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Ontario Boy Scouts in better times on a 157-mile canoe trip on the Grand River to Lake Erie in April, 1966. (John Gillies)
Ontario Boy Scouts in better times on a 157-mile canoe trip on the Grand River to Lake Erie in April, 1966. (John Gillies)

Sexual Abuse

Scouts Canada refers more than 100 sex abuse allegations to police Add to ...

Scouts Canada has referred more than 100 allegations of historic sexual abuse to police after a forensic audit raised troubling questions about the organization’s handling of the cases over the past several decades.

A report from KPMG, released Monday, offers new detail on the organization’s reaction to sexual abuse allegations. It found no evidence of a systemic cover-up but showed that even after 1992, when internal rules changed to require that such allegations be reported to the authorities, the information was not always shared.

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“We have decided to confront the good and the bad of our past,” Scouts Canada chief commissioner Steve Kent told a news conference in Ottawa.

Information on 65 cases, about one-fifth of which were reported after 1992, was not given to police when allegations surfaced. And for another 64 cases, roughly split between pre- and post-1992, there were not sufficient records to be sure the cases were reported, the audit found.

All 129 of these cases have now been handed over to police, Mr. Kent said. He would offer no details of the individual circumstances, citing the active investigations, but suggested the cases spanned the country.

“I’m not aware of any charges that have been laid,” he said.

Former NHL hockey player Theo Fleury, who was sexually assaulted by his hockey coach when he was a teenager, said the number of allegations of abuse directed at Scouts Canada suggest the problem was widespread.

“When there’s more than one allegation, it’s not an allegation. It’s the truth. That’s the way I see it,” he said. “Because there’s not 65 people or 64 people that make up stories like this.”

Mr. Fleury said he wants to see tougher sentences for convicted pedophiles and for people found not to have reported abuse, which he suggested would help act as a deterrent.

He said he believes organziations like the Catholic Church and Penn State University – where retired football coach Jerry Sandusky was recently convicted of sexually assaulting young boys – too often allow worries about their reputations to take precedence over protecting alleged victims.

“If you allow pedophiles to go around and molest kids, at the end of the day, what good is your organization?” he said.

The KPMG review comes after Boy Scouts of America paid out millions in legal settlements and follows in the wake of a CBC investigation into Scouts Canada’s “confidential list” of possible pedophiles.

The review looked at 486 records covering over a period of 64 years. It lasted seven months and a 51-page report released Monday was delivered to Scouts Canada last Thursday. The review identified findings in five specific areas: records management, governance, contact with authorities, suspensions and terminations, and other observations.

“I think Canadians can take comfort in the fact we’re confronting the past,” said Mr. Kent, who described the current approach as a more rigourous “suspend first and inquire later.”

The report shows that two specific years were pivotal to Scouts Canada’s approach to sex abuse claims.

In 1992, the rules changed to require that such allegations be reported to police. Although this was not always done, reporting was more likely to occur after 1992 than before, the audit suggests. And in 2001, Scouts Canada evolved from a largely decentralized organization.

“In hindsight, the governance model in place until approximately 2001 had a profound impact on Scouts’ handling of [sex abuse claims] during much of the time under review,” the report notes.

“KPMG’s review of files leaves the impression that in practice, policy was not well understood, was left up to interpretation, changes were not well communicated, and training was not always sufficient.”

 

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