This is a lengthy post, broken into two: (1) A statement written by Michelle MacIsaac, a Newfoundlander who attended the recent Father George Smith court dates in Stephenville and Corner Brook Newfoundland, and (2) some reminders about Father George Ansel Smith.
Michelle, as you will see below, accompanied Paul R. on his recent trip “home” to Newfoundland to attend the courtdate of and presumably face his molester, Father George Smith. I will let Michelle’s words speak for themselves as she provides background and takes us along with Paul on that painful journey:
November 29, 2017
I came to know Paul R. when my family bought a new house and moved out to Jeffrey’s, NL in 1980. Our family attended Church every Sunday – sometimes in Heatherton, other times in St. Fintan’s. George Smith was the priest out there for as many years as I recall. I well remember Paul serving on the altar, along with many of my cousins and other friends. You may notice I don’t refer to Smith as “Father”. I never will. The only thing that male is father to, might be Satan. How the Catholic Church can still allow him to be included under their “organization” just defies all logic and decency and certainly DEFIES any kind of Christianity. And until the Catholic Church throws all these Satan spawns out and properly removes every single privilege bestowed upon them for being a priest, I will continue to be extremely ashamed to say I was ever baptized into or a part of this religion.
Paul and I were always close friends as teens, and at one point he actually got me through one of my darkest times – when I was contemplating suicide. If I had only know his own tortured internal hell. He always seemed to have a kind of “wall” up – but it never ever stopped him from being by FAR, one of the kindest hearted, most giving and loving people I have ever known. He is very much still this way – I can’t figure out how.
In 1983 Paul was kicked out of high school. It was a direct result of what Smith was doing to him, but none of us knew this. I still can’t help but wonder though – surely some of the teachers and adults involved in the system back then had to have known or strongly suspected Paul was being abused, along with many others. It makes me physically sick to think none of us ever tried to reach out to him, to push past this wall. I will always live with guilt for that.
I saw Paul again a few times briefly in the late 80’s and I remember feeling very unsettled. He seemed more and more lost each time. Then I lost contact with him completely. I would see some of his family living here in my home town and I often asked about him. I was told he was living in Ontario, and not much else. They didn’t seem to want to give out his contact info totally understandably, and I realize why now – because he had closed himself off from everyone for over 20 years, and was living in his own “prison of self-punishment and torture” I guess you would have to call it.
In 2009 I saw him show up on Facebook and immediately wrote and asked how he was doing. He responded briefly, but then a few months later – disappeared again. This was right about the time the charges about Smith were first brought public and I couldn’t help but wonder if he had seen something about it and he immediately withdrew back to his prison, unable to face his demons at that time.
Then in June 2016 he reappeared again. I reached out to him again – and this time he opened up about Smith and told me how he had only recently regained his memory of what had been done to him. When I learned the full extent of the suffering, and the things that this sick demented demon inflicted on my friend and so many others I cared so much about – it left me feeling so enraged and overwhelmed, I can’t even begin to describe it. I have always been a person who tries their best to help others. In this situation – Paul had helped me so much many years ago by being the best friend I ever had, almost like a big brother.
I made a pledge to him to return this friendship and see him through this extremely difficult journey, and to stand by his side every step of the way. I have shared my pledge with my family and they have all been very loving and supportive, something I cherish and appreciate more than words could ever say. They have all welcomed Paul as a part of our family.
Flash forward November 21, 2017. Paul was brought to Stephenville to attend the court that was scheduled for November 22, 2017. It had already been postponed and delayed many times, but the day seemed to finally be here. When I saw Paul for the first time in over 20 years, it was very overwhelming and emotional. He was not the person I knew as a teen. My 19 year old son actually commented after meeting Paul for the first time “Mom he looks like a broken soul, you can just see it in his eyes, that his soul is broken”. The comment left me in complete tears. It was so accurate.
The next morning we set off to court. On the ride there Paul got a phone call that there had “been a development” and due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control Smith would not physically be in courtroom, but appear by video. This left Paul very shaken up as I think he felt he deserved to be able to see Smith, as he described how his life has been destroyed and robbed from him. But our justice system saw fit to make things easier for Smith – yet again. Shock #1; not so much.
