Judge Scolds Lawyers at Inquiry

June 20, 2007

By: Terri Saunders, Cornwall Standard-Freeholder

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The judge helming the Cornwall Public Inquiry scolded lawyers Tuesday for asking for documents more than 18 months after they should have anticipated their relevance.

Several lawyers for a number of parties at the inquiry had suggested the testimony of Gerald Renshaw, an alleged victim of sexual abuse, be put off until they could get their hands on files kept by Charles Bourgeois, a lawyer who has represented former city police officer Perry Dunlop in the past on legal matters and came in contact with several of the people who have either already testified at the inquiry or are expected to do so in the near future, including Renshaw.

Comm. Normand Glaude refused to put off hearing from Renshaw after hearing the documents being requested - a transcript from a civil court hearing and Bourgeois' personal files and notes - may have been on parties' radar screens at least since Renshaw was granted standing in November 2005.

"I'm loathe to interfere with the presentation of evidence by witnesses who have come forward without good reason," Glaude said. "I'm disappointed that everybody has thrown up a ball and is pointing the finger at each other. I'm not going to delay this inquiry because of a document."

Lead commission counsel Peter Engelmann said he was frustrated upon learning just moments before Renshaw was set to take the stand the transcript of a hearing for disclosure of evidence was in existence and could be retrieved by officials from the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, the agency which would have employed Ken Seguin, a city probation officer whom Renshaw and several other area men have alleged sexually abused them.

Seguin committed suicide in 1994 before any criminal charges were laid against him. Engelmann said the transcript from the discovery hearing is not overly relevant to the work of the commission and neither are Bourgeois' files.

"Charles Bourgeois commission an affidavit (from Renshaw)," said Engelmann. "Even if files and notes exist, I don't really think they would be all that helpful."

Some lawyers at the inquiry disagreed with Engelmann's suggestion, saying any contact between witnesses and Bourgeois must be examined thoroughly.

David Sherriff-Scott, an attorney representing the Alexandria-Cornwall Roman Catholic Diocese, said the inquiry may hear testimony from a witness down the road which will suggest the witness felt intimidated and manipulated during the process of providing an affidavit to Bourgeois and Dunlop.

"You may hear his (the witness) concerns were brushed aside or minimized by these individuals in an effort to drive their ... theory," said Sherriff-Scott. "This information is germane to what's going on."

Dallas Lee, an attorney who represents Renshaw and other members of The Victims Group, implored Glaude to allow his client to testify as scheduled.

"He has prepared, he has taken time off from work, he has arranged for a support person to be here with him, he has arranged for day care for that person's children. He is here to help the inquiry, to tell his story and to answer questions," said Lee.

"He has asked to get in and get out and move on to a new phase of his life. It is not fair to have him strung along or to force him to come back."

Glaude agreed with Lee's position. "It's important to get on with matters in an orderly fashion," he said. Renshaw is expected to be on the stand for most of this week.

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