. [7]

As of 2016, the Ottawa archdiocese has paid nearly $600,000 in settlements to abuse victims in seven lawsuits since 2011. Five more lawsuits remain, with claimants seeking a total of $7.4 million.

In 2016, Ottawa archbishop Terrence Prendergast acknowledged "the enormity of the evil" in connection to these cases.[6]

Dale Crampton[edit]

In 1986, Dale Crampton was arrested and pled guilty to seven counts of indecent assault involving minors. Those abuses transpired between January 1973 and December 1982, while Crampton was a priest in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Ottawa. The seven male victims were all between the ages of 10 and 13 when they were assaulted by Crampton.

In the ensuing years subsequent to that trial, the number of sexual abuse cases grew in which Crampton was named as defendant. The scope of those new cases extended as far back as 1963, when Crampton was first ordained as a priest.

As of 2017, the Ottawa Catholic diocese knew of at least 17 people who say they were victimized by Crampton as children.

Angus Alexander McRae[edit]

In 1989, Priest Angus Alexander McRae, Archdiocese of Edmonton, Alberta (ordained June 5, 1954) was charged with the sexual abuse of two boys in Scarborough, Ontario. He spent several years with the Canadian Armed Forces as a military chaplain. In 1980 he attended court and was sentenced to four years for sexual abuse of a young boy. The charges, which included buggery, gross indecency and indecent assault, were laid and prosecuted by military police. He served the first ten months of his four-year sentence in the CFB military prison in Edmonton before being sent to Southdown, a treatment centre for Catholic clergy.[8] After his release from Southdown, he was taken into the Archdiocese of Toronto by Archbishop Emmett Carter, and was recycled into St. Thomas More parish in Scarborough. In 1989, he was charged with abuse in Toronto and pleaded guilty. He was then placed on a three year probation. He later claimed that he only pled guilty to spare the families further embarrassment: "As much as I hated it and against my conscience and to save families further embarrassment I took it on the chin."[9] McRae passed away peacefully at the Edmonton General Hospital on Friday, May 20, 2011.

Charles Henry Sylvestre[edit]

In August 2006 Father Charles Henry Sylvestre (born 1922)[10] of Belle River, Ontario pled guilty to 47 counts of sexual abuse on females between the ages of nine and fourteen between 1952 and 1989. Paul Bailey, the Crown Attorney for Chatham Kent, reportedly described the case as being the "largest case of non-residential school sex abuse by a Roman Catholic priest" in North America.[11] Local newspapers documented the lives of many of the women who refused the publication ban and spoke out about their abuse.[12] Sylvestre was given a three-year sentence in October 2006 and died January 22, 2007, of natural causes after only three months in prison.[10] The case was documented by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation new programme The Fifth Estate.[10] On May 21, 2020, an Ontario appeals court dismissed a bid by the Diocese of London, where Sylvestre was employed, to drop a lawsuit filed by Irene Deschenes, who claimed that Sylvestre sexually abused her when she was a minor between 1970 and 1973.[13] Deschenes began legal action against the Diocese of Ontario in 1996.[13]

Bernard Ambrose Prince[edit]

In 2008, Msgr Bernard Ambrose Prince (born in Wilno, Ontario, ordained in 1964, incarnated in 1992 in Pembroke, Ontario) pleaded guilty to charges of sexual abuse of thirteen young boys from 1964 onward. He was sentenced to four years incarceration in 2008. He was laicized by the Catholic Church in 2009, and paroled in 2010.[14] His crimes were known in the Canadian Catholic Church[15] and in the Vatican before he was appointed to Rome in 1991.[16]

William Hodgson Marshall[edit]

On April 30, 2020, the Canadian Supreme Court rejected an appeal from the Basilian Fathers of Toronto to not give victim Rod MacLeod a required payment of just over $2.5 million, including $500,000 in punitive damages, stemming from a sexual-assault case in the 1960s.[17] MacLeod was abused by Father William Hodgson (Hod) Marshall,[18] then a Basilian priest, when MacLeod was a student at St. Charles College high school in Sudbury.[17] A jury had previously ordered the Basilian Fathers of Toronto to make the payment in April 2018 by a jury.[19][17]

Marshall, who died in 2014 at the age of 92, pled guilty in 2011 to 16 counts of indecent assault of minors and one count of sexual assault for incidents that occurred between 1952 and 1986 when he taught at Assumption and Holy Names high schools in Windsor, plus other Catholic high schools in Toronto and Sudbury.[18] He was sentenced to two years in prison, and served 16 months of his sentence before being released on probation in 2012.[18] However, Marshall, who was given the nickname “Happy Hands” in the 1950s due to his tendency to touch students, later pled guilty to more sex abuse charges stemming from his time in Saskatchewan.[18]

Nova Scotia[edit]

On August 7, 2009, bishop Raymond Lahey announced that the Diocese of Antigonish had reached a $15 million settlement in a class action lawsuit filed by victims of sexual abuse by diocese priests dating back to 1950. On September 15, 2009, he was arrested at the Ottawa airport after the border services agency uncovered hundreds of unlawful images (child pornography) on his laptop computer. Lahey was "sentenced to 15 months in prison and two years probation, but received a two-for-one credit for the time he served".[20]


