Feb 23, 2009 01:33 PM
CORNWALL– Homophobia and the blind crusade of one police officer helped fuel a rampant belief in a pedophile ring and a cover-up by authorities in this eastern Ontario community, a public inquiry heard Monday.
"Activities that in a less homophobic community would be seen as benign, in Cornwall became evidence of a pedophile ring," the group Citizens for Community Renewal said in its written submissions at the Cornwall inquiry.
"For this equation of homosexuality with `pedophilia' to occur in the 21st century and for people to reason that associated gay men were guilty by association is a reflection of the depth of the community's homophobia."
The group is the first to present closing submissions at the three-year, $40-million inquiry, which was set up to investigate how institutions handled allegations of sexual abuse.
Local institutions such as the Children's Aid Society and churches wanted to deal internally with allegations of sexual abuse by their officials during the 1960s, '70s and '80s and failed to interact with one another, Citizens for Community Renewal said.
"These patterns of weakness in the institutional responses prior to 1992 fed the view that institutions were covering up sexual offences by prominent people," the group said in its written submissions.
An ensuing lack of confidence in public institutions left a void that was filled by charismatic Cornwall police officer Perry Dunlop, said Helen Daley, the group's counsel at the inquiry.
"The local hero and his supporters then become the alternate constabulary, if you will. They become the alternate people to whom one goes to report abuse," she said in oral submissions.
Dunlop's crusade to unearth a pedophile conspiracy led to wild allegations during a "pedophile smear campaign" that unjustly harmed the reputations of many local authorities, the inquiry heard.
"Const. Dunlop lost his way," Daley said. "He lost his way, but no one individual, no matter how misguided or how committed to a misguided cause, should have caused this result."
While Dunlop's role was a negative one, wittingly or otherwise, Daley said, that's not the main issue.
"I think what we need to focus on are the things that failed around Const. Dunlop," said Daley.
"No one individual could have caused that result but for the fact that the institutions around him failed to deal properly with him and what was going on."
The inquiry's mandate was not to examine the alleged pedophile ring. A provincial police probe, dubbed Project Truth, saw police lay 114 charges against 15 men in the 1990s, but no evidence of an organized, backroom clan was ever found.
Still, allegations of high-profile officials, professionals and clergy taking part in bizarre sexual rituals have hung over the proceedings.
One of the inquiry's watershed moments came last summer during the testimony of Ron Leroux, who had told Dunlop he witnessed a clan of pedophiles who wore robes, burned candles and sexually abused young boys during weekend meetings in the 1950s and early 1960s.
Last June, Leroux told the inquiry that he fabricated the story.
Dunlop, for his part, refused to testify at the inquiry and was jailed for seven months on civil and criminal contempt convictions.
The Coalition for Action, a group that believes there was "a combination of deliberate conspiracy and cover-up" put forward several recommendations, including whistleblower protection for police officers.
"Presently it is unclear what statutory remedy, if any, someone in the position of Perry Dunlop would have," the group said in its written submissions.
"The Public Service Act protections do not appear to apply to police officers. It is suggested that a statutory process is needed to protect police officers who are acting as whistleblowers."
The coalition also suggested the numerous police investigations launched to probe the widespread sexual abuse and conspiracy allegations were "deficient" and "too cursory."