On his deathbed, Elie Theriault talks about the childhood sex abuse he endured at the hands of Father Leon Gagnon

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Link to Father Leon Gagnon page

24  April 2010 :  The above is a video of 95-year-old Elie Theriault in his hospital bed at the Campbellton Regional Hospital in Campbellton, New Brunswick.  Elie is speaking to his son Jean-Guy about the abuse he , Elie, suffered at the hands of Father Leon Gagnon and another unidentified priest.  

 

Elie died two-and-a-half-months after this video was taped.

May he rest in peace. 

Wedding picture of JG's parents.  JG's father was molested as a child by Father Leo Gagnon

Wedding picture of Emile and Laurette Theriault

_____________________

Jean Guy has kindly provided the following translation of the video.  The car in the wedding picture at the left is the car referenced in the conversation between father and son.

…..

The film starts in Campbellton Regional Hospital, Campbellton, New Brunswick.. Elie is fixing his bed sheets.

jg:     Dad…who was it said that the car on your wedding picture belonged to “Curé”Gagnon?!…

Elie:    Yes.

jg:     What was his first name?

Elie:    Léon…Léon Gagnon.

jg:      He was quite the “character”…

Elie:     (laughs) He was a “pure” one… “un fuseau de fil”(spoolo thread-sounds like pedophile in French)

jg:       …a “pedophile”?…

Elie:     Yes.

jg:       I tried to find….Edgar?The little boy he took to the rectory?….

Elie:         Armand…?

jg:       Armand Gagnon?…

Elie:         Yes. I always…little 6 year old…little six year old he had sleeping with him.He was all black and blue…we tried to know why he beat him up….well we didnʼt try…because he started to shake uncontrollably, so we stopped questioning him…

In those days, it wasnʼt like today….everything was “taboo”…

jg:       …priests had all the authority?…still bothers you?…

Elie:            I would have liked to know if it was him playing ball….

(He saw a the nameArmand Gagnon somewhere else, not playing baseball…he says a few years ago, more likely in the 60ʼs.???)

[-around the 2 minute mark]

jg     How old were you the first time?

Elie:             13 years old…I was a cook for Germain Dionne, working on the new road to Campbellton. I came from the site (to Saint Martin, home at the time)and I had a message that the new priest wanted to meet his parishioners…wanted to get to know them….I was happy(proud) to get such an invitation….I cleaned up and I went to the rectory. He welcomed me from the living room doorway and made me sit on his lap…

jg:   You were 13 years old?

Elie:        13 years old. It wasnʼt long he took me by the hand and walked me to his bedroom where he did “the job” on me.

jg:   That wasnʼt the only time?

Elie:        For me it was the first time…something like that.

jg:   You have been reliving/mulling that all your life!?…

Elie:        I still am!

jg:    Is that why you were not home much…in part?….

Elie:      Not really…..I went there …how did that happen?…I donʼt remember!

-[about 3:50 mark]

jg:    So, was it over 4 years, during 4 years that he took advantage of you?..

Elie:      No!  No!…He wasnʼt bothering me again..I warned him…he wanted me to make a garden for him….I told him “Iʼll do it if you leave me alone”…thatʼs how I got clear of him.

jg:    So… where did he go after that..Charlo?…

Elie:       When he left Saint-Martin?.. Alma was the one to call the Bishop…Alma, my sister…she noticedAnita was pregnant.

jg:    When she worked at the rectory?…

Elie:      When she worked at the rectory…she was crying, telling her mother she didnʼt want to go there!..but she was told she had to go:”…we are starving, we have a hard time to survive…”

“Go to the rectory!”…next thing she (her mother) noticed she had a little “belly”…She asked her where that was from….She told her it was from the priest and then she(Alma) called the Bishop right away…The Bishop just moved him to another place.

jg:    Who was the Bishop?

Elie:      Donʼt know who that was…Thatʼs what they did, they moved them around…

jg:    Had he then come to Charlo?..

Elie:      No. He was 2-3 months on an island (Lamèque ?)…then he was promoted to his own parish in Beresford.

jg:    When is this?…1930-1932??…during the depression?…

Elie:     Ahh!?…in ʼ37…not sure what year.

jg:   On an island?..in Beresford…in Charlo…Balmoral?…

Elie:      …yes, I was so surprised when I saw him there(Balmoral)

[around 5:55-6:00 minute mark–name edited out]-

Elie:      I worked at the hospital and lived in residence, in Campbellton, I came home on weekends…

(reverts back to a memory in his youth, in Saint-Martin)

When I was making the garden, I was sleeping in the same bed as Claude Gagnon, the priests brother-a gentleman-; in those days we often had to share beds.There was a visiting priest from Beresford( more likely from Petit Rocher) a very large man…Gagnon had served with him before(Petit Rocher after ordination)…he came to my bed and took me in his arms to his bed where he performed oral sex on me…that happened once in my life and it was by a priest!

jg:   That wasnʼt Gagnon?..

