'Doing the right thing' cost officer his career

Sex abuse inquiry hears from tearful wife of ex-policeman

Graham Hughes, Ottawa Citizen

Published: Tuesday, September 18, 2007

CORNWALL . After former Cornwall police officer Perry Dunlop refused for a second day yesterday to speak to a judicial inquiry on the sexual abuse of children, his wife agreed to take the stand.

In three hours of often tearful testimony, Helen Dunlop told Peter Engelmann, the lead commission counsel, how "doing the right thing" had cost her husband his career, damaged his health and hurt the family.

"Perry loved being a cop," she said, and "everybody liked working with him."

He had many friends on the force and was active in the community.

That changed in the fall of 1993, when her husband came home one afternoon and said he'd just received information that would change their lives.

He had obtained a copy of a complaint made by a former altar boy that charged a Cornwall priest, Charles MacDonald, had sexually assaulted him. The complainant also implicated a probation officer.

He was told that the complaint "was being handled," Mr. Dunlop told his wife.

The report "sickened me," Mrs. Dunlop said, adding that she had many nephews and nieces at Father MacDonald's church.

He had married the couple and baptised their first daughter

Then they learned the diocese had paid the complainant $32,000 to drop his complaint, and the Cornwall force closed the case.

That's when Mr. Dunlop talked to his superiors, attempting to get the case investigated, she said.

He went to the police chief and the Crown attorney and was told to forget about it, and that pursuing the issue would bring him nothing but grief, she said.

Then he turned the file over to the director of Cornwall's Children's Aid Society, as he felt he was bound by law to do, Mrs. Dunlop said.

Shortly thereafter, he was charged with breach of confidence and discreditable conduct under the Ontario Police Services Act for passing on the file. He was also suspected of turning a copy over to the Ottawa television station that revealed the story.

The charges were dismissed and an appeal of the motion to dismiss was rejected by the Divisional Court.

Tuesday, Mrs. Dunlop denied that either she or her husband gave the file to the TV station.

These were the first of a series of charges brought against the officer, all of which were dismissed.

At the same time, fellow officers began treating Mr. Dunlop like a pariah, one telling him, "Why don't you just take your revolver and and blow your head off," Mrs. Dunlop testified.

By January 1994, the pressure had become too much for her husband, she said. He left for work one day and "came back in 10 minutes, crying," because no one on the force was talking to him. That's when he began almost three years of stress leave.

In June 1994, Mr. Dunlop suffered a mental collapse and Mrs. Dunlop drove him to Ottawa for emergency help at the then-Royal Ottawa Hospital where he saw a psychiatrist who treated him until the family left Cornwall in 2000.

With treatment and medication, she told inquiry Commissioner Normand Glaude, Mr. Dunlop improved, although he had good and bad days.

Investigations by several police forces of Mr. Dunlop's assertion that a high-level pedophile ring was operating in the city found nothing.

Finally, the Ontario Provincial Police's Project Truth charged 15 people with sexual crimes against youngsters. Just one person was jailed. Several suspects died before their cases were tried, others were acquitted and some had charges withdrawn or stayed.

One suspect, a probation officer, committed suicide in the fall of 1993.

Mrs. Dunlop continues her testimony Tuesday.

The inquiry is probing the institutional response to reports of systemic child sexual abuse in the Cornwall area. It is expected to continue into next year.

Ottawa Citizen 2007