Men: Priest Abused Us - Lawsuit Launched Against Archdiocese of Halifax, Diocese of Yarmouth

January 20, 2009

By: Davene Jeffrey, The Chronicle Herald

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Rev. Adolphe LeBlanc has been dead for decades but men are coming forward to say he abused them when they were boys growing up in small Nova Scotia parishes.

"Often, victims take years and even decades to talk about (sexual) abuse," Aaron Lealess said Monday.

He is an articled clerk with Ledroit Beckett, a London, Ont., law firm that has sued about 100 Roman Catholic dioceses across the country on behalf of clients who say they were sexually abused. The law firm is now suing the Archdiocese of Halifax and the Diocese of Yarmouth.

Mr. Lealess will be in Halifax on Wednesday to attend a news conference at which two men in their 60s will tell how Father LeBlanc abused them 50 years ago when they were just boys.

Many victims of abuse keep it secret and believe they are somehow responsible for it, Mr. Lealess said. He said it is healing for them to learn it wasn’t their fault and that they were the victims of a sexual predator.

The law firm is just beginning its investigation into Father LeBlanc, but Mr. Lealess said a few facts are known. Father LeBlanc was ordained in 1924 in the Archdiocese of Halifax and served in isolated parishes in the Yarmouth area, including Wedgeport and Salmon River. The Diocese of Yarmouth was created in 1953, detaching from the Halifax archdiocese. The Diocese of Yarmouth encompasses the counties of Kings, Annapolis, Digby, Yarmouth and Shelburne.

One of the alleged victims who will be attending the news conference still lives in Wedgeport, Mr. Lealess said.

So far, three alleged victims, including two men now living in Ontario, are plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Halifax and the Diocese of Yarmouth, Mr. Lealess said.

He wouldn’t reveal the men’s names but said the abuses are alleged to have taken place between 1940 and 1960, when the alleged victims would have been 11 to 15 years old.

"There was a grooming process," Mr. Lealess said, alleging that the priest would start out just by kissing the boys but it would eventually lead to something "much worse."

The abuse is said to have taken place on church property, in Father LeBlanc’s car and at a cottage. It allegedly continued for about four years in one case and two years in another.

The boys were abused regularly, ranging from more than once a week in one case to once every couple of weeks in another, Mr. Lealess alleged.

Ledroit Beckett will eventually try to gain access to church records to determine whether officials knew that Father LeBlanc was abusing boys and if he was merely shuffled off to another parish when trouble arose.

Records sometimes don’t exist in cases this old, Mr. Lealess said, and it becomes critical to find people who remember.

Ledroit Beckett first learned of Father LeBlanc’s alleged activities when a Nova Scotia man now living in Ontario approached the law firm with his story. So Ledroit Beckett placed an advertisement in a Yarmouth newspaper announcing it was investigating the priest and asking people to telephone. Two more alleged victims then came forward and joined the lawsuit, Mr. Lealess said. He believes more men may come forward after Wednesday’s news conference.

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