Albert LeBlanc, 83, sentenced to federal prison for abusing boys in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s
Yarmouth County Vanguard
Published on November 23, 2012
By Tina Comeau
Albert LeBlanc from an earlier court appearance. On Nov. 23 the former priest was sentenced to five-and-a-half years in prison for abusing boys. TINA COMEAU PHOTO
The sentencing judge had praise for the courage of the victims who had come forward, and harsh words for the behaviour of a former Yarmouth priest who was sentenced to five-and-a-half years in a federal prison on Friday, Nov. 23, for sexual abuse he committed over two decades on young boys ranging in age from seven years old to their teenage years.
Eighty-three-year-old Albert LeBlanc walked into a provincial courtroom in Yarmouth carrying a baseball cap, but he left under the custody of the sheriff’s department, who carried his luggage as they escorted him out of the courtroom.
Aside from the fact that the length of the prison sentence was a joint recommendation by the Crown and the defence, that LeBlanc would receive anything other than a jail sentence for the abuse he subjected six young boys to from the mid 1960s to the early 1980s was never in question, said Judge James Burrill as he delivered his sentence. LeBlanc, he said, deserves to be in jail.
“Make no mistake, Albert LeBlanc during this time was a sexual predator. Make no mistake that Albert LeBlanc is going to answer for those crimes today. And make no mistake he is going to jail,” the judge said.
LeBlanc, who had been living in Bouctouche, New Brunswick, was a priest in several parishes in Yarmouth County during the 1960s up until 1973 when he chose to leave the priesthood. Afterwards he worked as a caseworker with Family and Children Services and then as a probation officer.
He was well liked and was considered a leader in the community. He was actively involved in the foundation of the Notre Dame Youth Centre and the Boys Club of Yarmouth and also was involved in athletics. He coached minor hockey and organized trips to Boston for altar boys, young hockey players and others in the community to watch NHL games.
But it was during his time as a priest that most of his victims came to spend time with him. They were altar boys. LeBlanc was held in high esteem in the community. For others it was through LeBlanc’s involvement with recreational hockey in the community that they came to be with him. Overall through his years spent in Yarmouth County, he was in a position of trust and no one suspected that he would do anything to harm children.
But harm them he did, the court heard in great detail as the Crown outlined victim-by-victim the abuse they suffered at the hands of LeBlanc. For some victims the abuse began when they were seven or eight years old. For many it continued until the time they were teenagers and could finally stand up to their abuser and say enough is enough, this has to stop. And sometimes, even when they were pleading with him to stop, he continued to molest them during the same conversation, the court was told.
In May, LeBlanc pleaded guilty to six counts of indecent assault in relation to offences committed against young boys. In today’s justice system, the six charges LeBlanc pleaded guilty to would fall under the umbrella of sexual assault. But at the time these offences were committed, sexual assault did not yet exist in the Criminal Code. Back then it was called indecent assault.
(Note to readers: The following paragraphs outline some of the abuse that was described in court.)
For many of the victims the abuse started out with LeBlanc passing his hand over their penis overtop of their clothing. Then it would progress to him unbuttoning their pants, putting his hand down their pants and rubbing his hand over their exposed penis. The abuse took place in the office of a church, in the bedroom of the church rectory, in a residence he lived at in Arcadia and in vehicles when LeBlanc was alone with his victims.
At one point the Crown apologized for the graphic nature of the sexual abuse he was about to outline involving one of the victims. In another case he said a victim had estimated that he had been molested 300 times by LeBlanc over a period of years. For others the incidents of abuse happened 25 or 30 times.
The court was told how in some cases victims held pillows over their faces as the abuse was occurring. In one case LeBlanc squeezed a boys’ genitals so hard the pain made him cry.
“He didn’t know why LeBlanc did that to him,” said Crown attorney Richard Hartlen. “He was smiling and wouldn’t let go.”
Because LeBlanc was so well-respected in the community, his victims didn’t think anyone would believe them about what was happening. And so they said nothing.
Until eventually they could keep silent no more.
In 2010 and 2011 they started coming forward, telling the police about what had happened to them. In April 2010 the RCMP launched an investigation following complaints made to them as LeBlanc’s victims started to come forward to share what had happened to them. LeBlanc was arrested at his home in January 2011. Initially he was charged with 40 counts of indecent assault and gross indecency. The number of charges before the court later climbed to 50. After being sentenced on six charges in court, the Crown offered no evidence on the remaining charges.
Judge Burrill said what the court heard during the sentencing hearing was a sordid and horrible tale of abuse, perpetrated by a person who was a well-respected priest and member of the community. That he breached this position of trust to abuse young children is something the entire community should be outraged by, the judge said.
