Winnipeg Free Press
A long-time former Winnipeg priest is headed to prison after admitting to years of sexual abuse against three young boys he took under his care.
Rev. Ronald Leger, 77, the former head of Holy Family Parish on Archibald Street, was given a two-year sentence on Tuesday under a joint recommendation from Crown and defence lawyers. Leger had previously pleaded guilty to three charges of sexual assault and one charge of sexual interference.
Leger was arrested in early 2015 after the victims went to police following years of silence.
Two of the victims were attacked in the 1980s, while the third was molested between 2002 and 2004. They were between the ages of nine and 18 at the time of the abuse.
All three presented powerful victim impact statements which were read aloud by Crown attorney Debbie Buors on Tuesday. They described ongoing feelings of anger, anxiety, depression and even suicidal thoughts. All expressed a loss of faith in the church.
“These were young, vulnerable children at the time,” said provincial court Judge Wanda Garreck upon hearing the facts.
‘I pray you will find peace’: Leger
Leger read his own statement out loud, expressing hope that his prison sentence will bring a sense of justice and closure to the victims.
“I hope my punishment will be an aspect of the healing process,” he said. “I’m very sorry for the hurt I caused to you and your families. I pray you will find peace in your heart.”
Defence lawyer Saul Simmonds said his client continues to have strong community support and will have a difficult time behind bars, especially while battling health issues such as high blood pressure and arthritis.
“For a man of his age, to be saddled with a two-year sentence is not a minor matter,” said Simmonds. He described Leger as “genuinely remorseful.”
“The sadness of the entire situation all around is extreme,” he said.
Former high school teacher founded teen drop-in centre
Court heard that Leger was like a mentor to the three victims. He repeatedly fondled them at various locations, including his own home and even a school changing room following a basketball game one of the boys had just played.
During one of the assaults, Leger urged one of the teen boys to “make babies” soon. In another case, he had a pet name for the boy’s penis, court was told.
Leger was appointed pastor of Holy Family Parish in 1995. Before that, he founded Teen Stop Jeunesse, a teen drop-in centre, in 1980. The centre was originally called Ron’s Drop-In and was located on Rue Des Meurons, but it has since moved to St. Anne’s Road.
“The drop-in centre was a place of safety and that was violated,” Buors told court Tuesday.
Leger is a former high school teacher who started the drop-in centre “with a vision to create a place for young people where they could feel they belonged, with staff there to listen to them and make them feel valued.” Leger stepped down from his role there in 1994.
The archdiocese told the Free Press it co-operated with investigators when the allegations first came to light in February 2014. Leger was suspended immediately from all ministerial activity and ordered to have no contact with parishioners or children.
Former Winnipeg priest sentenced to two years in prison for sexual abuse
Ronald Leger has been sentenced to two years in jail after pleading guilty to four counts of sexual assault.
Published Wednesday, February 10, 2016 7:25AM CST
Last Updated Wednesday, February 10, 2016 7:26AM CST
A former Winnipeg priest has been sentenced to two years in prison for sexually abusing three boys in his care.
Ronald Leger was pastor of Holy Family Parish on Archibald Street.
He pleaded guilty to three charges of sexual assault.
The 77-year-old received a two year sentence Tuesday.
The victims ranged from nine-years-old to 18-years-old. The incidents took place between the 1980s and 2004.