The Winnipeg Sun
First posted: | Updated:
By Dean Pritchard, Winnipeg Sun
A former Winnipeg priest who founded a drop-in centre for youth pleaded guilty Monday to sexually assaulting three boys.
Ronald Leger, 77, will return to court for sentencing early next year. Crown and defence lawyers have agreed to jointly recommend a sentence but did not disclose it to court.
“My client is presently in a therapeutic setting, more than anything to deal with some of these issues and prepare him for what will … ultimately be a significant incarceratory period,” defence lawyer Saul Simmonds told court.
Leger ran Ron’s Drop-in on Sterling Avenue between 1980 and 1995. Leger admitted to sexually assaulting two boys he met through the centre, the first in 1984 and 1985, the second in the late 1980s, and a third boy in 2004 and 2005.
Court heard the offences involved brief fondling of the boy’s genitals. The first victim was 12 or 13 years old and visiting the drop-in centre when Leger came up behind him and squeezed his genitals, Crown attorney Debbie Buors told court. The boy asked Leger what he was doing and immediately left the drop-in centre.
Leger assaulted the second victim several times, beginning when he was 15. Buors said Legar rubbed the boy’s genitals over his clothes on repeated occasions and asked “how his big boy was doing.” Years later, the then 19-year-old man was visiting Legar’s home when Leger rubbed the man’s genitals over his clothes and told him he should “make babies.”
Leger groped the third then 10-year-old victim in a similar fashion in a school locker room.
Former Winnipeg priest pleads guilty to sexual assault
Winnipeg Free Press
An elderly, defrocked Catholic priest is facing a lengthy prison sentence after admitting to years of sexual abuse against three young Winnipeg boys he took under his care.
Father Ronald Léger, 77, the former pastor of Holy Family Parish on Archibald Street, pleaded guilty Monday to sexual assault and sexual interference. It was a surprise move. Léger had been arrested months earlier and was expected to make a routine court appearance.
Sentencing isn’t expected to be held until early 2016 to allow Léger, who is out on bail, to finish an treatment program.
“He’s presently in a therapeutic setting,” defence lawyer Saul Simmonds said.
But that freedom has an expiry date, as Crown and defence lawyers said Léger will be receiving a “significant incarceratory period” under a joint recommendation they expect to make.
Léger was arrested earlier this year after the victims went to police after years of silence. Two of the victims were attacked in the 1980s, while the third occurred between 2002 and 2004. They were between the ages of nine and 18 at the time of the abuse.
Crown attorney Debbie Buors read a brief statement of facts in court Monday, saying Léger 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 in.
During one of the assaults, Léger 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.
Léger 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.
Léger 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,” board members from the drop-in centre told the Free Press.
The facility receives 12,000 visits each year from young people between the ages of eight and 18. In addition to being a safe place where youth can do activities such as play pool and watch movies, the centre offers them a variety of programs, including a homework club, music program and life-skills training such as cooking classes.
Father Leonce Aubin, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Saint-Boniface, previously told the Free Press the sex abuse case was being taken very seriously.
“We have a protocol in place and we followed it,” he said. “The investigation was done by the police and it’s up to the court now. The alleged victims can, if they need, get counselling from the archdiocese.”
The archdiocese released a statement expressing “its deep sorrow to the victims who have come forward as well as to their families and the entire parish community of Holy Family who have been affected by the alleged actions by their former pastor.”
The archdiocese said it co-operated with investigators when the allegations first came to light in February 2014. Léger was suspended immediately from all ministerial activity and ordered to have no contact with parishioners or children.
“Each time the heinous crime of sex abuse is reported, victims and their families are wounded again, the vast majority of faithful priests bow their heads in shame, and sincere Catholics, Christians and people of goodwill, experience shock, sorrow, anger and righteous indignation,” the archdiocese said in the statement.
Please note: Father Leger, a Viatorian priest, has been stripped of his priestly faculties in the Archdiocese of Saint Boniface. He has not been defrocked.