He praised the men, once just young children, who sat in the courtroom on Friday, surrounded by their loved ones, for seeking out justice.
“(They) are clearly brave adults to come forward at this late stage, a late stage in Mr. LeBlanc’s life, and ensure that justice is done,” said the judge, who went on to give a stern warning to the other Albert LeBlancs that exist in society.
“Let the message go forth to other like-minded individuals, who may be considering, or may be abusing young boys now, no matter how well respected your position is in society, no matter how you may feel insulated . . . there will come a day when your young child victims muster the courage, no matter what your age, to ensure the silence is broken and that you will account for your actions before a court.”
Judge Burrill said it was very clear that a Catholic priest in this community during those years was a person who was well respected and trusted “and whom parents, especially Catholic parents . . . would without hesitation give their children over to the care of this person, Mr. LeBlanc, as a priest, and no doubt were proud of the fact that their sons were assisting the local priest in the works of the church,” he said, adding those parents aren’t to be faulted for trusting someone whom they should have been able to trust.
While there was no evidence in court that LeBlanc ever abused those he may have had dealings with in a line of work as a probation officer, the abuse he committed on the victims did continue after he had left the priesthood.
Meanwhile, aside from the criminal charges, civil suits have also been filed against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Halifax and the Diocese of Yarmouth relating to LeBlanc. LeBlanc is also named in the civil suits.
Prior to his sentence being handed down, LeBlanc was asked if he wanted to address the court. He declined. His lawyer, however, said he takes full responsibility for what had occurred, even though, at the age of 83, he doesn’t remember all of the details as they were presented in court.
Ex-priest sentenced more than 5 years for sex offenses
Abuse cases date back to the 1970s in Yarmouth area
CBC News Posted: Nov 23, 2012 10:54 AM AT Last Updated: Nov 23, 2012 12:59 PM AT
Disgraced former priest Albert Leblanc arrives for sentencing in Yarmouth, N.S. (Blair Rhodes/CBC)
An 83-year-old former Roman Catholic priest, who pleaded guilty to molesting six children decades ago, was sentenced to five and half years in prison in a Yarmouth court on Friday.
Albert LeBlanc pleaded guilty to six counts of indecent assault in May. Some of the crimes date back to when LeBlanc was a priest in Yarmouth County in the 1970s.
Judge Jim Burrill accepted the Crown and defence’s joint sentencing recommendation.
The Crown said at least one case of abuse started when the boy was only 8-years-old. The court heard how Leblanc would entice his underage victims with alcohol and allow them to drive when they were only 13.
Leblanc’s victims have filed victim impact statements, but none of them wished to read them aloud in court Friday.
“There will come a day when your child victims muster the courage, no matter what your age, to ensure that silence is broken and you will account for your actions before a court,” said Burrill.
LeBlanc was a priest in the Yarmouth diocese from 1955 until 1973, when he resigned and left the priesthood. He got a job as a probation officer.
LeBlanc was charged last year after RCMP received a complaint in 2010. He faced 40 charges initially, accused of sexually abusing children as young as seven in the 1970s and 80s.
Another 10 charges were added later.
Former Yarmouth priest sentenced to 5 1/2 years for sex abuse
The Halifax Chronicle Herald
November 23, 2012 – 12:26pm
By BRIAN MEDEL Yarmouth Bureau
Albert LeBlanc, an 83-year-old former Roman Catholic priest, was sentenced Friday in Yarmouth provincial court to five and a half years in prison, for indecent assault of children. (BRIAN MEDEL / Yarmouth Bureau)
UPDATED 7:05 p.m. Friday
YARMOUTH — It’s been a long and winding road from the house of the Lord to the house of correction but 83-year-old Albert LeBlanc was finally on his way Friday.
The former priest and convicted child molester was handed a 5 1/2-year prison sentence after earlier pleading guilty to years of assaults on young boys.
The former priest climbed into a sheriff’s van for a ride on stainless steel seats to his new home — a federal penitentiary.
Until recently, LeBlanc was living in Bouctouche, N.B.
He travelled to Yarmouth in May, where he pleaded guilty to six counts of indecent assault on six different victims.
LeBlanc faced 50 counts, all alleging sexual abuse of boys — some as young as nine — during his days in Yarmouth County where he worked first as a priest and later, after leaving the priesthood in 1975, as a probation officer.
The remainder of the charges were dismissed.
