Roche: Father James Roche omi

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Father Jim Roche

Jim Roche

Former Oblate priest.  Ordained ?.  Activist priest.  Spent time in jail for his activist activities in Goose Bay, Labrador.  Left the priesthood sometime in the late 80s – whether voluntary or not is unknown at this tie.  Allegations of sex abuse dating to 1986 and 1987 while he was serving in the community of Sheshatshit, Labrador (in the 1985-1986 directory he was serving at Our Lady of the Snows Roman Catholic Church, Sheshatshit, Labrador- Pastor at that time was Father Leonard Paradis omi, now  convicted child molester).    Trial in civil action related to, amongst other things,  sex abuse allegations against James Roche,  was scheduled for March 2005 – outcome unknown.

Please note:  This is NOT Father James F Roche who has served in the Diocese of London Ontario for a number of years


17 January 2005:  S.T. v Oblates of Mary Immaculate, St Peter’s Province et al., (ruling that civil trial is to proceed without a jury)

Reference to Father James Roche serving in Labrador in the 80s and becoming known as a social activist


Bishops of Labrador-Schchefferville Diocese (now Diocese of Corner Brook and Labrador) during Father James Roche’s tenure in the diocese):  Henri Goudreault, O.M.I.  (27 April 1987 – 16 July 1996); Peter Alfred Sutton, O.M.I. ( 09 May 1974 – 24 January 1986)


The following information is drawn from Canadian Catholic Church Directories (CCCD) which I have on hand and media (M)

1992:  Not listed in index (CCCD)

1991:  not listed in index (CCCD) (it seems that sometime in the late 80s – I don’t as yet know exactly when or whether his departure was voluntary or otherwise – James Roche left the priesthood)

April 1990:  after spending six months in jail for his protest activities , sentenced to one day in jail.  Part of protest was a hunger strike (M)

1989:  Protests with Innu in Goose Bay Labrador against low level jet-training flights in Labrador (M)

07 October 1988:  From CCCB website under heading “Canadian Initiatives since 1969”:

“CCCB telex to the Ministers of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and National Defence protesting the sudden arrest and jailing of eight Innu leaders, six women, and their pastor, Fr James Roche, OMI, and urging the government to meet with Innu leaders in an effort to resolve low level flight over Labrador conflict.”

1985-86:   Our Lady of the Snows Roman Catholic Church, Sheshatshit, Labrador (CCCD) (address for fellow Oblate Father Leonard Paradis is also Our lady of the Snows.  In 1989 Paradis entered a guilty plea to four charges of gross indecency related to sex abuse of several teenage Innu boys)


Excerpt from S.T. v. Oblates of Mary Immaculate, St/ Peter’s Province et al., 2005 NLTD 14 (CanLII) ( ST v Oblates of Mary Immaculate, St Peter’s Province et al., 2005)

[11]                  B.P. alleges that Leonard Paradis, while a priest in Sheshatshiu, from about 1979 to 1984, sexually assaulted B.P. by acts of fondling and attempted masturbation, commencing when B.P. was approximately nine years old, during religious and social activities on the Mission premises of the fourth defendant and while accompanying B.P. on hunting and sporting trips into the country.

[12]                  B.P. also alleges that James Roche, while a priest at Sheshatshiu during 1986 and 1987, sexually assaulted him by acts of fondling and kissing and acts of fellatio, during church-sponsored religious and social activities on the Mission premises of the fourth defendant and while accompanying B.P. on hunting and sporting trips into the country.


Siding with the Arctic hunters

22 June 1990

A Channel 4 documentary is to highlight the story of a former Catholic priest and the Innu people of northern Canada. Timothy Elphick reports

AN unequal struggle between a semi-nomadic people living in the wastes of northern Canada and the airforces of the NATO alliance looks set to decide the fate of a lifestyle as old as the land itself.

And fighting alongside the Innu hunters in their last ditch attempt to established their rights to the land they call Inittassirzau, covering tracts of north-east Quebec and Labrador, is a former Catholic priest.

Jim Roche, parish priest at the village of Sheshatshu until two years ago, was released from jail on April 10 after spending seven months imprisoned, without charge, for protesting against the destruction caused by military exercises on Innu territory.

Since leaving the priesthood Mr Roche has thrown in his lot with the Innu, and now loves in a small log cabin in Sheshatshu. He visited London last week together with Innu representatives, gathering international support for their cause.

Operational low-flying and bombing exercises by fighter jets belonging to the UK, Germany, the Netherlands and Canada have already disturbed animal migration patterns and rendered large areas unsuitable for continued habitation by the Innu, Mr Roche claims. Like an ever growing number of the 10,000 Innu themselves, he has embarked upon a campaign to prevent Innu lands becoming a NATO training ground at the expense of the indigenous people.