We were escorted to a waiting area and advised that there were some difficulties getting the video equipment set up because it was already in use by another court case happening and there was only one set of video equipment. One would think that this court day – which had been booked for a very long time now, would have been properly organized so as not to cause any more unnecessary pain and suffering to the victim than was going to happen by the actual court process. Well delay after delay, false starts, and torturous waiting… and 4 hours later they come in and announce Smith and his lawyer have had to leave because their time had “run out” and they could not stay any longer. Now court would have to be rescheduled to Monday, November 28/17 and in Corner Brook this time – an hour’s drive away. Paul broke down many times throughout the waiting, but this news just devastated him.
Monday finally arrived. We were kept waiting once again about an hour late, but the time had come to walk into the court room. We had been told that Smith’s appearance on the video screen would be done after we got inside and settled away, but as soon as we entered the door – Smith’s smug, bored looking face was plastered across the video screen. Paul gasped and staggered backwards out through the doors and completely fell apart. It took some time for us to get him gathered together enough emotionally to reenter. Then as we sat down we were advised that the video cameras were set up so that Smith would not have to see anyone other than the Judge, however we were all forced to sit and stare at his face throughout the full proceeding. Such kindness towards the accused, to prevent him from having to view his victim as he poured out his pain and torture in front of a courtroom. Shock #2… So very sad.
There was what I assume is the usual “red tape” and legal mumble jumbling. I have never been in a court proceeding like this in my life so had no idea what to expect. I will try to relay the course of events as well as my memory recalls:
The Crown Attorney asked the Judge and Defense attorney if it would be okay for the Victims Services Advocate to read out Paul’s Victim Impact Statement, as he did not feel emotionally capable of getting through it himself. If I had my time back I would’ve insisted on trying to do this myself, because in my humble opinion this statement needed to be read with the full emotion, rage and pain with which it was written. Unfortunately, when it gets read by someone not personally invested at all – the tone of voice changes its meaning and the emotions it inflicts. And I mean no offence to this advocate whatsoever, she was great throughout the entire ordeal and very helpful. But I just found her voice similar to a Kindergarten teacher very cheerily reading to a group of children. Paul broke down many times throughout the reading of it, especially in the sections where his parents were mentioned. At times, I had all I could do to hold up his shaking, weeping body, which was often curled over almost in fetal position sobbing, and keep him from falling onto the floor. Finally this reading of the impact statement ended.
Then began the Crown Attorney’s presentation. She did a very thorough and lengthy presentation arguing that Smith should get 6 to 12 months of jail time. I was kind of dumb struck that this was all they were asking for??! He was let out early in the previous trial – serving only 4 years of an 11 year sentence. There were 41 charges…. And now another person comes forward and goes through all this to get him back in court… and we were only asking for 6 to 12 months??? Wow. Defense was asking he get 6 to 12 months of ‘house arrest only’ – a conditional sentence. It was mentioned repeatedly that if he was given jail time it would revoke his parole, however if he was given house arrest it would not revoke his parole. I have no idea what the significance of this was. I just couldn’t understand why they weren’t saying “he deserves to now be thrown back in jail and serve out the years he should have served in the first place, and another 5 years for this other victim”. That seemed quite reasonable to me. The judge then pointed out that he felt the “maximum suggested by both counsels of 12 months was too low” – and that he has the right to make it longer if he sees fit, and both counsels agreed.
The Crown presented several ‘jail-time supporting’ cases such as the one against Graham James – the hockey coach in Alberta, and Sheldon Kennedy, NHL hockey star who was brave enough to initially come forward and accuse and charge him of molesting him. Apparently after James was let out of prison for the crimes against Kennedy, other victims came forth and James was ultimately sent back to prison. She made a really solid – albeit very lengthy presentation.
At this time the Defense was asked to begin their presentation. Now I know ‘they have a job to do’. I totally get that. But the lawyer Smith has representing him – well I guess I shouldn’t say what I feel because I would probably get charged myself. I’ll just state the facts as I recall them. He started reading about Smith, and what a ‘wonderful, great upbringing’ he had, and his solid education, his devotion to the Church which is still as strong as ever today, how he attends mass 3 to 4 times a week. He talked about Smith’s sister and how she is quite ill and Smith goes to visit her often. Well how sweet I thought. How lovely that he has maintained his family ties all these years, while Paul kept himself isolated from his entire family and any friends and locked in a mental HELL, for reasons he didn’t even understand himself.
