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Silmser Struggles with Reasons for Penning letter to [Rev. Charles] MacDonald

Terri Saunders

Wednesday, February 07, 2007 - 10:00

Local News
- David Silmser said he felt alone while serving time in jail as a young man and found himself reaching out to a priest he says abused him as a young boy.

Silmser said Tuesday he's still struggling with why he wrote a friendly letter to Rev. Charles MacDonald.

"I was still young," Silmser told the Cornwall Public Inquiry. "The abuses . . . I blamed myself somewhat. I was still a child when it happened, but I felt ashamed."

Silmser said he had "very few friends" at the point in his life when he found himself in jail and writing the letter to MacDonald.

"He (MacDonald) always portrayed himself as my best buddy," said Silmser.

"I had blocked the abuses out of my head."

The letter consists of a single, handwritten page and is addressed, "Dear Chuck," a name by which MacDonald was commonly known, Silmser said.

"How have you been?" the letter reads. "I hope everything is going really good."

Silmser goes on to talk about his life while incarcerated, including his hopes he would be transferred to the county jail in Cornwall in order to attend summer school.

Near the end of the letter, Silmser tells MacDonald he had forgotten the priest's address and therefore addressed the note to MacDonald care of St. Columban's Church.

"I'm praying it will get there," Silmser wrote. "If I pray, I'm sure it will reach you."

Silmser said he was later told by psychological experts it's common for abuse victims to maintain some form of friendly contact with their abuser, but he still struggles to come to terms with the fact he wrote the letter in the first place.

"Later in life, I had difficulty with this letter," he said, "and why I'd write this."

Throughout most of Tuesday, Silmser's testimony was to-the-point and concise. On rare occasions, it appeared he had concerns about a particular line of questioning or the manner in which some counsel were conducting themselves.

During questioning on the letter he'd written to MacDonald, the priest's lawyer, Dominic Lamb, smiled and seemed to laugh silently.

"Can I ask what's so funny?" asked Silmser.

"I am laughing at my own inability to cross-examine you," said Lamb. Comm. Normand Glaude stepped in to suggest no inference should be made by Lamb's demeanour.

"We are having a difficult time forming the questions," said Glaude. "Please don't think anything untoward against Mr. Lamb."

The bulk of the day's cross-examination was at the hands of David Sherriff-Scott, an attorney representing the Alexandria-Cornwall Roman Catholic Diocese.

Sherriff-Scott pointed to documents he says suggest police were having difficulty eliciting specific details of the abuse from Silmser during various investigations. It's this perceived difficulty in nailing down the details which may have informed the institutional response.

At one point, while discussing the particulars of a document, it was obvious Sherriff-Scott and Silmser had varying opinions on its contents.

Sherriff-Scott attempted to suggest the document showed one thing while Silmser believed it showed another.

"No ...," said Sherriff-Scott.

"You don't say no to me," Silmser said.

"Well, we will respectfully disagree with each other's point of view," said Sherriff-Scott.

"I won't respect your point of view," said Silmser.

The inquiry resumes today at 9:30 a.m.