“Make no mistake that Albert LeBlanc is going to answer for those crimes today, and make no mistake, he’s going to jail,” judge Jim Burrill said at sentencing in provincial court in Yarmouth Friday.
“This isn’t simply the case of a priest making a mistake or two. This is a priest who, even after leaving the priesthood, continued to abuse boys. This is a priest who involved himself in conduct of sexual predation on young people over the span of nearly two decades on multiple occasions,” said Burrill.
The statements from victims refer to abuse in and around Yarmouth.
Some details of LeBlanc’s horrific abuse were read out in court as friends and family of some of his victims listened in stunned silence.
One time LeBlanc apparently could not wait to get his hands on a young altar boy and began molesting the youth while he still wore his priestly robes.
Another time, LeBlanc plied the altar boy with some of the sacramental wine. In fact, many assaults took place in church, after services.
But LeBlanc didn’t limit his crimes to the sanctuary.
He was an opportunistic predator, watching over his flock to see where he could strike next. His systematically groomed youngsters, usually altar boys, said Crown Attorney Rick Harlem.
In a police report, one victim told of a time when LeBlanc was driving him home and the former priest reached across the front seat and squeezed his groin through his clothing so hard, it made the victim cry out in pain.
LeBlanc was smiling and would not relax his grip. He seemed to enjoy it, said the victim.
LeBlanc also used hockey to lure his victims, said the Crown.
He had a lot of hockey memorabilia in his parish rectory office.
LeBlanc once promised an autographed hockey puck to one young altar boy, who then was forced to sit on LeBlanc’s lap. The priest then fondled the boy, who sat frozen, confused and terrified, all the while tightly clutching the promised hockey puck.
And when the victim was older and informed LeBlanc that he would tell his mother what was happening, the priest tucked a two dollar bill in the boy’s shirt pocket and left him alone from that day on.
The boy never did tell his mother about the abuse.
Often the priest would worm his way into the hearts of entire families. As the parish priest he was always welcome in the homes of most parishioners and the judge himself expressed the opinion that it would be an honour for a family to have a son selected to be an altar boy.
One victim said he once had to spend a night at the rectory because of a storm. LeBlanc appeared in the bedroom completely naked and assaulted the boy.
Later when the victim was about 13, LeBlanc would occasionally make the boy drive the priest’s car while he sat next to him and fondled the driver as they motored along.
Abuse was often repeated over time and one victim suggested he was assaulted about 300 times.
Victims eventually were able to break away after becoming teenagers.
LeBlanc left the priesthood after 20 years and became a probation officer, continuing to spend time with young boys and share their passion for hockey, said the Crown.
One victim said he was once at LeBlanc’s home after he was no longer a priest.
LeBlanc fondled the boy, who recalled grabbing a pillow from the sofa and covering his face with it while LeBlanc assaulted him.
The victim said LeBlanc became angry and jealous when he discovered that a girl liked the victim.
The defence did not contest any of the facts about LeBlanc’s offending behaviour. “The community is no doubt outraged, as it should be, by the conduct of Mr. LeBlanc,” said Burrill.
He sentenced LeBlanc to 11 months for each of six counts for a total of 66 months or 5 1/2 years in a federal prison.
An original complaint against LeBlanc was made in April 2010, RCMP have said.
Yarmouth RCMP went to Bouctouche and arrested LeBlanc in January 2011.
LeBlanc, who married after leaving the priesthood, originally faced 40 counts of gross indecency and indecent assault spanning 15 years, beginning in 1970. But in March 2011, it was revealed LeBlanc would face 10 additional charges, also dating back to the 1970s.
A spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth said last year LeBlanc was ordained in New Brunswick in 1955 and served as a priest in Digby and in Yarmouth County.
LeBlanc left the priesthood in 1975 and became a probation officer, the source confirmed.
Meanwhile, three men have accused LeBlanc of abuse and are seeking more than $5 million in damages in a civil action, according to court documents filed in February.
Judge issues warning to other child abusers
As provincial court Judge Jim Burrill was sentencing Albert LeBlanc Friday to a lengthy prison term after hearing what he termed, “a sordid and horrible tale of abuse perpetrated by a well-respected priest and member of the community,” he had words of warning to other child abusers currently walking free.
Burrill said anyone, especially authority figures, who may be abusing young boys now, that they will be found, prosecuted and sent to prison. “No matter how well respected your position is in society, no matter how you may feel insulated from being brought to justice by the trust that you enjoy in the community, there will come a day when your young child victims muster the courage, no matter what your age, to ensure that (the) silence is broken and that you will account for your actions before a court.”
Brian Medel, Yarmouth Bureau