Then the lawyer talked about the accusations in 2009-2010 and said that at the time, Paul’s name was given to authorities as a “potential victim”. I could see the look of shock whip across Pauls’ face. The lawyer claimed that in this report he had (which the Crown Attorney later told us she knew absolutely nothing about) it stated that the authorities were “unable to ever get a confirming statement from Mr. Renouf” and he wasn’t sure if it was because they actually were not able to physically find Paul, or if he wouldn’t respond/or chose not to respond to their attempts to contact him. The lawyer said he felt this seemed to show Paul had ‘no desire to see his own charges brought forth then’, or maybe it just showed the police simply couldn’t find him. However he repeated over and over that much greater ‘due diligence’ should’ve been exercised by the authorities to get in touch with Paul back in 2009 and that this should never have been allowed to just slip away. He questioned why Paul – all these years later, suddenly feels compelled to come forward now, since it would’ve been a “lot better for all involved if he had just come forward with the others and had this all taken care of back then”. He also said that he had read through the initial Police report Paul filed and according to the accused, the details of the alleged assault seemed “maybe a bit exaggerated and not quite accurate, and that the abuse had maybe not gone on as long as was stated” but that the accused did accept it.
I could see the shock, pain and absolute outrage come across Paul’s face at this line of commenting because A) we both knew that at NO time did anyone whatsoever contact or attempt to track Paul down in 2009-2010, if they had, who knows – maybe he would have revealed everything. But no one did. And B) to make this now sound like Paul was ‘uninterested in seeking justice until it suited him’ was so outrageous, lastly C) How DARE this arrogant, ignorant slime bag try to even insinuate that what he put Paul through was somehow ‘not quite that bad’ as Paul stated. Even the judge finally felt compelled to speak up.
He addressed the defense lawyer and said something to the effect: “I have to point something out here, it is entirely possible and clearly established in the very well written Victim Impact statement submitted to the court – that in 2009-2010 Mr. R. was unable to come forward for his own personal reasons, he was not ready at all. As a victim that is 100% your right, a victim MUST only come forward when HE is ready, not when it may be more ‘convenient’ for the accused. Is that clear?” We were all very happy that the Judge took this opportunity to interject this very valid point. And of course, the defense lawyer then started back tracking.
The defense however kept hammering away that “in any court case in this province there has to be some ‘finality’, he felt the courts cannot and should not allow victim after victim after victim to keep coming forth with new charges as time passed, without putting an end to it at some point.” I was so angry hearing him say this, I had all I could do not to lose it.
The defense went on with a few case laws which supported their position that Smith should only get house arrest because the courts had decided he had been “fully rehabilitated” since they granted him full parole 7 years early. He went on and on about how there had been no further incidents and that this new charge should not create a situation where a man almost 80 years old has to serve even one day back in jail, repeating how even one day in jail would serve no purpose whatsoever and was ‘completely unnecessary and unwarranted’. How this guy sleeps at night is beyond the windmills of my mind. One of his final comments was that his “client, since the period of his release, and even all the while being incarcerated – has lead a very good, Christian life, and has shown himself to have a solid and good Christian moral character during this time”. I finally lost it and blurted out “JESUS!!!” and the judge promptly addressed Paul and advised him that although he understood how emotional this all must be, that no such outburst would be tolerated and they could not happen again. So I got another gentle nudge to keep mum. God forbid anyone upset poor Smith, must show the utmost respect to the accused.
Finally, the ending arrived and the sentencing date was debated and decided to be December 5th, 2017. The judge insisted that for the sentencing he wants Smith physically present. The defense lawyer tried vehemently to argue that Smith be allowed to use video appearance again but the Judge shut him down flat and said no – Smith would have to appear, but that Paul is going to be allowed to hear the sentence by telephone on that day if this would be easier for him. Paul said it would be much easier because he has multiple very important medical tests coming up and could not see being able to travel back here again so soon.
We left the courtroom. Paul looked completely emotionally and physically demolished. I was and still am in a complete state of shock. If this is how our justice system treats the victims in any situation – is there any wonder why SO many die by their own hand, and/or never decide to come forward at all. Who could blame them??? I certainly could never say that I felt this entire process was in any way, shape or form supportive, or that it works in any way to denounce, deter or discourage a perpetrator from committing these horrific, life destroying acts. Our current justice system in my humble opinion is the most morally bankrupt and dysfunctional institution I have ever witnessed. It is absolutely 100% in favor of protecting, defending and nurturing the accuser and COMPLETELY crucifying the victim emotionally, spiritually, mentally, I would go so far as to even say physically – since Paul’s current state of health is quite a living testament to what this has done to him.
