WARNING: This story contains distressing details
Over a third of the Jesuits who are “credibly accused” of sexually abusing minors worked in First Nations or at the Spanish Indian Residential School in Spanish, Ont.
The religious order released a list of names, along with the places they were assigned to work, on Monday as part of an attempt to be more transparent and accountable.
Among the 27 priests and brothers named, 10 worked at the residential school in Spanish and/or in First Nations communities.
“I look at the list. I’m glad that it’s an opening but it says credible allegations,” said Rheena Diabo, chair of the finance administration committee at the St. Francis Xavier Mission in Kahnawà:ke, a Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) community south of Montreal.
Father Henri Lalonde, one of the priests named, was assigned to the mission between 1967 and 1969. He was also involved with the mission’s choir starting in the 1930s up until at least 1972. He died in 1974.
“There are people who I’m sure were abused by this priest that aren’t part of those credible allegations. There’s a lot more to it,” said Diabo.
The Jesuits say Lalonde had multiple allegations against him but did not say how many were tied to his time in Kahnawà:ke.
The list is the result of an audit of the religious order by King International Advisory Group, a third-party risk assessment organization, looking into allegations of abuse by members dating back to the 1950s.
CBC News has not independently verified the allegations against the priests.
Diabo, who was aware of the audit happening, said the release of it online — without notice to affected communities — felt insensitive.
“I at least expected a heads-up so we could prepare our congregation and the community,” she said.
“Considering they’ve worked with truth and reconciliation and they know how people can get triggered … People need to feel that they can come forward with their complaints or their allegations and not feel like they’re going to be attacked.”
Michael Murray, Norman Hinton, and John Neville O’Neill were assigned to work in several First Nations in Ontario, including Wikwemkoong Unceded Territory, M’Chigeeng First Nation, Kiashke Zaaging Anishinaabek, as well as the Anishinabe Spiritual Centre in Espanola, Ont.
Leadership from some of the First Nations told CBC News that they are consulting their communities about the revelations and that statements will be forthcoming in the next few weeks.
Assignments at Spanish Indian Residential School
Six of the priests and brothers named worked at Spanish Indian Residential School, which operated between 1845 and 1958. It was the only residential school managed by the Jesuits.
The school was first located at Wikwemikong Unceded Territory on Manitoulin Island. Following a fire, the school was relocated in 1913 to the north shore of Georgian Bay, in Spanish, Ont. The industrial school was called St. Peter Claver Residential School for Boys, and later became a high school renamed St. Charles Garnier Collegiate in 1947.
The Jesuits said there were multiple allegations against Joseph Barker, Frederick Costello, George Epoch, and William Westaway.
The clergy members worked in the school as cooks, prefects, and in the sports and recreation departments, according to audit reports from Indian Affairs.
Several of the priests and brothers at the school also went on to work in Wikwemkoong Unceded Territory, M’Chigeeng First Nation, Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation, and Garden River First Nation.
James Mara (multiple allegations) was assigned to the Spanish Indian Residential School where he worked as a cook. According to issues of the Garnier Star Club, the school’s monthly bulletin, Mara organized multiple carnivals and boxing matches for students. He later was assigned to Fort William Reserve in Thunder Bay, Ont.
Father Lawrence Brennan also had multiple allegations. He worked at the school as a teacher and supervisor for three years until 1957, according to an obituary published by the Jesuits.
He was later sent to Holy Cross Mission in Wikwemkoong Unceded Territory for three years and spent 18 years at Heron Bay, Ont., where he worked with the neighbouring Biigtigong Nishnaabeg and was made an honorary chief. Brennan also issued a statement to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in 2011 before he died in 2015. The statement is not public, but parts are cited in the TRC’s final report.
Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller said the revelations bring about mixed feelings.
“Largely, the fathers identified there have passed, I think robs people of an opportunity to get accountability,” he said.
“I do understand that just seeing people’s names on this list can be quite triggering for a number of people but I think at the end of the day that in the spirit of better late than never, it is nice to see the Jesuits taking some accountability and transparency in this.“
He said from a government perspective, there is a continued need to support communities with wellbeing, language, and culture as they grapple with the “pattern of predation on Indigenous communities.”
“We know that a lot of the harm that has occurred has harmed communities as a whole,” said Miller.
“We are not dealing with acts of individuals in isolated circumstances. I think that is an important truth that we have to keep at the top of our mind because it goes to the institutional nature of this for which there needs to continue to be accountability.”
A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for residential school survivors and others affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.
Support is also available for anyone affected by their experience at Indian or federal day schools. Individuals can access immediate mental health counselling and crisis intervention services at the Hope for Wellness helpline by calling 1-855-242-3310 or online at www.hopeforwellness.ca.