Edmonton priest charged with sexual assaults from 1980s

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The Edmonton Journal

16 May 2014

Edmonton priest charged with sexual assaults from 1980s

Albert Laisnez

Photograph by: Shaughn Butts , Edmonton Journal

EDMONTON – A once-beloved Edmonton priest who was the subject of multiple complaints of sexual impropriety with women in his parish has been charged with multiple counts of sexual assault for alleged offences dating back nearly 30 years.

Albert Laisnez, 76, has been charged with three counts of sexual assault and three counts of gross indecency, a provision of the Criminal Code which was in existence until the late 1980s. The charges, which were laid earlier this year, relate to alleged incidents in 1986 and 1987 involving a single adult complainant.

The allegations have not been proven in court. A preliminary hearing is slated to take place in Sherwood Park on Dec. 11.

Lorraine Turchansky, a spokeswoman for the Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton, said Laisnez served at several parishes in Alberta between the 1970s and 1996, when he was sent to a treatment facility for priests after publicly admitting to misconduct with adult women. She said he has not been an active priest since around that time.

Laisnez was part of a 1997 Journal investigation into how the Edmonton archdiocese was dealing with sexual misconduct by priests, and he was identified then as having a long history of complaints of sexual and inappropriate behaviour with adult women, in particular “extended hugging.”

According to the Journal stories at that time, Laisnez began working at Edmonton’s St. Agnes parish in 1991, replacing a priest who had pled guilty to a charge of indecent assault in relation to a teenage boy.

Then in his mid-50s, Laisnez was initially seen in the parish as a “gift from God,” the story said, a dynamic man known for a caring manner and wonderful sermons.

But Laisnez also had a history of complaints from women in parishes where he’d worked in Hinton, Sherwood Park and elsewhere in Edmonton, and new complaints surfaced at St. Agnes as well. The situation came to a head in 1996, when a woman sent letters outlining the allegations to 83 members of the parish. The letters were sent to members of sex abuse study groups that had been started by Laisnez.

Laisnez responded by making a public statement in church saying he was a sinner, and admitting to excessive hugging and kissing with adult women in the congregation. Turchansky was among those in the church during Laisnez’ statement.

“I do remember Father Laisnez making his statement,” she said. “I remember how shocked we were.”

Speaking to the Journal in 1997, then-archbishop Joseph MacNeil said he knew Laisnez had “some problems,” but characterized them as “impropriety that didn’t seem all that serious.”

Laisnez later worked at a parish in Churchill, Man., for a short period. Turchansky said Laisnez was formally suspended from ministry in 1996.

The allegations raised publicly by the Journal in 1997 prompted a strong response from the church community. Letters written to the paper at the time praised the priest as kind, compassionate and hard-working. One said: “No book could contain enough pages to print all the good deeds, help and services” Laisnez had performed. Another speculated: “Perhaps it is too much to ask for a man of his vitality and passion to maintain an oath of celibacy in these overtly sexual times.”

Others put the blame on the women making allegations against the priest, some of whom were married and belonged to his congregation.

“Instead of pointing fingers at the priest and our bishop, maybe we should point them at these Jezebels in various parishes who took advantage of his weakness for their own gratification,” one woman wrote in a letter to the editor.

The Journal spoke to a woman Friday who said she took her own allegations against Laisnez to RCMP in the 1990s, but charges were never laid. She said she doesn’t know if charges will be laid now in relation to her case. The Journal has chosen not to identify her.

“He ravaged my life,” she said.

The woman said she’s been told Laisnez is extremely ill in a nursing home, and likely won’t live to see the case proceed through the court. Still, she said she considers the charges “a victory.”

“It’s a huge victory for him to have been charged and for him to have to appear where the church cannot protect him,” she said.

With files from Ryan Cormier


15 Responses to Edmonton priest charged with sexual assaults from 1980s

  1. Louise Lavoie says:

    I have known Father Albert Lsisnez for over 35 years and can’t believe a word of these allégations ! A hug from him always felt like a Blessing and I considered him nearly Saintky. I pray these show and tell women will meet with their consciences !
    If the Edmonton Journal could print this article with the Crude headline and a picture of Father Albert, I don’t see why the woman can hide behind this and not be identified ?

    • Louise Lavoie says:

      Please all of you who knew Father Albert, pray for him as he is suffering so badly. If he was ever guilty of any thing at all, he is certainly doing his hell on earth !

    • PJ says:

      Louise….did you read the article above? Are you that blinded by him that you cannot even remain objective? “Laisnez responded by making a public statement in church saying he was a sinner, and admitting to excessive hugging and kissing with adult women in the congregation. ” Does this not mean something to you or do you deny everything that doesn’t match your view of the world? Wow…I’m speechless.

      • PJ says:

        Interesting how people like louise post crap like she did, then disappear. Like her comments, the blogger is worthless I guess.

      • Miecul says:

        PJ some people think they know what’s in another’s mind & heart and what they’re thinking and what they would do and what they wouldn’t do. If history has taught us nothing else it’s that we all have secrets we don’t what to see the light of day. Some lie with every breath they take. Some of the secrets we’ve kept could be almost anything from stealing, maybe an affair with someone you shouldn’t have. These are things we do to ourselves. They could hurt our loved ones if caught and even ourselves. People that drink tend to do things they’d never do sober. Regret, shame can hurt one conscious. But if a Judge, a Policeman, Doctor, Lawyer, and or Clergyman do something to a child or anyone under their control, and it is control, it’s not only a sin against the victim it’s a grave sin against society. They’ve gotten away with it for so long, some just shrug it off as Oh well these things happen. Well it’s time has come that most of us are all connected now and are coming out tell others what’s been going on.