I can only hope and pray that the tremendous amount of love and support that Paul has now allowed himself to accept will help him to some day fully recover and begin to start living some semblance of a fulfilling and rewarding life. He has taken the first step and I can testify that it was definitely an extremely difficult one. But he has done it. And whatever the outcome is – I feel his life should now only get better. We who love him will accept nothing less.
Thank you for sharing with us Michelle. You are truly an angel. And thank you for being there with Paul.
It broke my heart to read this. A difficult few days for Paul.
All so true. I dare not say what I think of most defence lawyers. They sing from the same song sheet. It’s the name of their game. Cruel, cold-hearted, calculating. How they look themselves in the mirror every day is beyond me. I don’t for a moment believe that they, of all people, do not understand the difficulties victims have in coming forward ,but, – they play on that and use it berate and disparage the victims and attack their credibility. I truly do not understand how they can do it.
It’s good to hear that the judge insisted that Father Smith be there for sentencing. I hope and pray that you and others can make it Michelle.
Father Smith will be sentenced 05 December. Let’s hope and pray that justice and common sense – not his defence lawyer – prevail and that Father Smith will be back behind bars where he belongs, at least for a few months.
Please, everyone, keep Paul in your prayers.
And now for those few reminders:
First, a reminder that back in December 2011 Father Smith faced in the order of 70 sex abuse charges. The abuse, which spanned 20 years between 1969 and 1989, transpired in places such as Port Saunders, Corner Brook, Stephenville, St. Fintan’s, Cape St. George, Deer Lake, Newfoundland, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Most boys were were 12 or 13 when the abuse started: one was eight-years-old.
Father Smith entered a guilty plea, and, as is so often the case with guilty pleas, a number of the charges against him had just up and disappeared . Poof! A total of thirty charges were gone.
No matter, in March 2013 Father Smith was sentenced to 11 years in jail.
It all sounded so ‘just.’ So many thought that finally justice had been done. However, believe it or not, less than three years later, in December 2015 , the predatory priest was granted day parole!
Bad enough. Then, the icing on the cake for Smith: in July 2016 – barley over three years into an 11-year-sentence – the serial molester was granted full parole.
According to media reports, when Smith was initially sentenced his lawyer lawyer Tom Williams “said his remorseful client had expected such a lengthy sentence and was prepared to accept his punishment.”
A reminder too that in the early ’90s Father Smith was recycled out of Newfoundland and into Prince Edward Island, this after he was treated for alcohol abuse and his attraction to young boys.
Indeed, the Bishop of the day when Father Smith was molesting his way around Newfoundland and beyond, and when he was reported, and when he was shuffled off for “treatment”” and when he was quietly recycled and dumped on the unsuspecting faithful in Prince Edward Island was, …. Raymond Lahey.
In 2011 Lahey, as we now know all to well, entered a guilty plea in Ottawa to porn charges.
Bad enough. At that time we learned that Bishop Raymond Lahey, – the man who, by the way, had also brokered the deal with victims in the Diocese of Antigonish – had been in a homosexual relationship for the previous ten years, and that he wanted the relationship to continue, and that before the ten year relationship began, he was doing one-night stands, and that he has a thing for sado masochism.
There was also a lawsuit launched alleging sex abuse of young boy. I have no idea if that ever settled or not. I believe that had it gone to trial we would have heard. It may well have settled out of court. It may have been dropped.
There hasn’t been a peep about what Lahey is up to these days, the only for sure is that he is mercifully no longer and bishop, and thankfully no longer a priest.
My thoughts and prayers go out to all those children in the Diocese of St. George/Corner-Brook-Labrador who have suffered sexual abuse at the hands of a priest. I commend every one of you who has found the courage to come forward. I pray that those who are still silent and afraid will find courage to speak up, to shit the burden of of shame where it rightly belongs, onto the shoulders of your molester.
(I have just added the names of the Bishops of St. George’s Diocese (now Diocese of Corner-Brook Newfoundland) to the Father Ansel Smith page. And yes, as you know, I always refer to convicted molesting clergy who remain in the priesthood by the title: “Father.” I know it’s an oxymoron, but, for me a constant and terribly unfortunate reminder both that (1) our bishops have no problem permitting known molesters to remain in the priesthood, and (2) the priesthood is sullied by the presence of known clerical molesters.)
Below, a picture of Michelle taken outside St. Columcille Roman Catholic Church around 1981-1982, possible at her Confirmation. On the left: Bishop Raymond Lahey. On the Right: Father George Ansel Smith.
Enough for now,