In 2013, convicted Ontario Basilian priest Hod Marshall received a six month house arrest sentence after pleading guilty to sexually assaulting two Saskatoon boys in 1959 and 1961[18]


The institution Collège Notre-Dame du Sacré-Cœur came into the public eye for a multitude of sex abuse cases and cover-ups spanning mare than the second half of the 20th century.[21]

In December 2012, it was reported that a deacon at a congregation in Beaconsfield, Quebec, and "a spokesperson for the Catholic Church on issues of child abuse", was charged with possession and distribution of child pornography after police seized more than 2,000 photos, as well as computers and hard drives, at locations in Beaconsfield and Pointe-Claire.[22]


On September 12, 2014, de-frocked Catholic priest Eric Dejaeger (born April 24, 1947, ordained in 1978) "was convicted of 24 counts of indecent assault, one of unlawful confinement, two of buggery, three of unlawful sexual intercourse, one of sexual assault and one of bestiality" that he committed during his time in the priesthood in the Roman Catholic mission in Igloolik, between 1978 and 1982.[23] He had already been convicted for 11 counts of sexual assault and indecent assault against children at his previous post in Baker Lake, Nunavut.[23]

Residential schools[edit]

By 1912, thousands of First Nations children attended residential schools, many of which were run by the Catholic Church. In 1990, Manitoba leader Phil Fontaine revealed that he had been sexually and physically abused in a Catholic residential school. He claimed that sexual abuse was common in residential schools in general. "In my grade three class, if there were 20 boys, every single one of them would have experienced what I experienced. They would have experienced some aspect of sexual abuse."[24] Canadian author and artist, Michael D. O'Brien, has also spoken out about his painful experiences of residential school abuse, revealing that "the sexual exploitation of the young has been epidemic in Catholic residential schools and orphanages."[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Disgraced B.C. bishop dead of heart attack". Retrieved February 16, 2019.
  3. ^ Hoekstra, Gordon. "Vancouver archdiocese says it informed N.Y. diocese of priest's history of sex abuse allegations". Retrieved February 16, 2019.
  4. ^ "Letters to Ed. re Father Damian Cooper media coverage - Sylvia's Site". Retrieved February 16, 2019.
  5. ^ "'Give me a polygraph'". Archived from the original on May 14, 2011. Retrieved February 16, 2019.
  6. ^ a b "Ottawa archbishop shaken by 'enormity of evil' in sex cases". Retrieved February 16, 2019.
  7. ^ Sadler, Justin (October 14, 2010). "Pedophile priest leaps to death". Archived from the original on October 16, 2010. Retrieved February 16, 2019.
  8. ^ "Southdown Institute: A 'shield' for the Church or a place to provide 'meaningful' help for pedophile priests?". Retrieved February 16, 2019.
  9. ^ "McRae: Father Angus McRae | Sylvia's Site". Retrieved February 5, 2019.
  10. ^ a b c The Fifth Estate, CBC. "The Good Father". Archived from the original on September 19, 2011. Retrieved 23 September 2011.
  11. ^ Sims, Jane (August 4, 2006). "'Guilty' 47 times: Rev. Charles Sylvestre admits to decades of sexual abuse involving 47 girls – many still suffering". The London Free Press.
  12. ^ Wilhem, Trevor. "To hell ...and back". The Windsor Star. Archived from the original on November 10, 2012. Retrieved September 23, 2011.
  13. ^ a b
  14. ^ "Canadian Fr. Bernard Prince Guilty of Sexual Abuse - McKiggan Hebert". Retrieved February 16, 2019.
  15. ^ "Bernard Ambrose Prince et. al. - Affidavit of Barry Thomas Conway" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on October 8, 2010. Retrieved February 16, 2019.
  16. ^ "Vatican, Canadian church officials tried to keep sex scandal secret". The Globe and Mail. Toronto. August 23, 2012.
  17. ^ a b c
  18. ^ a b c d e
  19. ^
  20. ^ "Bishop Lahey gets time served for child porn". Retrieved February 17, 2019.
  21. ^ "Cornelliner c. Province Canadienne de la Congrégation de Sainte-Croix". Archived from the original on May 16, 2012. Retrieved February 3, 2011.
  22. ^ Beaudin, Monique (December 27, 2012). "Police receive tips relating to deacon facing child-porn charges". Montreal Gazette. Retrieved December 27, 2012.
  23. ^ a b "Eric Dejaeger found guilty of 24 out of 68 sex-related charges". CBC News. 2014-09-12. Retrieved February 17, 2019.
  24. ^ Shocking testimony of sexual abuse, CBC interview with Chief Phil Fontaine from 1990-10-30. Page found 2011-05-11.
  25. ^ Victims, Scandals, Truth, Compassion Archived 2011-06-29 at the Wayback Machine, originally published in Catholic World Report, June 2002. Page retrieved 2011-06-27