I caught Normand Brun as he settling in to watch the NHL hockey game on Thursday. Norm lives in Vancouver now, and has for years. He is a Vancover fan. As all you hockey fans know, Vancouver didn’t make it the play-offs, nor for that matter did any of our Canadian teams.
He goes by Norm.
Norm missed most of the game. Well, he had the sound turned off and kept an eye on the screen as we talked so he did manage to keep on of what was happening, but he wasn’t terribly concerned that he didn’t “watch” the game per se because, after all, Vancouver wasn’t playing. . He assured me that had Vancouver been playing he would have said farewell to me the moment the puck dropped 🙂
Was Norm always a Vancouver fan? No. actually, he was not. When he was a young lad growing up in Cap Pele New Brunswick he rooted for the Chicago Blackhawks. “As much as I hate to say this” he tells me, back then he was a Chicago fan because, yes, because Father Léger, ther priest who molested him as a child, was a Chicago fan”
Yes, Father Camille Leger had a profound impact on young Normand Brun’s life in more ways than one.
Norm is a musician. For most of his adult life he earned a living as an entertainer. He played trumpet, and was, he tells me – and I believe him – a darn good trumpet player and probably the best musician in Cap Pele. He was good enough to played with the New Brunswick youth orchestra as a child.
Yes, it was Father Leger, who taught young Normand to play trumpet. As Norm says, music kept him alive and enabled him to make a decent living, but, it was .both a blessing a curse because it was Father Leger who taught him.
The sexual abuse started when Norm was in cub scouts – sometime between ages 9 and 11. It stopped when he was a boy scout. It stopped, in fact, the day he gave Father Leger a good swift kick in the genitals. “That’s about the only thing I’m proud of in my life” says Norm, with both certitude and a bit of a chukkle.
That was the end of the sexual abuse, but by no means the end of the impact the abuse had on young Norm. He has, for example, attempted to commit suicide twice.
The Cap Pele years
Norm, born in 1948, was raised in Cap Pele by his grandparents. He refers to his aunts and uncles has his sisters and brothers.
There was music in the family. When Father Camille Leger arrived in 1957 and got the band going, young Norm was there. Father Camille recognized the boy’s natural musical talent: he taught the boy to play trumpet. In time, Norm learned piano, guitar and other instruments. He had a knack.
The sexual abuse, which comprised of countless acts masturbation and fellatio, started when Norm was in Cub Scouts and shortly after Leger’s arrival. The boy was all of nine or ten when it started.
Norm started having sexual problems soon after the abuse began.. He recalls that in Grade 5 or 6 he got into a “heap of trouble” for a letter he wrote to a teacher. The letter, he recalls, was “vulgar,” or at least, he tells me, as vulgar as child of that age can be.
Father Leger used to take groups of children, usually from the band, on trips to the States, or Montreal to see a hockey game. Norm has friends who were abused on these trips.
It was Father Leger who started the Assumption Band in Moncton. The band, according to Norm, was renown.
The sex abuse continued. Father Leger used to tell him “Don’t tell the others, they’ll be jealous.”
Music was his escape. He practised and practised and practised. Eight hours a day he would practise.
Norm did tell his grandparents. He told them what Father Leger was doing to him. He got the strap from his grandfather, and a stern lecture from my grandmother.
As mentioned above, the abuse came to an end the day he gave Father Leger a good swift kick in the genitals. That was about 1962. He was about 14.
It was around that time that Norm decided that the last day he would set foot in a Church would be when he was 16. He quit school in Grade 10. ( Back then the school class had to attend Mass and confession on Fridays.)
From 1964 on he refused to go to Church. His grandparents gave up on trying to get him there. He thinks they knew why.
He got a job working at the lobster factory.
When he was around 16 or 17 there was a big music fest in Moncton. Father Leger’s band was competing. One day two good friends of Norm arrived at the lobster factor. They had been dispatched by Father Leger. Leger wanted Norm to play in the band at the music fest. Norm said “no, ’ and did so with the use of some rather colourful language. Norm flatly refused to play with Leger’s band. He wold even consider it. Even though it was his buddies who asked him, he refused. He wanted nothing to do with Leger or his band.
In fairly short order the owner of the lobster factory, Norm’s boss, called the lad in,. Norm was told in no uncertain terms, either play with band or you’re fired!
Norm recalls deciding then and there that if had to play in Father Leger’s “friggin band” for this “stupid concert” then it was going to cost the priest.
Norm needed new clothes. He made Leger accompany him to the store and pick up the bill. He remembers buying a new pair of shoes and a new pair of pants. Leger paid.
Norm played in the band at the festival. He played baritone.
After Cap Pele
It was Marg Osborne who got him started in nightclubs. That was in the late 60s.
