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Canadian Press

Ontario-wide strategy needed for male sex abuse victims, inquiry told

Canadian Press, By Allison Jones in Toronto, February 27, 2009

CORNWALL, Ont. - Male victims of childhood sexual abuse need specialized support services and a provincial ombudsman dedicated to their plight, the Cornwall inquiry heard Friday as the $40-million probe drew to a close after three years of testimony.

The inquiry, established to examine institutional responses to allegations of sexual abuse in eastern Ontario, spent the majority of its final week hearing submissions dealing with allegations that a pedophile clan operated with impunity in the city for decades.

Lawyers at the inquiry cast the clan stories as fabrications spread by a misguided police officer and embraced by a panic-stricken community.

On Friday, the submissions focused on healing and reconciliation for the community and victims.

Following a complaint in 1992 that a former altar boy had been sexually abused by a priest and a probation officer, many others came forward to allege they had also been abused by prominent people decades ago.

Many of those complainants were men, and a lawyer for the counselling group The Men's Project said even though there were a lot of community services in the city at the time, none could adequately handle men's counselling.

"In fact, they had to bring in my client from Ottawa because they were the only ones with expertise to deal with this," David Bennett told the inquiry.

"Even though there were existing social services they just weren't able to deal with it and (that's) why there needs to be a specialized area."

Both The Men's Project and the Victims Group urged the commissioner to recommend that the Ontario government create victim treatment service centres for male survivors of sexual abuse provincewide.

Both groups also called for the province to create a sex abuse ombudsman.

"There has been a theme from survivors of not being believed, getting the run-around, being kept in the dark, which for some had the effect of re-victimization," the Men's Project said in its written submissions. "An ombudsman could rectify this."

In addition, the government needs to remedy how treatment for sexual abuse victims is funded, the Men's Project said.

Currently, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care assumes funding for recent sexual assault, but a year after the assault service is often refused and the person is referred to community services run by the Ministry of the Attorney General, the Men's Project said.

"Sexual abuse victims, either male or female, experience post-traumatic stress issues that can only be defined as complex, potentially disabling and requiring specialized treatment," the group said, in recommending the Health Ministry take responsibility for treatment funding.

The Men's Project said given the economic downturn they are worried the government will not have the resources to fund male sex abuse services. But it's too important not to, the group said.

"To not deal with this issue, to not meet it head on, not to implement these types of recommendations will cost the citizens of this province a great deal more" Bennett said.

The group Citizens for Community Renewal also pushed in their submissions for an apology to sex abuse victims and all citizens of Cornwall from the local bishop, the mayor and the premier.

Speaking in Amherstburg, Ont., on Friday, Premier Dalton McGuinty said he wouldn't comment until he has seen what Commissioner G. Normand Glaude has to say.

"I should wait for the report (and) see what recommendations flow from that," McGuinty said.

"Who knows, the report itself may even speak to that kind of a request."

A school resource officer program that has seen police officers in 22 high schools in Toronto should be extended throughout Ontario, the Cornwall Police Service said.

It has been successful and would foster communication between police and youth, Cornwall Police Chief Dan Parkinson said after the inquiry.

"It is for young people that they can speak to police officers, that the barrier of fear perhaps is somewhat reduced and police officers in the schools... are able to build those relationships," Parkinson said.

The police also recommended a review of privacy legislation and how it impacts sexual abuse investigations. Police are not necessarily able to inform the public of alleged child sexual abuse, lawyer John Callaghan said in an interview.

"We're asking that there be a review, not so that we disregard the other societal values (of right to privacy and presumption of innocence), but take another hard look as to under what circumstances and to make it clear when the police can tell the public about predators in their midst," Callaghan said.