Halifax Chronicle Herald
Tue, Jan 25 – 4:53 AM
By EVA HOARE Staff Reporter
A former Yarmouth priest turned probation officer who took altar boys on hockey trips has been charged with 40 counts of sexual assault on three young people more than 30 years ago.
Albert LeBlanc, now 81, faces the abuse charges after Nova Scotia RCMP received a complaint last April, said RCMP spokeswoman Sgt. Brigdit Leger.
Leger said LeBlanc is one of the oldest alleged perpetrators the Mounties have arrested in connection with a sex assault case.
The charges allege the abuse took place over a 15-year span in the Yarmouth area.
Now retired, LeBlanc was arrested Jan. 6 at his home in Bouctouche, N.B., and was released on a promise to appear in provincial court in Yarmouth on March 15.
The phone at what is believed to be LeBlanc’s home was not answered Monday.
Of the 40 charges, 11 are for alleged indecent assaults on a male and the other 29 are charges of gross indecency, Leger said in an interview.
The force is not specifying how many alleged victims there are for the gross indecency charges, she said.
“We don’t want to disclose any information that could disclose the identity of the victims in this matter.”
The charges stem from alleged offences that took place from 1970 to 1985 while LeBlanc resided in Yarmouth County, said the Mounties, who sent out a news release Monday.
John McKiggan, a Halifax lawyer who has represented hundreds of victims of priests in sex abuse cases, said he was aware of the allegations against LeBlanc. But McKiggan would not reveal whether he has been retained by any of the alleged victims in this case.
“I am not at liberty to say,” he said Monday from his Halifax office.
Leger, who would not disclose LeBlanc’s background as a priest and probation officer, said she didn’t know if he was in good health, nor would she offer any other information because the case is before the courts.
“As you can appreciate, this investigation was complex, based on the fact this occurred well over 20 years ago,” she said. “We interviewed witnesses and victims. Our goal was to gather as much information that we could bring (to) the Crown.”
Marilyn Sweet, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Halifax, said the church would have no comment on the case other than to release the dates and times when LeBlanc was a priest in the Yarmouth area.
According to an article Sweet sent to The Chronicle Herald, LeBlanc assumed probation officer duties in 1975 after resigning from the priesthood in 1973.
LeBlanc was ordained in Bouctouche in 1955 and served in the Diocese of Yarmouth in Digby and Melbourne.
While a priest at Notre Dame de Fatima parish in Yarmouth, he helped organize many trips for altar boys to fly to Boston Bruins hockey games, according to numerous postings on the Internet.
The Yarmouth Light newspaper in 1966 featured a large article on its sports page detailing a trip LeBlanc arranged. A photograph of the article was also posted online.
The article, which contains a picture of LeBlanc with a group of altar boys on the airport tarmac, has the headline “Group of Boys Travel Air Canada to Boston for Thrilling Weekend.” The headline above the photo says “Happy Group Off to Boston.”
“Father (LeBlanc’s) . . . interest in the youth of the community has been outstanding ever since he came to Yarmouth,” a paragraph in the article states. It goes on to list the people he wanted to thank for their support and help with the June 1966 trip.
Another article from March 1966 contains the names of the altar boys on the trip and their addresses, along with the names of adults who went. That article too was posted on the web.
A man who was on one of the hockey trips, but escorted by a priest from Shelburne, said Monday he didn’t remember meeting LeBlanc because he was with a separate group.
“Everybody had a good time,” said the man, who didn’t want to be identified. “I didn’t even know him. If it had have been the Shelburne priest that we went with (who was accused), yeah, I would have been surprised.”
Another newspaper article posted online noted LeBlanc was an avid hockey player and coach and included several photos of the group. It stated that peewee players were coached by LeBlanc in 1967.
There is also a photo posted of five altar boys meeting famous player Bobby Orr in a hotel that was connected to the Boston Garden.
The boys were also treated to meetings and autographs with numerous athletes like Charlottetown’s Forbes Kennedy of the Bruins, Boston Celtics star Sam Jones, and U.S. and Canadian track stars. They got limousine rides, the articles state, and stayed at the Hotel Madison next door to the Garden.
An article in the Yarmouth Vanguard dated Aug. 27, 1975, also posted online, spoke about the priest’s new job as a probation officer. It said he was involved in the parish’s youth centre and the Boys Club of Yarmouth and was active in athletics and minor hockey in the area.
The Vanguard said LeBlanc also worked in 1974-75 with Family and Children’s Services as a caseworker in Yarmouth.
“Albert LeBlanc needs no introduction to Yarmouthians,” the article said.
It said as a full-time probation officer he would do “a lot of court work, dealing with problem people and offenders on probation.”