Attorney general can’t comment on priest scandal

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Moncton Times & Transcript

05 Jan 2013 12:33AM

By Craig Babstock

Times & Transcript Staff

New Brunswick’s Justice Minister and Attorney General will not be commenting on the recent suspension of two priests in Moncton.

The Moncton Archdiocese announced on Dec. 30 that it has removed the two Diocesan priests “from any ministry whatsoever following allegations of serious sexual abuse on minors on their part.” Rev. Yvon Arsenault, 70, and Fr. Irois Després, 82, are suspended indefinitely from performing any duties.

Després has been retired since 1992 while Arsenault retired in July, after he was stripped of his duties. Both priests have served in several New Brunswick communities over the last few decades, and Arsenault was most recently a Moncton-based priest at Saint Augustine’s Church and St. Michael’s Church.

Former Supreme Court of Canada Justice Michel Bastarache brought the allegations to the attention of the archdiocese, while maintaining the confidentiality of those who came forward to make complaints. The allegations were made to Bastarache during the archdiocese’s independent reconciliation and compensation process for victims of sexual abuse.

So far, it’s not clear if this has become a police matter. Bastarache has told the media he has a confidentiality agreement with the complainants so he can’t go to the police, while an archdiocese spokesman says they have no first-hand information about the alleged incidents to report to police.

Both Bastarache and the spokesman say the complainants must make a complaint to police. Earlier this week an RCMP spokeswoman said the same thing, telling the Times & Transcript a complaint from an alleged victim is required to launch an investigation.

It’s not known if that’s happened because the RCMP won’t say if they are investigating any particular individuals unless a charge is laid.

Department of Justice spokesman Dave MacLean was contacted by the Times & Transcript on Friday and asked if Justice Minister and Attorney General Marie-Claude Blais or someone else with the department could talk about the situation. More specifically, is the attorney general aware of the accusations being made against the priests and does she have any role to play in this matter?

MacLean said it would be inappropriate to offer any comment on the situation, given Blais’s role and said any questions about the matter would be better directed to the RCMP.

“The attorney general’s responsibility is to review a police file and decide on charges if a file comes forward,” said the spokesman. “To that end, the attorney general must remain independent.”

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