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December 16, 2009

Cornwall Moves On After Child Abuse Scandal

by CBC News

'I'm hoping that this report helps people turn the page': victims' lawyer

The final report into a child sex abuse scandal that marred Cornwall, Ont., for decades has brought relief and some closure to many people in the community.

Dallas Lee, a lawyer representing about 50 people who said they were sexually abused in the eastern Ontario city, said that the reaction he has heard to the findings and recommendations of the Cornwall Public Inquiry has been has been "rather positive."

The victims had been hoping for recognition that their complaints were real and institutions such as the police and the Children's Aid Society really had failed them, Lee said Wednesday.

"We've certainly been validated on those points," he added.

Normand Glaude, the commissioner for the inquiry, released his final report on the four-year, $50-million inquiry Tuesday. It had been examining how public institutions like police forces and the Catholic church responded to widespread allegations of child sexual abuse against priests, parole officers, lawyers and other members of the community.

The report had criticisms and recommendations for all seven institutions it looked at, saying they did not meet their responsibility to help the community's children and protect them from predators.

Lee said he hopes the report will help Cornwall residents recognize that the problems examined in the inquiry existed everywhere and weren't their fault.

"I'm hoping that people will recognize five years down the road that Cornwall was a real agent for change," he said. "So I'm hoping that this report helps people turn the page."

When asked about criticism that the inquiry took too long and cost too much, Lee responded: "It cost what it cost, but I think it had to be done."

Premier Dalton McGuinty told The Canadian Press it's a good question to ask whether the inquiry into allegations of child sex abuse really had to cost so much. He said there's accountability to taxpayers, not just to the people of Cornwall.

He added that his government has made legislative changes to give it greater authority to limit the scope of inquiries and make sure they're run more efficiently.

Ontario Attorney General Chris Bentley said through the report, the community and its victims of child abuse have been able to speak out about issues that have, in some case, been hidden for many years.

"He found the conclusions that were there to be found," Bentley said, although he acknowledged in some cases "there were not the conclusions that people were looking for."

In the end, the report did not provide an answer about whether there had, in fact, been a pedophile ring in the community — a rumour that had plagued the city for decades.

VICTIM'S REACTION

Steve Parisien, who calls himself a sexual abuse survivor, was one of the dozens of people who packed a meeting room at a Cornwall hotel to hear Glaude speak about his report Tuesday, and he seemed satisfied.

"I have come to a full circle in my life in the healing process," he said. "We need to move on, we need to come together as a community."

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