The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal has reserved its decision in an extradition case involving a Catholic priest facing physical and sexual abuse charges in Scotland.
Now 87, Father Robert MacKenzie used a walker to get into and out of court on Wednesday, when his lawyer Alan McIntyre and the lawyer for the federal government made representations on an application for judicial review of a government-issued surrender order under the Extradition Act. Details of evidence and submissions heard in court can’t be reported because of a court-imposed publication ban.
As is usual for the Court of Appeal, a date for the return of its decision has not been set.
According to previously reported information, MacKenzie faces allegations spanning 30 years — between the 1950s and 1980s — when he served as a Benedictine monk at two boys’ boarding schools.
McIntyre previously stated MacKenzie, “categorically denies now, and he has denied under oath to the minister of justice, that he was involved in any sexual impropriety.”
Earlier this year, the Archdiocese of Regina sent a letter to its pastors and parishes, advising them of the Scottish charges against MacKenzie. The archdiocese reported the authorities had obtained a surrender order from Canada’s minister of justice. Surrender orders don’t end matters of extradition, although they are an important step. By applying to the province’s highest court for a judicial review of that order, MacKenzie is continuing to fight extradition.
McIntyre previously expressed a concern the justice minister hadn’t taken MacKenzie’s poor health into account when making its order.
Citing the publication ban, the federal ministry previously declined to comment, although a spokesperson confirmed “the ministerial process in this case is ongoing.”
No allegations of sexual abuse have been made against MacKenzie pertaining to his time serving communities in Saskatchewan, the archdiocese has said. MacKenzie — who arrived in Canada in the late 1980s — served briefly in Regina, then spent a lengthy time in Cupar as well as the neighbouring Lipton and Dysart. MacKenzie was reportedly well-liked in Cupar, where he was known to many as “Father Bob.” He retired in 2002, although he continued to assist other priests with their tasks.
The archdiocese has said it first learned in 2013 of the Scottish allegations against MacKenzie. A spokesman for the archdiocese said efforts were made at that time to prevent MacKenzie’s involvement with children and, when the investigation gathered steam a few years later, MacKenzie was removed from his role as priest and moved to a home for retired priests in Regina.
Pending a final decision in the matter, MacKenzie remains free in the community on conditions.
McIntyre previously called it irresponsible for the archdiocese to send out a letter to parishes and the media on allegations that haven’t been proven in court, adding the publicity will further damage his client’s reputation.
Media in the United Kingdom have been reporting on abuse in the two Catholic boarding schools — Fort Augustus Abbey School and Carlekemp — since 2013. Alleged survivors of sexual abuse there have described a pedophile ring involving multiple monks. MacKenzie reportedly worked in both and has been named in the U.K. news stories.
-with files from Arthur White-Crummey