Archbishop Christian Lepine is seen in his office Wednesday, March 27, 2019, in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

Montreal archdiocese names independent ombudswoman to investigate abuse complaints

Montreal archdiocese names independent ombudswoman to investigate abuse complaints

MONTREAL — The Montreal archdiocese has named an independent ombudswoman to handle complaints regarding abuse and other inappropriate behaviour connected to the Catholic Church.

Montreal lawyer Marie Christine Kirouack will fill the new role, which was created following the release of a report last November about how church officials mishandled the case of a convicted pedophile priest.

“My role is to ensure that no form of abuse or inappropriate behaviour will be tolerated in the Catholic Church of Montreal,” Kirouack told a virtual news conference on Wednesday. Her mandate officially began Monday and has no set term. She will file a public report detailing her activities.

The role of independent ombudswoman was a key recommendation in last November’s report by former Superior Court justice Pepita G. Capriolo, who was hired by the archdiocese to investigate how it handled the case of ex-priest Brian Boucher, sentenced to eight years in prison in 2019 for sexually assaulting two minors.

Capriolo concluded the church had a culture of secrecy, lacked accountability and was more interested in protecting the reputation of the convicted priest than of addressing the sexual abuse.

On Wednesday, Capriolo told reporters the new procedures to address abuse complaints were a welcome improvement.

“This is all new, and structured, and it includes outsiders,” Capriolo said of the new protocols. “So there’s a safety net just about at every step of the way of the process.”

Kirouack, who is Jewish and not affiliated with the church, is mandated to receive all allegations of abuse and other inappropriate behaviour from victims of all ages and to ensure those complaints are followed up in a timely manner.

Archbishop Christian Lépine told the news conference that with the addition of an ombudswoman, the church wants to break the cycle of silence and make sure all complaints of abuse and inappropriate behaviour don’t go undetected.

That extends to all forms of abuse — sexual, physical, psychological, spiritual or financial — committed by a priest, deacon, staff member or volunteer working within the archdiocese of Montreal.

“No one, no matter what the reason, will be able to turn a blind eye or shirk his responsibility in these matters,” Lépine said. “It is essential that we honour this commitment and remain vigilant.”

Kirouack said she will not force anyone to file a complaint with her office, but will accompany them if they decide to do so, noting that it’s “paramount that victims feel their voices are heard and they are supported.”

Church officials presented an elaborate set of procedures, with complaints referred to a new advisory committee composed of five lay members — four experts in various fields including policing, psychology, health and law, as well as one survivor of abuse — who will determine next steps. If an investigation is recommended, it will be done by an external firm.

While the policy dictates that neither Kirouack nor members of the committee will call police, Kirouack said she would help a complainant if they wish to take that route.

“I will accompany them to file a complaint with police if they so wish,” she said. “And I will be by their side during a canonical or criminal trial.”

Lépine said more than half of the report’s 31 recommendations have been implemented, adding that the rest are expected to be put into force by the end of 2021.

Another retired Superior Court judge, André Denis, is conducting a review of archdiocese files to identify any information that wasn’t properly vetted.

Denis is also auditing the files of five dioceses making up the ecclesiastical province of Montreal, looking at the years 1940 to 2020, with an eye on sexual abuse by priests who are living or deceased.

Lépine said the results of the audits are expected in the fall.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 5, 2021.

Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

CMHA
Mental health support centre in central Alberta to receive funding

Shoppers Drug Mart is lending support to the Canadian Mental Health Association.… Continue reading

Downtown Red Deer was packed with people who lined the streets to watch the Westerner Days parade on Wednesday. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)
Westerner Days parade cancelled, full details on modified event coming June 28

The 2021 edition of Westerner Days will look much different than any… Continue reading

City council wants to hear from the public at a May 25 hearing about whether the temporary homeless shelter should be allowed to remain in the downtown for another year. (Advocate file photo).
City of Red Deer staff to recommend another extension to allow operations at current temporary shelter site

Following some more research city administration has received no other new locations… Continue reading

A scene from the short Western ‘Cheaters, Robbers and Outlaws,’ written and directed by Jason Steele, with support from Telus Storyhive. (Contributed image)
Red Deerians make ‘Cheaters, Robbers and Outlaws’ short Western film

Writer and director Jason Steele received a $20,000 Storyhive grant from Telus

Residents in several neighbourhoods reported little to no water pressure Tuesday night. (File photo by Advocate staff)
City hall to reopen for payments and customer service

Red Deer City Hall will reopen on June 21 for utility and… Continue reading

Harley Hay
Harley Hay: You can’t trust Mondays

Monday isn’t my favourite day. It insists on occurring right after a… Continue reading

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price stops Vegas Golden Knights' William Karlsson as he is covered by Canadiens' Joel Edmundson during first period of Game 3 of the NHL Stanley Cup semifinal Friday, June 18, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Andreson’s timely scoring, Price’s goaltending give Habs 2-1 series lead over Vegas

Canadiens 3 Golden Knights 2 (OT) (Montreal leads series 2-1) MONTREAL —… Continue reading

Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young (11) is defended by Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons (25) as he looks for an opening during the first half of Game 6 of an NBA basketball Eastern Conference semifinal series Friday, June 18, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Curry, Harris help 76ers stay alive, hold off Hawks 104-99

76ers 104 Hawks 99 (Series tied 3-3) ATLANTA — Seth Curry hit… Continue reading

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a joint news conference following the EU-Canada Summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday June 15, 2021. Trudeau says Canada is on track now to have 68 million doses delivered by the end of July, which is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine deliveries enough to fully vaccinate all eligible Canadians by end of July

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s promise of a two-dose fall is… Continue reading

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, speaks during a press conference in Ottawa, Thursday, May 13, 2021. Mendicino has announced a new policy to help settle 500 refugees and their families in a news conference today. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year: Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino

Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino announced plans to expedite applications and increase the… Continue reading

Louis Oosthuizen, of South Africa, plays his shot from the third tee during the second round of the U.S. Open Golf Championship, Friday, June 18, 2021, at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Bland leads at Torrey and shows the US Open is truly open

SAN DIEGO — The U.S. Open prides itself on being the most… Continue reading

The Prime Minister's car waits outside the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg Tuesday, May 19, 2009. The head of the Public Health Agency of Canada is showing no sign he'll release unredacted documents about the firing of two scientists at Canada's highest security laboratory — despite the prospect of being publicly shamed in the House of Commons for his refusal to turn them over. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods
PHAC head maintains he’s bound by law not to release docs on fired scientists

OTTAWA — The head of the Public Health Agency of Canada is… Continue reading

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases attributed to the highly contagious Delta variant grew in Canada this week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Public health agency reports spike in confirmed cases of Delta variant in Canada

OTTAWA — The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases attributed to the highly… Continue reading

Most Read