        They can’t use the power to tell us that “I’ll put you in jail if you tell”, or “you’ll go to hell along with your parents”, and tell you “who in the hell would believe someone like you a child while I’m a person of stature in this community”. Well the time has come to let the light in Louise, If you think it’s alright for anyone in authority to take advantage of someone who’s not, then I feel sorry for you and you really need to rethink what your morels are. If you think that this behaviour by anyone with power over another is alright, then send your son\daughter with one of them. If you did let them go then I rest my case. Besides they may not be the right type or look. These guys are predators and are looking for someone they can control. Just because you believe you know someone, doesn’t make it so. These guys hide in plain sight and are usually well loved by everyone. All you have to do is read the comments from this site. People that have commented that “he could never do something like that” “I’ve known him since he got here, and have had many dinners with him, he’s not what they say he is. Guilty, as the gavel cam down!! “I’m sorry for what I’ve done” I didn’t think it was wrong” Read Louise. Then come back and tell us what you’ve learnt.

  2. Sylvia Viczko says:

    I’d like to question anyone about Father Albert. It say he was at St. Pius 1970-1971? I was only 5 in 71 and he was there when I moved to Edmonton and started gr4. In 1976. I have other questions. I was part of an after school group called the Star Dusters. Sister Cecilia was there as well.

  3. Sylvia says:

    I checked the 1973-74 Catholic Church Directory and he is listed as Pastor at St. Pius X. I have added that to the Father Albert Laisnez page.

    What years do you recall with certainty that he was at St. Pius X?

    What was the Star Dusters? Would you tell us more?

  4. Sylvia V. says:

    I was in grade 4 in 1975/1976. This is when I started school at St. Pius. Father Albert was at St. Pius at that time. I have a picture of my communion (done in gr 4) along with my sister in gr2 and Father Albert. Star Dusters was every Monday after school and we would clean the church and play in the basement. I do remember dusting his office and sitting there. I was also an Alter Girl. I’ll look into who was there for my confirmation in Gr6.

  5. Sylvia says:

    Sylvia to Sylvia!


    Was Father Laisnez around when you went in on Mondays to clean the church?

  6. Sylvia V. says:

    Sylvia to Sylvia. Lol Yes, he was who we went to see. Possibly an older lady was there sometimes? Sister Ceceilia was there as well but she left the church. We were surprised and very sorry to see her leave. If there’s any contact information for her, I would like to talk to her. I have some questions.

  7. Sylvia V. says:

    Is there documentation for Alter Biys/Girls? Dies the church keep those records? Or Star Dusters? Was there another similar group at any other churches? I remember some girls that joined but I’d like to know if one of my friends attended. She’s no longer around.

  8. Sylvia says:

    Any records of altar servers would stored at the parish. Church bulletins often list the names of the servers assigned to serve at the various Masses. There is no guarantee that whoever is listed to serve on, for example, the 11 am Sunday Mass on the first Sunday in July of 1976 actually served at that Mass, – the only for sure is that that person was scheduled to serve.

    Most churches keep copies of old bulletins so that would probably be the best place to look. That of course would be dependant on the parish priest or someone at the church providing access to boxes of old bulletins.

    Some churches may have maintained other files related to altar servers, with names and dates of practises and so on, – you would have to ask what might be available.

    I peronally have never heard of Star Dusters before. Has anyone else? I think that may be something he set up himself?

    I know of one church where a group of mentally handicapped children were brought in once a week to clean. There was no name for the group.

  9. Estelle Roy says:

    I don’t know if this site is still up and running.. these articles are from 4 or 5 years ago! I was sexually abused by two priests from 1964 to 68 starting when I was 14 years old.
    I was 37 when I finally realized I was not to blame and therefore not guilty of leading these two priests « astray »! I started therapy in 1987, kind of start and stop, but in 1990 or 1991, my therapist referred me to a women at St. Agnes Church in Edmonton where she and Father Laisnez had started the « From pain to hope » program that the Canadian Council of Bishops wanted each parish to implement to « help » survivors of sexual abuse by priests. It took about a year to discover how Father Laisnez was the biggest hypocrite ever! The woman to whom I was referred, discovered his charade and she was totally ostracized by many parishioners when she denounced him.
    It’s a very long and upsetting story but the 17 year old who accused Laisnez was a personal friend of mine and she had horror stories to tell. I just wanted to let you know that I am a survivor of two priests and came very close to falling in Father Laisnez’ grip and after all these years, still feel totally betrayed by him.

  10. Val Kuefler says:

    Just came across this page on Albert Laisnez. I remember him from Galahad, and later after my family moved to Sherwood Park in 1965. Laisnez was indeed fond of hugging women and girls and it doesn’t surprise me that he took advantage of some. I grew up in an extremely Catholic family with 6 siblings. My parents were devout, to say the least. My dad’s 4 brothers all became priests and his oldest sister was a nun. Maybe my “name” protected me from being abused by the religious orders, but it never helped protect me or my sibling from beatings from our “devout” father. We were taught to Never criticize the church or its representatives; not surprisingly all of us kids are now atheists. I always thought Fr. laisniez was kind of creepy as well as the principal of my high school, Fr. Bill White. Too bad their charges and convictions didn’t come to light before both my parents died. I really would have derived some satisfaction from telling them, “ I told you there was something wrong about them”. For sure I checked out to see if any of my uncles showed up on Sylvias lists, but so far I see nothing. Sad to say I wouldn’t be surprised if their names showed up in the future.

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