MONTREAL — A Montreal priest who sexually abused two boys under his tutelage was handcuffed and led away to prison Monday as his two victims looked on.
Rev. Brian Boucher was impassive as Quebec court Judge Patricia Compagnone announced Monday she agreed with a joint sentencing recommendation from the Crown and defence, calling the eight-year federal prison term neither lenient nor unduly harsh.
“The accused abused two young boys entrusted to him by family members because of his position,” Compagnone said. “Clearly the behaviour of the accused in committing these crimes has significant impact on both the victims, considering their age and personal circumstances.”
Both victims, now adults, delivered impact statements earlier Monday, explaining the abuse would always stay with them.
“Because of the accused’s behaviour, they carry a life sentence with them,” Compagnone noted. “No sentence imposed on the accused will give them back what was taken from them by him.”
Following a trial in which he denied the abuse, Boucher was found guilty Jan. 8 of sexually assaulting one of the victims between 2008 and 2011. In the second case, the Catholic priest pleaded guilty to sex-related charges between 1995 and 1999 just as a trial was set to begin Jan. 21.
The judge noted the frequency and types of assaults made it clear they were not isolated incidents. She also noted the accused used “fear and religion” to keep his victims quiet and his position as their priest to plan how he could be alone with them.
“Here the accused is the only one responsible for the commission of these crimes — not the church, not the victims’ parents nor their caretakers, and certainly not (the victims),” Compagnone said. “They (the victims) are to be honoured and respected for having denounced the accused’s behaviour, whatever the moment they chose to do so,” adding it was never too late to denounce such “devious and inappropriate behaviour.”
The archdiocese supported the complainants and collaborated with police before the Crown proceeded with charges. The judge applauded the church’s involvement but said more is needed.
“When a wolf is in sheep’s clothing, what can be done to detect or deter him?” she asked. “The church certainly has a lot of reflection to do regarding this.”
Boucher worked in 10 Montreal-area churches between 1985 and 2015. The abuse took place at two churches, and one of the victims raised concerns in his statement Monday there could be other victims.
Crown prosecutor Annabelle Sheppard said the victims were satisfied with the outcome. “Seeing Brian Boucher taken away in handcuffs was a symbolic end to a long journey,” Sheppard said outside the courtroom.
“It was a long process for them, but a victorious one,” she added. “But even with a conviction, and a sentence that is a substantial sentence, it will not undo or take away the pain they have suffered and continue to suffer.”
Bishop Thomas Dowd, who was involved in supporting the victims, thanked them for coming forward.
“I know how hard it was for you, and I’ve so much admiration for your courage. You are my heroes,” Dowd read from a prepared statement outside the courtroom. “Today is your day, not Brian Boucher’s, and the rest of your life belongs to you, not him.”
As for Boucher, Dowd spared no disdain for his fellow priest.
“How could you do this? You were given the love and trust of literally hundreds of people, you betrayed and manipulated them, you shamed the church and discredited the work of your fellow brother priests, and one day you’ll face the even greater judgment of God himself,” Dowd said, urging Boucher to take his time behind bars to consider the impact of his crimes.
In its own statement, the Montreal archdiocese called the prison sentence a “critical step” in the healing process of all those “terribly wounded by his conduct.” Canonical proceedings that could see Boucher defrocked are ongoing, but in the meantime he is permanently barred from all ministerial functions within the church.