The Halifax Chronicle Herald
May 14, 2012 – 12:31pm
UPDATED 5:22 a.m. Tuesday
Former Roman Catholic priest Albert LeBlanc pleaded guilty to six counts of indecent assault dating back many years when he appeared in Yarmouth provincial court Monday.
The courtroom’s spectator gallery erupted into applause after Judge Jim Burrill ordered LeBlanc to return on Aug. 17 to be sentenced.
“Yes, Your Honour,” said the white-haired, 83-year-old in a barely audible voice when ordered to abide by his release conditions.
LeBlanc now lives in Bouctouche, N.B., and has been ordered to have no contact with children under 16, with no exceptions. Neither is he permitted to contact the complainants.
LeBlanc faced 50 counts, all alleging sexual abuse of boys during his days in Yarmouth County, where he worked first as a priest and later, after he left the priesthood in 1975, as a probation officer.
He pleaded guilty to six counts, each with the name of a different victim attached.
An entire week had been set aside for the trial, but Crown attorney Alonzo Wright and defence lawyer Gilles Lemieux spent much of the day in consultations, while LeBlanc spent most of his time hidden from public view in an interview room usually reserved for lawyers and their clients.
The case was ready to proceed at 2 p.m. when Lemieux informed the court there would be a change of plea.
The remaining 44 charges will be placed in abeyance until sentencing.
“It’s our hope that they will be stayed at that time,” said Lemieux after court.
A presentence report will be prepared in time for the Aug. 17 sentencing.
An original complaint against LeBlanc was made in April 2010, RCMP have said.
Yarmouth RCMP went to Bouctouche and arrested Le-Blanc 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.
The alleged victims in the first set of 40 charges were between the ages of seven and 11, an RCMP source revealed at the time.
A spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Halifax said last year that 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.
The plaintiffs have listed depression, an inability to have intimate relationships and time off work due to emotional trauma as some of the effects of the abuse.
Suicidal thoughts and substance abuse have also been mentioned in the court filings in each case where the alleged abuse occurred over several years when the plaintiffs were young, documents state.
A fourth plaintiff has also begun a civil action against LeBlanc, a lawyer for a law firm representing some sexual abuse victims told The Chronicle Herald earlier this year.