Former priest jailed for nine months

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Arnprior Chronicle-Guide

Dec 05, 2013

By Steve Newman

News – Former Arnprior priest Father Daniel Miller, who pleaded guilty to molesting five young boys in Renfrew County parishes about 40 years ago, is going to prison for nine months.

With the exception of one boy who was molested at the Pikwakanagan rectory near Golden Lake, the assaults occurred at the Renfrew home of Miller’s mother.

Some of the victims and their families attended the sentencing Nov. 28 in Pembroke Superior Court to hear Justice Timothy Ray say the “serious personal injury offences” did not warrant a conditional sentence because that would have been “inconsistent with the principles of deterrence and denunciation.” The victims were all altar boys, ranging in age from 9 to 13, from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pembroke parishes in Arnprior, Eganville and Deep River. A publication ban prevents further identification of the victims.

Crown attorney Jason Nicol got the ninemonth sentence he sought for Miller.

Justice Ray pointed out that while the defendant had pleaded guilty, Miller only did so after the victims were required to give evidence under oath at an examination for discovery.

“By virtue of committing these offences against very young boys,” Justice Ray read in court, “he not only betrayed the trust of the community but permanently undermined the confidence of the victims and their families in the church, which had been an integral part of their lives, and to which they had turned for comfort.”

Victim-impact statements were heard at Pembroke Superior Court Sept. 17.

“The statements,” said Justice Ray, “are a reminder of the tragic consequences that have been visited on all of these people as a result of the defendant’s betrayal of his trust through the illegal pursuit of his own sexual gratification.”

The Catholic diocese’s statement issued Nov. 28 expressed condolences “to the victims of the abuse perpetrated” by Miller.

“We hope that the disclosure in court will assist them in beginning a healing process,” the statement said.

“The actions of Father Miller have brought shame to the church and to the Diocese of Pembroke. The pain and damage caused by sexual abuse is far-reaching. The Diocese of Pembroke must do all we can to pastorally care for those who have been hurt, and we reiterate our commitment to do so.

“We are being proactive in making our church a community of faith and trust, and we are committed to nurturing a safe environment that welcomes all who belong to the family of God.”

About two dozen people attended the sentencing, including two former Deep River altar boys who were molested by Miller. Deep River Mayor David Thompson, and Father Peter Proulx, who was representing the Catholic Diocese of Pembroke.

“I am very familiar with a number of the victims, so I thought it was very important to come down and show my support,” said Thompson.

“The sentence was the maximum sentence recommended by the Crown, so I think it demonstrates that the court takes these offences very seriously. Although it’s a positive day, in terms of that outcome, it will never undo the harm that was done to these children.” Meanwhile, additional charges have been laid against Father Miller by other alleged victims. Miller appeared in Pembroke court Nov. 26 to make a first appearance in relation to those charges. They didn’t affect the sentencing two days later on the earlier charges.

“This is the fourth convicted pedophile priest in the Pembroke diocese,” said Mayor Thompson.

“I think this is an indication of a very problematic situation that the diocese has just not dealt with. All they do is move priests from one area to another, and they’re clearly not dealing with a situation that is systemic within the diocese,” he added.

One abuse victim, who was assaulted by Miller when he was nine years old, spoke afterwards.

“Is it sufficient as far as where I think the legal system has to be?” the victim asked.

“Not from my point of view … I see systemic problems within the church, and how they’ve dealt with them in the past and how they’re dealing with them today … It’s not just the victims. The victims are surrounded by family, and they are surrounded by friends, and it impacts everybody.

“So, have we reached a point where justice matches the pain it has caused?” added the victim. “In my own personal opinion, no. I don’t think we’re there yet. But at this proceeding, at least we got the max that could be.”

This victim said he was never offered any support by the diocese. But he admitted he was unsure if he’d want support from people who “are part of the problem.”

According to Bruce Pappin, a spokesman for the diocese, three of Father Miller’s five victims accepted counselling or assistance for third-party counselling from the diocese.

A definite positive from the court proceedings, said one of the former Deep River altar boys, is that there’s now a support system in place. “It’s one day at a time, and we’re here for each other,” said that victim.

Another supporter at the sentencing was Wilno resident Mike Shulist, an abuse victim of a different Catholic priest in 1964. “Nine months per victim might have been more appropriate because it’s not only a slap on the wrist, but a slap in the face,” said Shulist.

“I don’t know what to say,” said another victim at the sentencing.

“He didn’t get off and he didn’t get any conditional sentencing or time off … He got what (the Crown) asked for, and you can’t ask for any more than that.”

Miller will spend his prison time at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre.

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