Cornwall sex abuse inquiry extended into fall

Commissioner cites former officer's refusal to testify as one reason for delay of costly hearings
Apr 01, 2008 04:41 PM

CORNWALL, Ont. A costly and protracted public inquiry into how the justice system and other institutions responded to sexual abuse allegations in eastern Ontario has been extended into the fall, a move the commissioner blames in part on former police officer Perry Dunlop's refusal to testify.

Struck three years ago and with a running tab of some $23 million, the Cornwall public inquiry began making national headlines again in January when Dunlop, a former cop in Cornwall, Ont., vowed to defy a court order compelling his testimony.

Making good on his promise, Dunlop whose off-hours investigation in 1993 led to explosive claims of a widespread pedophile ring is serving a six-month sentence in an Ottawa jail, convicted of contempt for refusing to tell his story.

The inquiry was scheduled to conclude witness testimony in July.

On Monday, Commissioner Normand Glaude extended the probe by three months. With a summer break factored in, the inquiry will be hearing witness testimony into the fall.

"There have been a number of unexpected occurrences in the last few months," Glaude said in a statement. "These include the refusal of Perry Dunlop to testify and subsequent contempt of court proceedings."

The commissioner also cited winter storms, witness illnesses, and an Ontario Court of Appeal ruling on the inquiry's mandate as having delayed progress.

"These are some of the reasons that have resulted in a need to extend our hearing date beyond July."

Ontario Attorney General Chris Bentley said Tuesday that he wasn't concerned Glaude felt the inquiry would have to run longer than planned.

"I know they're proceeding as expeditiously as they can. These things sometimes take a while," said Bentley.

"We need to hear all the evidence and make sure the commissioner has the time to prepare the report."

Bentley also said the escalating cost of the public inquiry in Cornwall was not something the government could control, nor should it.

"Once you call the inquiry, you need to let it run its course, and the commissioner is in control of the process," he said.

"The commissioner makes sure it proceeds in the way that he decides that it should. I'm looking forward to the report and to the recommendations that are made."

In January, the Appeal Court ruled Glaude exceeded his jurisdiction when he tried to hear testimony from a witness who was allegedly raped by two teens in 1993. Glaude indicated on Monday that the commission would not appeal that decision.

Dunlop's refusal to testify means the commission is now considering "alternate methods of bringing forward evidence related to Mr. Dunlop," Glaude said.

That includes an overview of documentary evidence related to Dunlop, a draft of which has been circulated to the various parties at the inquiry.

"Should Mr. Dunlop decide to return to the inquiry to testify he is welcome to do so," Glaude said.

"His oral testimony would be a valuable elaboration and enhancement of the documentary record of evidence given by others."

The judges who handed Dunlop a six-month jail sentence also ruled that the married father of three, who now lives in Duncan, B.C., can ``vacate" his contempt conviction and be released if he agrees to testify.

Dunlop's investigation of sex abuse allegations exploded onto the national stage in the 1990s after local resident Ron Leroux claimed he'd seen bizarre sex rituals involving powerful, robe-clad community leaders and young boys.

In a 1996 affidavit, Leroux claimed the pedophile ring operated for decades, beginning in the 1960s.

A police investigation dubbed Project Truth laid some 115 charges against 15 men but failed to uncover any evidence of a ring.

Ultimately, only one person was convicted. Four died before their cases came to trial, four were acquitted, four had the charges against them withdrawn, and two had the charges against them stayed over delays.

Testifying before the inquiry last summer, Leroux admitted he'd made up his story.