Scouts Canada Denies Keeping Secret Files On Suspected Abusers

October 22, 2011

By: Judith Lavoie and Derek Spalding, The Victoria Times Colonist

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Scouts Canada is adamantly denying that the organization has secret files documenting suspected abuse by volunteer leaders. "The suggestion that Scouts Canada is declining to share with police information or files pertaining to abuse by [convicted pedophile Rick] Turley or any other former volunteer leader involved either recently or many years past is equally false," said Scouts Canada spokesman John Petitti.

Turley spent about five years with the 2nd Douglas Scout group in the 1980s and, when suspicions of abuse were raised, was transferred to the Cordova Bay Sea Scouts, but police were not informed.

Petitti said all allegations or complaints are now shared with police and no secret files exist.

"There is no corner of our filing cabinets denied to police that is relevant to matters of abuse. That is true now and, as far as we can determine, that is true of years past," he said.

However, CBC's Fifth Estate worked with the Los Angeles Times to trace documents showing that, in the U.S., Boy Scouts of America had reports about Turley's sexual assaults on young boys, but failed to stop him from continuing to prey on victims when he returned to Canada.

Toronto lawyer Rob Talach, who devotes much of his work to representing victims of sexual assault, said Turley became a part of Boy Scouts of America's confidential files, which are designed to prevent people from bouncing around from one group to the next within the organization. Turley admitted to assaulting young boys in an incident in 1979, according to information from the U.S. organization.

"The Boy Scouts became aware of Mr. Turley's conduct within 24 hours of it occurring and expelled him from scouting in the U.S.," said spokesman Deron Smith.

Turley had already been convicted of kidnapping in 1975, but was still able to volunteer with Scouts. Even after becoming a part of the confidential files, Turley returned home, where he joined Scouts Canada.

Many of the assaults could have been avoided, said Talach, who slammed Boy Scouts of America and accused them of bordering on obstruction of justice for their role in keeping information from the public.

The organization has been shaken by lawsuits that followed a court decision last year that forced the U.S. Scouts to pay $18.5 million in punitive damages to Kerry Lewis, who suffered repeated assaults by former scoutmaster Timur Dykes. Even after confessing to the organization, he was allowed to stay.

The lawyer in that case, Kelly Clark, told the Times Colonist that the confidential files showed a system-wide child abuse problem identified as early as the 1960s. Twenty thousand pages of documents demonstrate there were about 1,200 abusers in a 20-year period, he said.

"They did nothing about it," Clark said. "They didn't change their policies, they didn't warn parents and apparently this guy [Turley] was able to cross borders and continue doing it in Canada."

When a child is brave enough to come forward immediately after an assault, people need to take action, Talach said. Most victims come forward many years later. The majority of his male clients come forward after the age of 45. "When a kid tells you at the time, that's a rare opportunity."

In Greater Victoria, anyone needing help can call the Men's Trauma Centre at 250-381-6367 or Vancouver Island Crisis Line at 1-888-494-3888.

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