“Wow, wow”

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Hearings resume at 2 pm this afternoon (Monday 28 May 2007) with a witness requesting confidentiality taking the stand.

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The Red Flag page has been re-done. It should show better on Fireforx and other browsers now 🙂

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A bit of catch-up.

First, hats off to Jamie Marsolais. My day was made when I read that Jamie planned to alert parents that their children will be placed at risk when his molester, James Lewis returns to Cornwall after an ever so typically brief stint behind bars.

And it was made again when I read that he actually did it – he wasn’t talked out of it! I am inclined to believe there is no shortage of huggy-bear-kissy-face types floating around who are without doubt aghast that a victim has the courage and fortitude to not only express concern for the safety and well-being of children who are willfully placed at risk when ‘the system’ plops a known sexual predator smack dab in the midst of community, but also has the additional courage and fortitude to do something constructive about it.

Good for you Jamie!!!

In case you missed it I’ll direct you to a blog with some stirring thoughts on the matter posted by Prima facie.

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Now I’ll pick up with Andre Bissonnette’s testimony.

I will recap in three segments: (1) Andre’s sex abuse allegations, (2) Andre Bissonnette’s story, and (3) the investigations of the 60s.
The sex abuse allegations
During Andre Bissonnette’s testimony Thursday (10 May 2007) about his years in foster care we heard what Andre had found out only recently – that back in the early 60s his Children’s Aid Society (CAS) social worker had chalked up his tearful allegations of sexual abuse to a homosexual relationship. According to the CAS worker’s notes read into evidence “André told me that homosexual relationship occurred between him and Larry.”

The abuse transpired after Andre was sent to the home of a Mr. and Mrs. Meunier. His molester was Larry Hawn, a fellow foster child about one year his senior.

Weeks after the abuse began Andre told both the Meunier’s and his CAS case worker that he had been sexually abused by Hawn. Now, forty years after the fact and in preparation to testify at the inquiry he saw documents which show the abuse had been categorized in CAS notes as a “homosexual relationship”!

Bissonnette was not happy:

“I’m very insulted for them trying to classify me as a homosexual. It’s a good cover-up, but it’s not going to work with this guy. I know I was held down against my will, and there was never any consent on my part, and I know what that bastard did to me and I’ll take it to my grave.”

It seems nothing was done about Larry Hawn (now deceased). This despite the fact that back in the early 60s all homosexual acts were illegal – regardless of age or consent. In those days and with these cases molesters had no recourse to a defence of “consent.” In fact, children under fourteen were deemed incapable of consent to such acts, and those fourteen and over had to prove that they did not consent or they too could be charged!

Times certainly have changed!!

Anyway, the testimony implies that criminal charges were not pursued, and that Andre, a Roman Catholic boy placed in foster care, was for all intents and purposes at the tender age of fourteen categorized by the CAS as “homosexual” – and that was that. 1962!!!

It would seem that somewhere in the heaps of files at the Weave Shed there is a document which would probably corroborate Andre’s story. Apparently while preparing to take the stand Bissonnette discovered that Hawn had made some sort of unwanted sexual advances to someone else, a friend of the Meunier’s. During his testimony Bissonnette made reference to what he had read, but, strangely enough, witness the following, neither Justice Glaude nor lead counsel Peter Engelmann wanted to hear of or pursue it:

MR. BISSONNETTE: ….if you keep reading, somewhere in here it also says that Mrs. Meunier kind of feared Larry, the way he used to look at her when she’d be working in the kitchen.

After I left this home, Larry Hawn came onto one of their friends who spent the night. Well —

THE COMMISSIONER: Wow, wow.

MR. ENGELMANN: This is just something you’ve read, sir.

MR. BISSONNETTE: Okay. Sorry.

MR. ENGELMANN: So you can’t — Let’s just stick to what you know please.

“Wow, wow.” That’s the judge!

“Stick to what you know.” That’s lead counsel!

Perhaps we’ll hear more of Hawn’s proclivities during the institutional response phase? Or perhaps that’s the end of it? Perhaps it would be construed as politically incorrect to go further? Or perhaos even homophobic? I just don’t know. We’ll just have to wait and see …

No matter, at this point there are three things we know for sure: (1) the sexual abuse marred and forever changed the course of that young Roman Catholic boy’s life, (2) in the early 60s all homosexual acts perpetrated by a sexual predator over the age of fourteen were illegal – with or without consent, and (3) the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church regarding homosexual acts were the same as they are today.

The Story
Now, a little more background on what happened to this fourteen-year-old foster child.

At the tender age of ten Andre Bissonnette, along with three of his nine siblings, was removed from his home and placed into the care of the CAS.

It was one foster home after the other for Andre. Some good, some bad, some so-so. At the good he felt like he belonged. At the bad there were severe beatings, and in the one home …. sexual abuse.

Andre was about fourteen going on 15 when the sexual abuse began. He had been placed in the home of Jean-Guy and Shirley Meunier. His abuser, a fellow foster child, was about one year his senior. Initially they shared a bedroom.

The abuse began soon after his arrival at the Meunier home. Initially Andre said nothing:

I was too ashamed and I couldn’t — I was too scared of him. He threatened me if I said anything, and I couldn’t defend myself. I couldn’t handle what –— I couldn’t handle what was going on, but yet I was too ashamed to tell anybody.”

Andre recalls that after the abuse he began acting out at school and getting into trouble at every turn. When he was expelled from school his foster mother tackled him: “What are you going to do? Be a bum the rest of your f–ing life?”

Yes, according to Andre, that’s the way she talked to him.