Norm travelled the country playing trumpet, guitar and so on and entertaining. He spent a lot of time in the four Western provinces, and a lot of time in the north. He did a completely bilingual show, and he played a multitude of instruments, but it was his trumpet, he says, which brought people in. He played everything from Beethoven to Johnny Cash.
He did shows with teen idol Buddy Knox (Party Girl, Hula Love). They became good friends.
Around the mid 70s he lived in Bonnyville, Alberta. He and a friend started the Bonneville Marching Band and Cadet Corps.. They had assistance from members of the military band in Cold Lake, Alberta, and he and his friend in turn would play with the Cold Lake band when needed.
There was need for instruments for the band. He found out hat the band in Cap Pele was no longer functioning, and recalled that, when it came to musical instruments, the Cap Pele band had had nothing but the best. Those instruments were lying unused in a church basement. The children in Bonnyville could use them in the band.
He travelled to Cap Pele and made a deal with Father Leger: $10,000 for a bunch of instruments.
What sticks in Norm’s mind here is the cheque. He thought he would be writing out the check to the parish. No. Not at all. Father Leger instructed him: the cheque was to be made out to Father Camille Leger.
Norm wonders where the money went.
The late 80s
Norm was married and making big money – enough to support his gambling and drinking habits.
The abuse was always there, lurking in the background.
It was perhaps 1987 when he decide to talk to his “sisters”/aunts about the abuse.. His “sisters” were both nuns.
He told them. Norm was essentially told to get on with his life and not rock the boat. He decided then and there that if even his two sisters who are nuns and are were educated were telling him to ‘shut-up,’ he had little hope of being heard.
He did try to see Father Leger in 1987. Leger at the time was living in a home just outside Moncton, but when Norm called the priest wasn’t in. Leger came to Cap Pele to see Norm but circumstances didn’t permit.
By 1989 Norm decided he had had enough of the travel and entertainment business. By then he was living in Vancouver. He decided to stay close to Vancouver. He tell me that make big money I the business you have to travel – “It’s a young man job” he tells me” “unless you’re a star, and I wasn’t a star.”
Only plays once in a while now. To make big money you have to travel “unless you’re a star, and I wasn’t a star.” It’s a young man’s job.
He bought a truck to do courier service, but, the change in occupation brought with it a huge drop in income. He couldn’t keep up on his gambling any more, and had a hard time financing his drinking.
Father Camille Leger died in 1990.
When Leger died Norm figured there was nothing he could do now about the abuse. “He’s dead. I can’t do anything.”
But, it continued to bother him.
His marriage came apart. He never told his wife about the abuse, not while they were married.
After the failure of his marriage he went into a downward spiral. He spent about 18 months drunk and stoned 24/7.
It was around this time that he saw Buddy Knox in Oshawa. Knox took a look at him and: “What the Hell happened to you.” Buddy Knox took Norm on tour with him, just to help him through a rough time until he got his feet back under him.
I believe Norm confided in his family physician and it was he in who advised Norm to contact officials in the Archdiocese of Vancouver.
The Archdiocese of Vancouver was contacted. Norm was sent to see an expert, either a psychologist or a psychiatrist I believe. The expert believed Norm and found his allegations to be credible. The report was sent on to the Archdiocese of Moncton.
Norm phoned the Archdiocese of Moncton. He spoke to a Father Valery Vienneau. As it turned out, Vienneau is a Cap Pele native. He and Norm are the same age – the two went through ten years of school together. He was told Archbishop was away and would be back at the end of July or beginning of August.
Norm flew to Moncton. He was there all of 48 hours.
He met with Bishop Ernest Leger and the then Father Valery Vienneau.
Bishop Leger asked if Norm wanted to bring someone in as a witness. Norm replied that, well, he had gone to school with Valery Vienneau for 10 years, and that Valery had never lied to him back then so he was quite happy to have Father Vienneau serve as a witness. It was left at that.
Norm tells me that, in his thinking at the time, well, that would be one less person who knows about it and Valerie Vienneau “is not going to go around blabbing.” He recalls that he wanted to keep it as quite as possible. The fewer who knew the better.
During the meeting Norm asked Vienneau outright: “What about you Valerie? Did Father Leger ever bother you?” Father Vienneau’s answer? according to Norm, it was: “No, I guess I was one of the lucky ones.”
Bishop Leger, who was born about ten miles from Cap Pele and was around Norm’s age, told Norm that he, the bishop, remembered that even as a child he had heard stories about Father Camille Leger , but, he told Norm, there was no proof.
According to Norm, he had no intention of asking for money. What he wanted was a written apology and coverage for counselling and psychiatric services or whatever was required for his treatment until he was 65.
The Archbishop asked him: “What do you want?” Norm told him.
The first words out of the Archbishop’s mouth were, according to Norm: “You’re not going to get an apology.”
