CORNWALL, ONT. — A former city policeman whose investigations sparked a widespread probe of alleged sexual abuse in the region wouldn't answer questions at the Cornwall Public Inquiry yesterday and said he's willing to go to jail rather than participate in a process in which he says he has no faith.
Perry Dunlop repeatedly refused to answer questions put to him by Peter Engelmann, lead commission counsel, at the start of hearings on the institutional response to allegations of sexual abuse in the area. He was later told that he could face contempt-of-court charges under the Public Inquiries Act.
"I would," Mr. Dunlop said, when asked if he was willing to go to jail.
Mr. Dunlop and his wife, Helen, both spent time in the witness box yesterday, although neither of them directly answered questions related to what is believed to be the central role they played in uncovering decades of child sexual abuse.
The couple entered the hearing room to the sound of applause and cheers from dozens of supporters who turned out to observe the proceedings. But commission counsel didn't get a chance to ask any questions of the couple as they immediately made it known they would not participate in the process.
Commissioner Normand Glaude asked the couple to reconsider their position and return this morning. Ms. Dunlop suggested she and her husband may not come back.
Mr. Dunlop was the first of the two to testify yesterday. He read from a prepared statement in which he suggested he has become the scapegoat in what he termed a "cover-up" and said he never had any intention of testifying before the commission.
"I have no faith in the Ontario criminal justice system or in the mandate of this inquiry," he said.
Mr. Dunlop repeatedly told the hearing he had "nothing to say" in response to Mr. Engelmann's questions, which included queries about his age and background. When asked why he felt he had been lied to, Mr. Dunlop told Mr. Engelmann he had been previously reassured that the inquiry could not compel him or his wife to testify.
Mr. Engelmann admitted he originally believed that to be the case, but recently learned the commission could go through the courts in British Columbia to issue an extra-provincial summons in order to bring the Dunlops to the inquiry.
When she entered the witness box, Ms. Dunlop also refused to answer questions, instead speaking about her lack of confidence in the process.
It was in 1993 when Mr. Dunlop first learned about allegations of child sexual abuse against a city priest.
Mr. Dunlop would later deliver the file, which had been closed by the Cornwall Police Service after a $32,000 payment to the alleged victim by the church, to the Children's Aid Society.
In the 14 years since Mr. Dunlop first found that file, the former officer and members of his family conducted numerous personal investigations, collected witness statements and testified in court proceedings. Ultimately, 15 people were charged with sexual crimes against children, but just one person was sent to jail.
During the inquiry, some witnesses have alleged that Mr. Dunlop embellished or even fabricated accounts of sexual abuse suffered at the hands of prominent citizens.
The inquiry resumes today.