Lawyer Says Inquiry Created to Examine All Aspects of Abuses

August 25, 2006

By: Terri Saunders, Cornwall Standard-Freeholder

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Keeping secret the name of a person investigated but never charged in a child sexual abuse case will go against the very reason why the Cornwall Public Inquiry exists, a lawyer for victims argued Thursday.

During a hearing on whether or not names of suspects and certain victims should be withheld from parties who have standing at the inquiry and their lawyers, Dallas Lee raised the point the motion strikes at the core of the commission.

"Nothing could go more to the heart of the subject matter of this inquiry than the decision to charge or to not charge a person who is investigated or a person of interest," said Lee. "That's exactly what we're here about.

"That's a major, major issue in this inquiry."

Lee said in many cases, allegations were made against an individual, suspicion was raised and some course of action was taken, either to charge that person or discontinue the investigation.

"Why were the charges not laid? This is exactly what we are here to assess," said Lee. "This is exactly what we are here to comment on and . . . the only way we can do that is through these documents."

Attorneys for both the Cornwall Community Police Service and the Ontario Provincial Police are arguing the identity of such individuals must remain confidential in order to protect them from undue harm.

John Callaghan, a lawyer for the city police, said despite the fact attorneys and parties have signed undertakings whereby they promise not to reveal confidential information to the general public, information about a person's identity could leak out.

He said it may be particularly harmful to a person who was at one time identified by police as a possible victim but whose name was never made public.

"The undertaking will not satisfy the pain of an individual . . . whose name gets bandied around a bar as . . . having been a victim, " said Callaghan.

Some parties have suggested they need to know the names in order to see the entire picture and ensure whether information contained in disclosed documents is relevant to their position at the inquiry.

Allan Manson, an attorney for Citizens for Community Renewal, said he needs to share that information with his clients - a core group of four people who have all signed undertakings - in order to understand the history of these issues in the community.

"It's a mass of documents that we're looking at, and we start knowing little tidbits of information," he said. "(There are) new situations, new names, new places pop up constantly and it's so much easier to call my clients and ask, 'Who is so-and-so,' and they usually know."

An attorney representing the Alexandria-Cornwall Roman Catholic Diocese suggested the matter could be dealt by way of a court order prohibiting the public dissemination of a person's identity.

David Sherriff-Scott said putting some names under a publication ban is another form of insurance in regards to an individual's right to confidentiality.

"Supplementing the restrictions that you place on disclosure (with a publication ban) would give another layer of protection," he said.

Lee said the inquiry cannot meet its mandate if broad strokes are used to keep information out of the hands of parties which may be relevant.

"This is information that goes directly to the heart of a major issue at this inquiry," he said. "I don't see how we can do what we are here to do without knowing this information."

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