As for payment for psychiatric, psychological and/or counselling services, Vienneau said “We can’t do that.” The Archbishop asked “Why not?” and Vienneau replied something to the effect that if they were to pay for the coverage like that it would leave the case open.
Asked what did they mean by that, Norm tells me that he doesn’t understand it now, but at the time “believe it or not it made sense to me.”
The Archbishop asked him what he wanted. Norm came up with a figure.
The Archbishop said ‘we’re going to have to have a meeting to discuss this.’ Norm’s understanding was that it had to be approved by a committee of some sort.
Norm went on his way. He was told he would be contacted.
A few hours later Archbishop Leger called. The amount had been approved.
The Archbishop instructed Norm to find himself a lawyer. The diocese would pick up the tab. The lawyer was to contact the diocese in the morning.
Norm opened the Yellow Pages and picked the name of the first French lawyer on the list.
The next day was a Tuesday. The lawyer was at the diocesan centre; he walked Norm through the paperwork. That was the only role the lawyer played in the deal.
By the time the legalities had been taken care of and the paperwork signed Norm knew the banks would be closed. He remembers telling them that. At that, someone made a call to the bank.
He was told that the bank would be open for him. He was given a cheque. The cheque was made out to him by the lawyer he had picked out of the Yellow Pages. Apparently what happened was that the archdiocese made out a cheque to the lawyer, and the lawyer in turn made out a cheque to Norm.
To this day Norm recalls the strange look he got from the bank employee who dealt with him when he arrived cheque in hand, wondering who the heck is this guy to warrant such treatment.
For legal reasons Norm can’t reveal the amount of the cheque. That’s the case in all of these cases in Canada. I can tell you though that it doesn’t take rocket science to sort out that it was pittance, which is usually the case in deals such as this in Canada. ( Those familiar with Cornwall will recall that the pay-off to gag David Silmser was a mere $32,000, and that one was an illegal pay-off which obliged Silmser to tell police that he no longer wanted to pursue criminal charges against Father Charles MacDonald.)
I can also tell you that Norm readily admits that he had gambling, drinking and drug problems at the time, and that at that moment in time the pay-off seemed like a fortune, but in truth, he says, it was not a lot. And I can tell you that for all his drinking and gambling and drugs he wisely arranged for a certain amount to be issued monthly for the next 12 months to ensure he didn’t spend it all.
Before heading home to Vancouver he drove to Cap Pele. He visited some friends whom he knew to be victims. They offered him their support. They have not come forward. One told him: “Norm, you’re not the first and you probably won’t be the last.”
He bought a used car and headed off to Vancouver. On his way home he stopped in to see his ex-wife. He wanted to give her some money. He didn’t have much to give, but he wanted to give her something. That was the first she knew of the abuse. He never told her. She said she knew there was something wrong, but he would never open up to her.
It is clear that Norm thinks the world of his ex. He calls her an angel. They are now good friends.
Norm thought that once he got the money that would be the end of it, – he could finally move on with his life. But, he tells me, that’s not what happened: “There’s no cure for this.”
By early 2000 he figured he had been hoodwinked, manipulated and “jerked around.” He felt as though he had been raped all over again. He told himself that he would have to live with it.
He looks back now and realizes that back then he thought they were being sympathetic and today believes they were actually playing him like a fiddle.
He has had a couple of heart operations in the last two or three years. His health isn’t the greatest. He rarely plays any more: “It’s a young man’s world.”
For the past 15 years he has attended group therapy sessions. His problems are still there, but he’s learned to cope and live with them.
When he recently heard about the Father Camille Leger victims in Cap Pele and of Archbishop Richard’s talk of “rumours” about Father Camille Leger he felt he had heard the same story himself, back in 1997: “It was almost like they they’re reading from a book.”
He was relieved that other victims were coming forward. He felt vindicated. He thought that perhaps now people would believe him. Back then so many people didn’t believe him. They said he was just trying to make money. Members of his own family called him a liar. He was called a con man.
He contacted CBC. He wanted them to know the archdiocese knew about him. He agreed to do an interview. He is surprised at the response.
He has had calls from former friends who told him they hadn’t believed him before.
He has had lots of calls from New Brunswick. He’s had calls from family members who hadn’t talked to him since 1997. And there have been calls from people who told him they always thought he was a good-for nothing but now understand.
He has had at least 15 calls from victims in New Brunsqwick, many, but not all them, victims of Father Camille Leger.
The sex abuse aside. he says that what Father Camille Leger did is sad, sad because it tore the entire village apart, and sad because it tore him away from his family.
He is surprised to learn that Archbishop Richard, the current bishop of Moncton, served in Cap Pele when Father Camille Leger was there.
He has mixed feelings about his musical abilities. It was his livelihood, but it was Father Leger who taught him. In fact, strange as it may sound, he hates music – hates listening to it, and never listened to it. He played music, and he was darn good at it.