That’s the day Andre tried to explain what had been tormenting him. “I don’t know where I got the courage” he testified. But he did.

“I’m living with a f—‘ing queer who’s been abusing me.”

He promptly got a slap on the side of the face. His foster mother, according to Andre, became hysterical: “Get out of my sight! Get out. Go and do something, just get out of my sight.”

Andre obliged…

I got out all right. It was a stormy day. It was snowing like hell and I put my clothes on. I walked across the highway. We were along the river there in Long Sault, about six or seven miles from Cornwall. I walked across the highway into the bush, and I walked along the river. I was running away to my mother’s. I didn’t want the cops to pick me up, that’s why I took the bush.

I was in snow up to my waist. By the time I got to my mother’s I was almost frozen from the waist down.

When I got to my mother’s I told her what happened. Pardon the expression, but I told my mother, I says, “I’m living with a f—ing queer who’s been molesting me”.

Andre told his mother. And he told his mother’s boyfriend. When his foster father came to pick him up that night he told him too.

He refused to return to the home. His mother refused to let him go.

The following day his social worker, Pierre Dubuc, came to pick him up. According to Andre that’s when he told Dubuc that he had been sexually abused by Hawn. He didn’t say he had engaged in a homosexual relationship with Hawn. He said, witness the following, that he had been sexually abused:

MR. ENGELMANN: …Did you tell Mr. Dubuc that you were involved in a homosexual relationship with Larry Hawn?

MR. BISSONNETTE: Never.

MR. ENGELMANN: Okay. How did you describe what happened to you?

MR. BISSONNETTE: I’ll repeat it again. I told him I was living with a f—ing molester who was molesting me. And these are the words I used to the social worker in front of my mother and in front of Phil Waters in her house that day.

After the sexual abuse he had, self-admittedly, become a troubled, difficult and rebellious child.

Andre was placed in another home. Then another. “I’ll be honest,” he testified “from the Meuniers – I don’t think anybody could do much with me because I was too screwed up. I was too — I was hurting too much.” He was filled with anger he said and looked for opportunities to lash out at others. He felt deserted by those who were supposed to look after him. He played hooky. He was in and out of court. He was “unmanageable.”

A decision was made that the St. Joseph training school operated by the Christian Brothers in nearby Alfred, Ontario was the place to square him away.

The child was terrified. A Mrs. Brunet, one of the few foster parents he had come to trust, seems to have gotten wind of the plan to send the boy off to Alfred. She fought desperately to keep the boy out of the school. She pulled every string she could. She made phone call after phone call, to the court and to the judge. “She was pulling for me.”

It didn’t work. Apparently at the suggestion of the CAS and by order of the judge (he believes it was Judge Bergeron) Andre was finally shipped off to Alfred, “to learn discipline.”

He recalls crying his heart out. Crying so hard he couldn’t talk. And he recalls the fearful drive to Alfred.

Records seem to indicate it was Dubuc who delivered the then 15-year-old to the Christian Brothers at Alfred. Andre doesn’t recall specifically who it was, all he remembers is he was crying his heart out, and he was scared to death, and all the way to Alfred he was being told: “Oh, you’re going to love it there. There’s guys your age. There’s a lot of sports and there’s hockey and there’s baseball and there’s football”.

Andre was promptly molested when he arrived at Alfred: “I was put in an infirmary there, and I was given needles and medication, to the point that I couldn’t defend myself and that’s when the Christian Brothers came. I was raped, sodomized.”

After six months at Alfred he turned 16.

When I got out of Alfred, I was determined that no one was ever going to hurt me again. CAS called me a few days after I got out offering me more education, but I swore at them and told them to leave me alone.

I turned to alcohol to deal with my shame and my pain. I never shared my story of abuse with my ex wife and only told my children and other family members after the Inquiry began. I could never be intimate with anyone. I couldn’t keep a job because I couldn’t deal with authority. I could not be a good father to my children. I had nothing positive in me to give them. I drank for 36 years and for 22 years, I was in and out of AA. I tried to commit suicide on several occasions.”

About ten years after he ran off in the snowstorm Andre ran into his former foster parents, the Meuniers: “And she came over to me, and I remember this like yesterday, and she said, “We’re so sorry, André, that we didn’t believe you.”

He wanted nothing to do with them.

Sad, isn’t it? So terribly terribly sad what sexual abuse does to a young lad? A lifetime of pain, anguish, shame and suffering.

And our law makers and lawyers and judges think it’s no big deal to leave suspect molesters out roaming the streets?!!!

The invetigations of the 60s
A final and important note. Lore Harreman, Andre Bissonnette’s lawyer, has asked for disclosure of reports from four – four! – separate investigations which were conducted at the St. Joseph Training School in Alfred Ontario in 1960. The investigations were conducted after word began to circulate that boys were being physically and sexually abused. The reports allegedly corroborate the allegations.

Harreman believes that the reports were probably relayed to various institutions in Cornwall, including the CAS. If indeed that is the case, and if indeed it was known that boys were being abused in Alfred, then what was wrong with the heads and hearts of those who blithely continued to ship those poor young boys off the Alfred?

I will be pleasantly surprised if the requested documents are disclosed in part or in whole without at the very least a mini or maxi furor erupting from one or more corners of the Weave Shed :).

And that’s enough for now,

Sylvia

(cornwall@theinquiry.ca)

P.S.

Oversight? No one asked Andre Bissonnette The Perry Question!!

Nor did anyone ask Andre if he ever told a priest in or out of confession that he had been sexually abused.

Nor did anyone query if perchance there might be a connection between the Meunier foster family and Father Luc Meunier. It’s a common name to be sure, – all the more reason to ask.

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