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A child abuse witch-hunt in the town of Cornwall, Ontario now appears to be approaching its end after more than 16 years of investigations. A "paedophile ring" comprising "top people" was supposed to be operating in the town, following an allegation made against a Catholic priest in 1992. The local Police Chief was supposed to be a member as (naturally) was the local Catholic Bishop. The allegations against the Bishop dated to a time before he arrived in the Diocese! (This is not unusual in child abuse witch-hunts; recently the head of the Vincentian Order in Australia was arrested on foot of "recovered memory" allegations relating to a period when he was not in Australia.)

The result of 16 years of investigation is that one person - a bus driver - was convicted in Cornwall. The latest Cornwall Public Inquiry has been cut short - after three years - by the financial crisis. It was supposed to last one year.

The Cornwall hysteria has similarities with hysterical outbreaks in Ireland, for example Letterfrack which also involved allegations of a "paedophile ring" and "top people".

Rory Connor
13 March 2009

Pedophile Paranoia Gripped Ontario City Due To Witness Lies and Cop's Crusade Says Lawyer for Diocese

by Allison Jones, The Canadian Press Feb 26, 2009
CORNWALL, Ontario, CANADA - A widespread paranoia that officials in eastern Ontario engaged in the sexual abuse of children for decades can be blamed largely on corrupt witnesses and a police officer suffering from mental health issues, a public inquiry heard Thursday.

The pedophile clan theory was "a series of falsehoods" that was "manufactured and produced by (Ron) Leroux's deliberate strategy to mislead," lawyer David Sherriff-Scott told the Cornwall inquiry.

"It was propagated by the reckless incompetence and lack of judgment of (Const.) Perry Dunlop, who could not discern fact from fiction."

Sherriff-Scott, a lawyer for the Diocese of Alexandria-Cornwall, presented to the Cornwall inquiry his version of the complex tale of the controversy that has gripped the city for years.

While its mandate is to examine the institutional response to sexual abuse allegations, many of the parties involved have advanced theories as to why some members of the public latched on to the pedophile clan rumour.

It began in 1992, Sherriff-Scott said, when a 35-year-old former altar boy alleged he had been sexually abused by a priest and a probation officer. The man reached a settlement with the diocese for $32,000 and didn't pursue charges against either man.

Dunlop leaked the allegations to the local Children's Aid Society and the information eventually appeared in the media. The man launched a complaint against Dunlop.

That was the beginning of the end, Sherriff-Scott said.

"Mr. Dunlop became convinced that he was being scapegoated, bullied, harassed and isolated," Sherriff-Scott said, which caused him to mistrust all public institutions.

"In the ensuing storm he simply fell apart."

By early 1994 Dunlop was on sick leave, suffering from mental health challenges and was on multiple medications to deal with conditions such as depression, the inquiry has heard.

He nevertheless ruthlessly pursued his own investigation of historical child sex abuse in Cornwall, believing a pedophile ring was being operated by prominent locals and being covered up by even more high-profile officials, Sherriff-Scott said.

It was in this environment that Dunlop interviewed a witness known only as C8, who saw Dunlop as a father figure and wanted to please him, Sherriff-Scott told the inquiry. C8 told Dunlop he had been abused by several men, including Ron Leroux, who never faced charges on those allegations.

When Leroux wouldn't assist Dunlop with his investigation to root out pedophiles, Dunlop held the prospect of C8's evidence over his head, Sherriff-Scott said.

"This resulted in Mr. Leroux developing a strategy to tell lies to protect himself and to persuade Mr. Dunlop that he was an invaluable witness," Sherriff-Scott said in the diocese's submissions.

Leroux told Dunlop he witnessed a clan of pedophiles who wore robes, burned candles and sexually abused young boys during weekend meetings in the 1950s and early 1960s.

"Mr. Dunlop, who had been radicalized by his experiences and suffering from the problems he was having, was too lacking in judgment to do anything but snap at this story," Sherriff-Scott said.

In June 2007, Leroux told the inquiry that he fabricated the tale.

Provincial police launched an investigation in 1997 and laid 114 charges against 15 people, though only one was ever convicted. The Project Truth probe found no evidence of a pedophile ring.

Sherriff-Scott told the inquiry that despite the scores of allegations against priests, probation officers and others that emerged in the 1990s, the amount of historical sexual abuse in the city was no different than in any other Canadian community.

What was different about Cornwall was the media and public reaction to the allegations, which emerged in an "environment of ignorance" that allowed Dunlop's theories to take root.

"There is no doubt that this commission was formed largely in response to the persistence of this 'story,"' said the diocese's submissions.

"The commission, therefore, should unequivocally and unreservedly put the story to rest and declare that, after more than three years of probing, the story is false and that it should be relegated to the fiction shelf, where it belongs."

In its submissions, the diocese also admitted to mistakes that were made in the way it handled sexual abuse complaints. For instance, allegations against a priest ultimately convicted in 1986 of sexually abusing four young men should have been taken to police sooner, Sherriff-Scott said in the submissions.

In addition, a priest convicted of sexual offences in the U.S. should not have been allowed to work for the ministry, the diocese said.