Archdiocese of Montreal names ombudsperson to oversee alleged sexual abuse investigation
MONTREAL -- The Archdiocese of Montreal has named an independent ombudsperson to oversee its investigation into alleged historical sexual abuse to remedy a dark stain on the Catholic church from a scandal involving its clergy members.
Marie Christine Kirouack, a lawyer and mental health expert, comes to the position with more than 30 years of experience in law. For the past four years, she has served as president of L’Entre-Deux, a mental health facility for women suffering from depression.
"I accepted this position because it is paramount that victims feel that their voices are heard and that they are supported," she said in a virtual news conference Wednesday. "This position builds on my experience both as a lawyer and in crisis intervention. I am autonomous and independent from the church."
The Archdiocese announced it has also started implementing 18 of the 31 recommendations of the report by retired judge Pepita G. Capriolo on ex-priest Brian Boucher, who was sentenced to eight years in prison in March 2019 for sexually assaulting two minors. The scandal rocked the Catholic church and exposed gaps in protections for youth -- something Capriolo acknowledged Wednesday was a major flaw.
"It just didn't work, whatever was happening was not sufficiently tight. There were no controls," she said.
"So this is all new and structured, and it includes outsiders. So, there there's a safety net at just about every step of the way of the process."
Anyone who wishes to file a complaint is asked to call 514-PLAINTE (514-752-4683) or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The ombudsperson adds she will not file a complaint with police for the person, but she will accompany a survivor if he or she wants to press charges.
"I will stand by your side during a canonical or criminal trial together," she said. "My role is to ensure that no form of abuse or inappropriate behaviour will be tolerated in the Catholic Church of Montreal."
Complaints involving minors are required to be reported to the Director of Youth Protection, but the ombudsperson said the church will also have to continue its own investigation and share all complaints with a new advisory committee.
The advisory committee includes a survivor of abuse and a psychologist with expertise in the field of abuse, as well as retired police officer Andre Tessier.
Archbishop Christian Lépine says clergy members must take complaints seriously and ensure they are handled appropriately.
"No one, no matter what the reason, will be able to turn a blind eye... It is essential that we honour this commitment and remain vigilant," he said.
All of Capriolo's recommendations are expected to be implemented by the end of the year.