Victim Relieved As Court Denies Appeal

July 2, 2011

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Jerome Myre was just 12 years old when he told his parents he had been abused by Roman Catholic Priest Bernard Cloutier.

Now, at age 37, he can finally say he feels a sense of relief.

The province's highest court dismissed an appeal on Thursday of Cloutier's criminal conviction for abusing four boys decades ago.

The Ontario Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal and upheld Cloutier's five-year prison sentence.

"That's a big weight off of my shoulders," Myre said.

Myre, 37, was one of four victims Cloutier assaulted more than a quarter century ago. Despite a complaint to police back in the 1980s, Cloutier was not arrested until 2007.

He was found guilty by Superior Court Justice Paul Kane in July 2009 of four counts of indecent assault, four counts of gross indecency and one count of sexual assault. He was sentenced in September 2010 to five years in prison, but appealed both his conviction and sentence.

In addition to dismissing the appeal on Thursday, the court ordered that Cloutier register on the national sex offender registry.

Myre said he was happy with the sentence, despite the fact it won't erase the memories.

"It's never enough," he said, adding: "At least he did get something."

"From 12 years up to age 37, I carried that guilt and all the burden on my shoulders," Myre said.

Myre said it's a relief that Cloutier is now officially guilty in the eyes of the courts. The abuse involving the four boys took place between 1971 and 1983 at more than one church in the Sudbury area, among them St. Mathieu in Sudbury where Myre was an altar boy.

The abuse against Myre occurred when he was between the ages of 10 and 12. The memories haunt him today.

"I don't think there is any amount of counselling or money ... I would trade all of that just to have my memory erased," Myre said.

Memories of the event come out of the blue.

"It will never end. It will never go away," Myre said. "That's something that will be with me for the rest of my days."

In each case, Cloutier befriended the boys and became close friends with their parents. He was, said Kane, "a trusted and frequent guest in their homes."

He was a local leader of the church and, as such, held incredible persuasive power, Kane said. But "he abused his position of trust for his own sexual gratification."

He was friendly and generous to the boys, solidifying the friendships with gifts and providing them access to adult privileges, including alcohol, said the judge.

He preyed upon the young boys at a time when their sexual identity was still developing.

Cloutier did not use threats of violence with the boys, Kane said. Instead, he used his power and position in the church.

Myre complained to his pare nt s, who called Sudbury Regional Police in 1983. When a police sergeant came to their home to inter view Myre, another victim, Robert Roussell and their parents, the visit was interrupted when then-Bishop Gerard Dionne and Cloutier showed up at their door.

Dionne brought the boys upstairs to a separate room and conducted his own interview.

Myre said he told his parents the appellant had touched him, but that he had not provided details. Roussell said he had not told anyone the details of what happened. The bishop told the boys not to tell anyone else. He then said that he would get help for Cloutier and that they should pray for him.

During the bishop's interviews with the boys, the parents and the police officers sat downstairs with Cloutier.

The bishop came downstairs and announced that he was satisfied nothing had happened, that both boys had just been drinking. He said that he would ensure the appellant received treatment.

No charges were laid at the time.

While the long court process has now ended for Myre, the civil litigation process continues.

Five separate lawsuits for $3 million each -- the maximum allowed under the law -- have been filed in the Superior Court of Justice against Cloutier and the Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation of the Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie. The lawsuits also name Dionne, the auxiliary bishop at the time.

The lawsuits contain some allegations that have not been proven in a court of law.

While Cloutier was convicted of charges relating to four victims, he was acquitted of charges involving a fifth victim.

A publication ban prevented the release of the victims' names, but Myre and two of the other victims asked that the ban be lifted.

He said he was upset when the current Bishop Jean-Louis Plouffe made a comment that the plaintiffs "enjoy the anonymity of the court."

Myre said he did not want to hide his identity, it was a court-ordered ban.

"I wanted to come forward," he said.

rpunch@thesudburystar.com On Twitter @RachelPunch

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