Elie:      No. He had been his “vicaire”(subordinate) before he came to Saint Martin.

jg:   You said “the fat one”, the priest in charge(curé) from Beresford?…that was another one?!…

Elie:     Yes! Yes!…They were all like that.They were all homosexuals but not all cock suckers-laugh- For me that was the first time it happened…and a priest!You didnʼt dare fight back!  (pause)…

jg:   You are still thinking about that?!…

Elie:      I would never have had oral sex (succer)-laugh

jg:   At Easter you were talking about that…it was troubling you…

Elie:      ..and when I got married, I didnʼt know if I should tell Laurette?…Not tell her?….I thought . “she is happy, she is trusting, trusting in the priest…” so I waited and waited and never told her! ; she passed away and I never told her!…- pause:    

…and that still weighs heavy in my heart.Yes.

jg:    Well, at some point they will pay for this…

Elie:     Yes-pause:    

jg:    ..anyway it helps to understand….it bothered you all your life….we didnʼt have a relationship as we should have had?…

Elie:     That bothered me all my life…heavyhearted all my life…something that was done against my will!…-pause:    

Yes, sir!…please one….displease another….they wonder why and they donʼt know!…They donʼt understand. It is all a “mixup”!…

jg:   They donʼt understand why you did what you did?!…

Elie:      Well, no. In those days everything was “taboo”…-to “urinate”(piss)….you couldnʼt say that!…everything was a sin!…all sorts of things like that!

jg:    …but the priests, they had pretty much…

Elie:      Well…they were taking advantage of that!…they said weʼre not afraid to get caught, no one will dare say that!…

jg:    …no one will say that…

Elie:     Yes. Gagnon said that…(mumbled)

jg:    Is he dead, Gagnon?

Elie:      Oh! yes.Along time ago.

jg:   They are all dead, but the church, the bishops, they all knew

Elie:      -cough- PAUSE_

jg:    What should they do to be “forgiven”?…should the bishop come here and ask you for “forgiveness”??…It would be their turn…

Elie:      Well,…I would get communion just the same but I wouldnʼt go to confession! …In those days you were supposed to go every month…

He (Gagnon) would still say Mass….in a state of sin, lets say

[about the 10:40 minute mark]

So I thought I wasnʼt worst than him, so I took communion anyway but I wasnʼt going to confess to that “thing”, not to any of them…when I knew they were all like that!…

So, that kept me unhappy/miserable all my life…

jg:    ..all your life?…Is that why we were not close(touched his arm, he looks down) It is hard on a family, something like that…

Elie:      Of course it is hard- you donʼt dare bring that out!…it makes everything…

jg:    …inside out?…

Elie:     All inside out!….like me…I would say I went to confession, but I didnʼt go! In those days, not going to confession was supposed to be a sin!…

[-at about 11:33 minute mark-]

jg:    Is it Anita, your niece….

Elie:      …the one he “caught”(impregnated)…yes…The wife of Claude Gagnon, the priests brother…There were 7 brothers in that family, they were all gentlemen..except for that cock sucker….all good people, with good jobs…one was manager of the cheese factory in Grand Falls…”him”, well he was a “homophile”…had to be…he went to the trouble of bringing in a young boy from the Quebec orphanage..(la crèche)

jg:    How old were you then?…were you about 17 years old?…

Elie:     About that….that was in 19 hundred…about that I suppose…

jg:   A young 6 year old..

Elie:      He would take him to his bed…an “homophile”….

jg:    How long was that little boy with him?…

Elie:      Well…until he left…until  Alma noticed…

jg:    Where did he go after?…

Elie:      I donʼt know..he must have gone with the caretaker(bédot), Claude Duguay….

He had come with him(Gagnon) from Petit Rocher to Saint Martin…He was in Beresford before he came to Saint Martin

jg:   Ah!…Ok. Well…quite the stories…

—-end of film——

14 Responses to On his deathbed, Elie Theriault talks about the childhood sex abuse he endured at the hands of Father Leon Gagnon

  1. Sylvia says:

    For all of you who, like me, are not bilingual and wish you were, JG will be giving us a description of the video in English.

    You may notice that there is little blip in the video where I edited out a small segment. Mr. Theriault made mention of an individual who is still alive – it was agreed that it would be proper to clip that small segment.

    Rest in peace Elie Theriault. Rest in peace.

