Bernard Prince abused boys in Ottawa and Wilno
After serving two-thirds of his sentence, former Roman Catholic priest Bernard Prince was released on parole from a British Columbia penitentiary Tuesday.
His release date was exactly 32 months from the day he was convicted of 13 sexual offences in Pembroke court and sentenced to four years for his abuse of the then teenage boys. During the trial, the court heard that the well-respected Wilno parish priest sexually assaulted his 13 male victims, many who were altar boys, at his Wilno cottage and Ottawa apartment over a 20-year span.
One of the victims, who can only be identified as T.A.Y. because of a court-ordered publication ban stemming from the criminal trial, was notified of Mr. Prince's impending release by phone by a Corrections Canada official Sept. 9.
Following the sentencing in January 2008, T.A.Y. registered with Corrections Canada to receive updates about Mr. Prince's whereabouts. Doing so was an easy decision.
“He controlled my life for so long that I wanted to be in control of his life and know where he was,” he said during a telephone interview Tuesday.
Although he has received periodic updates in the past, including when Mr. Prince was moved from a facility in Kingston to British Columbia, the updates were always by mail so he was a bit surprised to receive this unusual phone call last week telling him about the Sept. 14 release.
Knowing the man who robbed them of their innocence and took away part of their childhood is now free is a frustrating reality for T.A.Y and the other victims who he remains in contact with since learning they shared the same dark secret of abuse. He, like the other men, continues to deal with a number of issues stemming from the abuse which occurred more than three decades ago.
“He has been in jail for two years and eight months, but we are still living a life sentence,” he said.
While it has been difficult, he has moved on thanks to countless counselling sessions over the years, but he wishes he never had to live through the experiences in the first place.
Although many of the men knew each other growing up in the Wilno area, they didn't know they were all carrying the same secret and dealing with the same pain. Since the criminal trial in 2008, they have formed a bond that T.A.Y believes will never be broken.
“It is like a brotherhood,” he said.
Because he is one of only a handful of the men to register with Corrections Canada to receive the updates on Mr. Prince, he keeps everyone abreast of what is happening.
Upon his release, T.A.Y. believes Mr. Prince will be moving to Sudbury but he expects at some point he will return to the Wilno area. As part of his release, he is bound by strict conditions which include no involvement or contact with the victims or their families, no involvement with child or youth organizations and restrictions on his movements in relation to parks, playgrounds and recreation centres, T.A.Y. has learned from Corrections Canada. Prince is under a lifetime ban prohibiting him from being near children under the age of 14. His name is also listed on the national sex offender registry.
Despite his release from prison, Mr. Prince's legal battle is not over. In April 2008, London lawyer Rob Talach of the law firm Ledroit Beckett launched a $22-million civil suit against Mr. Prince, who was dismissed as a priest by Pope Benedict XVI in May 2009, and the Diocese of Pembroke. The suit alleges the diocese was aware of the allegations against Mr. Prince as early as 1968 but did nothing.
To date, Mr. Talach has resolved seven actions and has eight ongoing. He is set to start looking at trial dates in Pembroke court to have the cases heard.
Through this process, he has seen the impact it has had on his clients as many believe the knowledge of the abuse extends beyond Mr. Prince and possibly as high as the Vatican where the defrocked priest was posted in 1992 and remained until his retirement in 2004. None of this has been proven in court.
Mr. Talach is confident there are others who suffered at the hand of Mr. Prince or who knew what was going on at the time. He urges these people to come forward.
“If you were a victim you should tell the police,” he said. “Prolific abuse like this could not have taken place in the dark, people have to know. There are people in the church and people in the community and we need to know who they are.”
He expects to be looking at dates in 2012 or 2013 for the lawsuit depending on the availability of the court.