Enough already: Dunlop must testify

Kelly Egan, The Ottawa Citizen

Published: Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Perry Dunlop can come down off his cross anytime now. Excessive martyrdom is a tedious spectacle.

Mr. Dunlop, 43, was arrested in B.C. on Sunday on a Canada-wide warrant that was issued for his refusal to testify before a provincial inquiry into a sexual abuse scandal in Cornwall.

The atmosphere, in the words of one reporter, was "almost circus-like." Almost? When was the last time an hour-long support rally was organized, culminating in a plea to police to arrest the guest of honour?

Yet this was the scene at the Dunlop home, minutes before he was taken away in an RCMP cruiser.

"Hero," went the cry.

Mr. Dunlop is the former Cornwall police officer who began investigating allegations of sexual abuse in Cornwall in the early 1990s.

It wasn't long before the original premise grew to shocking proportions: a ring or clan of pedophiles that reached into the city's highest corners -- priests, a bishop, a Crown attorney, lawyers, probation officers, possibly senior police officers.

Because so many powerful people were involved, went the theory, the original investigation was blocked, forcing Mr. Dunlop to circle around his own police force. He was the whistleblower extraordinaire, unafraid to put his career on the line to protect abused children.

He is, clearly, a key witness in the inquiry, which began in February 2006.

There is so much water under the bridge on this issue, it is easy to lose track of what's important.

But consider this. Mr. Dunlop's role in the case, however well intended, has contributed to a breathtaking expenditure of public resources -- time and money -- not to mention the stain on an entire community.

And Mr. Dunlop doesn't want to talk about it?

Briefly, there were two Cornwall police investigations in 1993, an Ontario Provincial Police probe in 1994 and, finally, the launching of Project Truth in 1997. It spared nothing: The allegations of 69 complainants were investigated, leading to 672 interviews.

Four years later, the OPP were satisfied there was no pedophile ring in the city, but laid 115 charges against 15 individuals. There was but one conviction.

We still weren't done. Not by many millions.

The commission of inquiry, headed by Justice Normand Glaude, began hearings into the whole mess two years ago.

Before it wraps up later this year, it will have sat more than 200 days and spent in excess of $15 million. This is not child's play. It is serious business, with hard-won reputations at stake.

At least one of the witnesses -- an original complainant -- has testified he never saw evidence of a pedophile ring, contrary to an earlier written statement. Those named in the statement? Nah, never saw them. The statement itself? Didn't even read it, he testified.

He claimed he was pressured into making the statements by one Perry Dunlop. Nor was he the only witness to retract outlandish allegations.

"I did anything (Mr. Dunlop) told me to do," said one alleged victim.

Cornwall columnist Claude McIntosh has gone so far as to label the pedophile ring story a hoax.

Is it not rather important to hear from Mr. Dunlop directly on these matters? Surely, he has a duty to testify, if only because it is the law.

More to the point: has he not desired, lo these many years, a public forum in which he is free to bring forward any and all evidence against high-ranking citizens of the city?

If his investigative efforts were suppressed, let him stand up and say it. If the Children's Aid Society botched things, let him stand up and say it. If the Roman Catholic Church is party to a coverup, let him stand up and say it.

But, as a former police officer, surely he understands this: anything he says, under oath, can and must be tested under cross-examination. This is not a witch-hunt.

Mr. Dunlop told reporters in B.C. he's lost faith in the system. "It's a toxic environment. They'll twist my words."

You know what? For all its frailty, it's the only system we've got. Twist your words? Isn't that rich, coming from him?

People see what they see. Something interesting happened only weeks after Judge Glaude was appointed. Before a single witness was heard, there was an allegation of potential bias because two of Judge Glaude's distant relatives were potential victims.

There were calls for him to step aside. Stinks already, some said.

Absurd. But an insight into the problem. Some people had no faith in the inquiry from the word go. Apparently, Perry Dunlop is one of them.

He has earned a stint in jail, a court date this morning and, possibly, more legal consequences. But sympathy? Save it.

Contact Kelly Egan at 613-726-5896 or by e-mail, kegan@thecitizen.canwest.com