  2. JG says:

    I have just sent the “approximate” translation of this conversation with my Father to Sylvia.
    Most of what we talk about has been covered in the letters I wrote and other text on this page. Some dates may appear different but bear in mind our conversation was improvised, a last minute thought of grabbing my HP camera on the way to hospital….He is 95 years old and just a little over 2 months before he passed away.
    What I retain mostly of that day with him and as I watched it for the first time in the last year, at least, is the pain that never went away.
    I am especially moved during those moments he goes somewhere, silent….
    Also somewhat apparent on the film is the pounding(95 yr old pounding!) of his right fist on his hospital table throughout our conversation…
    I hope it helps another family, other victims to understand how important for you and the ones you love to shine a light on those “family secrets”…
    I have many questions I can never ask him…Don’t leave your children with that predicament! All your lives will be better for it.

    jg

  3. Leona says:

    J.G. Thank you for your courage in sharing this. I have to admit that for the first time in my journey to expose the truth, that I really feel like I couldn’t watch because it would be too painful. I wonder at the intensity of those feelings, it’s not my parent.
    Perhaps my mother’s death is too raw yet, she left this world still honoring church, happy that the Monsignor came to visit her in her home a month she died – part of her mind still believing that a priest would never do ‘those things’ to a child.

  4. Conrad Brideau says:

    Très touchant!!! C’est une histoire qui ressemble à bien d’autres. Ce qui est le plus touchant c’est qu’il la raconte sur son lit de mort en vieillesse. Il avait gardé son secret pour lui même toute sa vie. C’est terrible, en étant victime moi-même, je peux comprendre pourquoi il n’a pas parlé avant. C
    omme il dit personne ne va parler de ça. Sa famille a certainement souffert de cela car il n’a pas pu être l’homme qu’il aurait dû être.

  5. Baspuit says:

    Thank you JG for posting your Dad’s final thoughts on the matter!

    Mind bogling how confession and sin was still on his mind, so many years later and to think they (church) have brought back this guilt/confession trip, to our younger generation. How many will be groomed?

    Curious to know who was the big priest that Gagnon was vicar to? A Raymond?
    Sad part when he said “she died and never told her”!
    Again with a heavy heart, I thank you for posting it.

  6. Sylvia says:

    Thanks to JG, the English translation has been added. I have also added Emile Elie and Laurette’s wedding picture.

  7. 1yellowknife says:

    The little 6 year old orphan… black and blue….. when asked why… shaking and crying. This is one of the most gruesome, nauseating abuse stories I have heard in my life (and I have heard far too many).

    .

  8. JG says:

    Thank You 1yellowknife and others for your comments…questions. I will not answer or reply to all…don’t want to take too much space! but I am always here reading…

    1yelowknife, your remark reminded me of something I forgot to cover…
    The first time my Father opened up about this in 2004 he had explained that “Armand” had told him he was hit by Gagnon with the heel of his shoes…and they (my Father and the caretaker)could hear him cry through the night. You are right to say this was a horrific treatment of a child and that went on well into his teenage years. One victim I don’t believe came forward reported to me how Armand was severely beaten with the horse harnesses by Gagnon.
    My Father kept wondering about Armand all his life, he said because of being a coward and not coming to his defence when he was only 6years old…
    On behalf of my Father, I believe the posting of this short film should be dedicated to “little Armand”…he had a tough life, with alcohol problems, like my Father, and was reported to be mean…hateful, sometimes just like my Father! Not difficult to understand!
    Armand’s passing was sadly viewed as a relief by some. I know this whole sordid story I have been exposing has at least given some Peace to my Father before he died. I believe Armand was vindicated to a certain extent although late for his family to be able to give him their Love.
    On behalf of my Father, may the Good Lord cradle you in his arms, little boy, Forever.
    This is all for you, for “one child”…and for all children.

    jg

  9. PJ says:

    JG: “On behalf of my Father, may the Good Lord cradle you in his arms, little boy, Forever.” This brought me to tears…I can see the Lord holding him in eternal rest now safe. May all those who perpetrate such horrors on children be damned, forever. Your father and you are testaments to why this site is so important…because if we don’t make that church and it’s pervert collars accountable, who will?

  10. JG says:

    PJ,
    I also meant that for you and all the others…you are many but you are also the “one”child … that needs to be Loved and Protected, Forever.
    jg

  11. Conrad Brideau says:

    It is realy hard to hear about that. Now if anybody can put themselves into the position of that little ARMAND. It should have been terrible and nobdy can imagine what went trough his head, except him or somebody close to him like your father.

  12. Lina says:

    JG……I thank you for sharing this personal video about this conversation between you and your Dad.

    It is very brave of you to do this in such difficult circumstance.

    Pain and suffering that shouldn’t happened.

    So many suppose good Catholics people still do not want to believe a priest, a man of GOD would do such evil acts. Still…too many folks put the blame on the clergy abuse victims (survivors) than trying to educate themselves that certain amount priests and other clergy members will do and take part in these crimes against children, youth and so many others.

    JG… you will have helped many people who are still going through so much pain and suffering because of memories of certain bad priests.

    Lina

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