Quebec Catholic dioceses tap ex-judge to investigate alleged cases of sexual abuse

A retired judge will examine 70 years of archives to determine the number and nature of cases of alleged sexual abuse committed against minors in five Catholic dioceses in Quebec, including Montreal.

The goal is to collect statistics on the number of allegations that involve both clergy members and staff at the Joliette, Montreal, Saint-Jean-Longueuil, Saint-Jérôme and Valleyfield dioceses, according to a news release issued by the Archdiocese of Montreal.

Starting in September, former Superior Court justice Anne-Marie Trahan will comb through archives from the 1950s onward.

Archbishop Christian Lépine asked Trahan to conduct the audit, and was inspired by similar initiatives elsewhere in the world, according to the release.

The archdiocese says Trahan will be given all the necessary means to carry out a thorough investigation.

Thomas Dowd, one of the archdiocese’s auxiliary bishops, was involved in the planning of the review.

He said the process is about bringing to light cases that may have been kept secret in order to ensure justice is served and to “learn from it so that frankly, we know what to do, and do better, in future cases.”

“We want to be able to react accurately if any new complaints come forward, but it’s also important to clean out that closet. So if we’re going to start fresh, we’ve got to take a look at our past,” he told CBC Montreal’s Daybreak.

Dowd said the case of Brian Boucher, a Montreal priest sentenced to eight years in prison for sexual assaulton Monday, compounded Lépine’s desire to get to the truth.

The audit is expected to last between 18 and 24 months. The final report will be made public.

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