Following a series of paedophilia scandals in the Catholic Church in recent years, FRANCE 24 reporters investigated the Brothers of the Sacred Heart, a Catholic religious community that has been sending missionaries to Africa for nearly a century. In Senegal we met with an alleged victim of abuse before tracking down the accused in Quebec.
Warning: Some of the language in this video report may be unsuitable for minors.
FRANCE 24 reporters contacted Souleymane in April through La Parole Libérée, a French association that helps victims of paedophilia. A Senegalese man now around 40 years of age, Souleymane told us his story but would not appear on camera.
He recounted his childhood in Kaolack, a large city southeast of the capital Dakar, and his education at the Pius XII college, run by the Canadian branch of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart.
Souleymane was 12 when one of the missionaries, a French teacher, first invited him after class to attend a private “sex education” lesson. Souleymane says he was abused for three years afterwards but did not dare tell anyone.
In 2010 Souleymane says he contacted another member of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart who was teaching at the Pius XII college at the time and who still taught at a high school in Dakar. Souleymane affirms that he told him his painful story and learned that the man he accuses is apparently close to death and now living in Canada.
Moreover, he was told that church authorities had been alerted to this man’s actions. Yet Souleymane tells us angrily that he was never approached by the church himself. He told us the name of his alleged abuser and his probable place of residence in the Canadian province of Quebec.
FRANCE 24 continued its investigation in Canada. We located a residence for retired members of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart in the city of Sherbrooke, 150km east of Montreal. If he is still alive, the man Souleymane accuses may well be there.
Much to our surprise, the man is easily found. He is now 92 and in a wheelchair, but in full possession of his faculties. Using a hidden camera, we met and spoke with him.
He tells us that, as far as he knows, the Brothers of the Sacred Heart have not conducted any investigations into sexual abuse. But Souleymane assures us that the community has been informed of the allegations against some of its members.
Scandal in Quebec
We decide to continue the investigation back in Dakar, to meet the man whom Souleymane says he alerted back in 2010. Captured on our hidden camera, the man confirms that his superiors were well aware of the accusations.
In mid-September we decide to contact the provincial superior of the Brothers’ community in Canada. He does not seem surprised by the accusations, but neither is he keen to answer our questions. After several exchanges, the response is clear: “Under the circumstances, the community of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart in Canada does not intend to follow up on your request [for information].”
Since then, the community in Quebec has been hit by another scandal. According to a class action lawsuit filed in the Canadian courts, 11 of their members are accused of abusing dozens of students in a Quebec school between 1940 and 1980. A wider investigation is just beginning.
FRANCE 24 is continuing its inquiry in partnership with La Presse newspaper in Montréal and theDakaractu website in Senegal. If you or someone you know can contribute their story it could aid our investigation. Please feel free to email us at [email protected]