Catholic sexual abuse cases in Canada

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The Catholic sexual abuse cases in Canada have been centered in Newfoundland dioceses, although there have been reported cases of abuse in most Canadian provinces.

Sexual abuse cases by province[edit]

British Columbia[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.[1]

Fr. Damian Lawrence Cooper is a Vancouver priest who was first accused of sexual abuse in 1994. Fr Cooper is being sued in the B.C. Supreme Court along with the Archdiocese of Vancouver, with a court date of September 29, 2014. The plaintiff went for counselling to the priest and was 16 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 Fr. Cooper to work in an Archdiocese on Long Island NY, where he then committed "problems of a similar nature." [2] 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". [3] Fr. Cooper is still a priest of the Archdiocese of Vancouver, technically on leave, but has not been laicised (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 acquitted of one charge of sexual assault and one charge of exploitation of a minor due to insufficient evidence. The abuse allegedly occurred between 1996 and 2000 and started when the alleged victim was 14. Dohey was admitted to counselling 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.[4]


Angus Alexander McRae[edit]

1989: Charges of sexual abuse of two boys in Scarborough, Ontario. At the time was a parish priest at St. Thomas MooreGUILTY plea. Placed on three years probation. Priest, Archdiocese of Edmonton, Alberta. Ordained 5 June 1954. Spent several years with the Canadian Armed Forces as a military chaplain. 1980 court martial – sentenced to four years for sex abuse of young boy. The charges, which included buggery, gross indecency and indecent assault, were laid by military police and prosecuted by military. Served only 10 months of four year sentence, and that in CFB military prison in Edmonton. Sent to Southdown. After his release from Southdown taken into Archdiocese of Toronto by Archbishop Emmett Carter – recycled into parish in Toronto Archdiocese (St. Thomas More, Scarborough). In 1989 charges of abuse from Toronto. GUILTY plea. Placed on three years probation! Later claimed he 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."). Friday, May 20, 2011, McRae passed away peacefully at the Edmonton General Hospital. Source:

Charles Henry Sylvestre[edit]

2006: In August, Father Charles Henry Sylvestre (born 1922),[5] of Belle River Ontario plead guilty to 47 counts of sexual abuse on females, aged between nine and fourteen years old 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.[6] Local newspapers documented the lives of many of the women who refused the publication ban and spokeout about their abuse.[7] Sylvestre was given a three-year sentence in October 2006 and died January 22, 2007 of natural causes after only three months in prison.[5] The case was documented by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Documentary series, The Fifth Estate.[5]

Bernard Ambrose Prince[edit]

2008: Msgr Bernard Ambrose Prince (born Wilno, Ontario, Canada, ordained 1964, incardinated 1992 Pembroke, Ontario) pleaded guilty to charges of sexual abuse of 13 young boys from 1964 onward, and was sentenced to four years incarceration in 2008. He was laicized by the Roman Catholic Church in 2009, and paroled in 2010.[8] His crimes were known in the Canadian Catholic Church[9] and in the Vatican, before he was appointed to Rome in 1991.[10]

In Ottawa, 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. Among these cases was that of convicted abuser Dale Crampton.

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 has acknowledged "the enormity of the evil" in connection to these cases.

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 to 1950. On September 15, 2009, he was arrested at the Ottawa airport after the border services agency uncovered unlawful images on his laptop computer (cf sexual abuse scandal in Antigonish diocese).


The institution Collège Notre-Dame du Sacré-Cœur came into the public eye for a multitude of sex abuse cases and cover-ups spanning over the better part of the second half of the 20th century.[11]

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.[12]


On September 12, 2014, de-frocked Catholic priest Eric Dejaeger "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.[13]

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."[14]

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."[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Disgraced B.C. bishop dead of heart attack" – via The Globe and Mail.
  2. ^ Hoekstra, Gordon. "Vancouver archdiocese says it informed N.Y. diocese of priest's history of sex abuse allegations".
  3. ^ "Letters to Ed. re Father Damian Cooper media coverage - Sylvia's Site".
  4. ^ "The Telegram".
  5. ^ a b c The Fifth Estate, CBC. "The Good Father". Archived from the original on September 19, 2011. Retrieved 23 September 2011.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ Wilhem, Trevor. "To hell ...and back". The Windsor Star. Retrieved 23 September 2011.
  8. ^ "Canadian Fr. Bernard Prince Guilty of Sexual Abuse - McKiggan Hebert".
  9. ^
  10. ^ "Vatican, Canadian church officials tried to keep sex scandal secret". The Globe and Mail. Toronto. 23 August 2012.
  11. ^ "Cornelliner c. Province Canadienne de la Congrégation de Sainte-Croix". Archived from the original on 2012-05-16. Retrieved 2011-02-23.
  12. ^ Beaudin, Monique (27 December 2012). "Police receive tips relating to deacon facing child-porn charges". Montreal Gazette. Retrieved 27 December 2012.
  13. ^ "Former Arctic priest guilty on several sex charges involving Inuit children - CBC News".
  14. ^ Shocking testimony of sexual abuse, CBC interview with Chief Phil Fontaine from 1990-10-30. Page found 2011-05-11.
  15. ^ Victims, Scandals, Truth, Compassion, originally published in Catholic World Report, June 2002. Page retrieved 2011-06-27