Sheshatshu, with 650 inhabitants, is the nearest settlement to the base. As the focal point of the campaign against the base, 200 of the inhabitants have been arrested at least once, many spending months in prison for “illegal hunting” or “mischief”.

Mr Roche says that the Canadian government has plans to extend military activities in the Goose Bay area, and that base officials are seeking additional participation by the Belgian and Italian airforces.

Last year 7,000 sorties were made from the base by 45 jets flying at altitudes lower than 100 feet during the seven month exercise season. But under current arrangements operational levels could more than double, effectively wiping out Innu activity and turning traditional hunting lands into one huge restricted area.

The Innu’s plight, Mr Roche claims, stems largely from the Canadian government’s failure to recognise their claims to any legal rights over their land, despite a court decision in April 1989, that the authorities were unable to show any greater right to ownership themselves. The Innu have been ignored and maltreated by the government in its determination to create a militarised zone.

Innu people are deeply religious, Mr Roche says, and the presence of the Catholic church is felt in most homes, pictures of Pope John Paul II hanging on the walls. Christianity, however, has not replaced ancient Innu customs and beliefs that for many still have more importance for finding the best hunting grounds.

Christianity is seen as catering for the needs of the soul in the next world, Mr Roche explains, while the old practices, called Mentushun, help the Innu in their understanding of their place in this.

The churches in Canada, and particularly the Catholic church, have called on the authorities to withdraw the NATO presence from the Goose Bay base before it is too late for the Innu. A public opinion, swayed by TV scenes of hum being arrested for daring to enter “zones” they once thought were theirs, may at last bring hope to a people in danger of being displaced.

The Hunters and the Bombers, a Cutting Edge documentary on the plight of the Innu, will be shown by Channel 4 on Monday, July 2 at 9 pm


Oblate priest ends 7-month sentence for backing Innu

The Ottawa Citizen

05 May 1990

Rev. R.G. MacNeil 

Father MacNeil is a Catholic priest working in Ottawa.


Oblate Father Jim Roche is getting out of jail today after serving seven months in the Goose Bay Correctional Centre. His crime was joining the Innu people of Labrador in protesting the low level, high speed and thunderous NATO military flights over Innu hunting grounds. After living with the Innu for six years he is convinced of the justice of their cause — to be free of this destructive harassment.

We had a small taste of the same disruption when a single F-18 aircraft broke the sound barrier in this area. Protest was strong and immediate, so it won’t happen again in the nation’s capital, but it goes on continually over other people’s heads in the Goose Bay region of Labrador.

At a court appearance on Feb. 5, Roche made a statement. “During the past four months I have refused to sign an undertaking for release. I believe that to accept these conditions would grant legitimacy to both the unjust seizure of Innu lands and to the preparations for war taking place at CFB Goose Bay. What is happening here is not only a crime against the Innu — it is a crime against humanity.”

Using the occasion to speak before a visiting judge and prosecutor — because those in jail feel that nobody is listening — he shared his experience as a man who knew the “outsider’s” mentality and one who had also come to understand something of the mind of the indigenous peoples of Labrador. “We arrived among the Innu confident that we were divinely ordained to impose our economic, political and military power, even our culture and religion on these people — the fortunate objects of our kindness.”

He believes that we have been misguided in our treatment of aboriginal people and they are not going to take it anymore. “In the face of overwhelming forces which devalue and undermine their identity, the Innu people in recent years have struggled to their feet to say in a loud voice — No more. Their resistance is legitimate.”

Through their ordeal, the protestors feel like “a voice crying in the wilderness.” Roche‘s statement told of their isolation. “When this day in court is finished, a prosecutor will fly back to St. John’s. A judge will return to Labrador City and police officers will be transferred to other posts. In Ottawa, politicians and military leaders will reassure each other that justice has been done. But justice has not been done until we realize that we are visitors and foreigners in the land of the Innu… where our justice system exists to further and to legitimize their oppression.”

The role of the church as the advocate of powerless minorities is made convincing by men and women like Jim Roche who have shared their people’s pain. He is locked up with his parishioners. “There is no shame to be imprisoned for the pursuit of justice. When this day comes to a close, some people will say that we have lost — but we have not lost. We have not compromised the dignity and integrity of the generations of Innu who have walked this land before us.”

(Father MacNeil is a Catholic priest working in Ottawa.)


Long wait for short sentence

The Montreal Gazette

11 April 1990

GOOSE BAY, Nfld. – A Catholic priest who spent six months in jail awaiting sentencing for joining Innu demonstrations at Canadian Forces Base Goose Bay was finally sentenced yesterday, to one day in jail.

Rev. Jim Roche could have been released last September until sentencing in May but he refused to sign an undertaking to keep away from the air base.

Roche joined Innu Indians in protests over two years against low- level military flights in Labrador.


Home-grown hypocrisy

Toronto Globe and Mail

Letter to the Editor

19 February 1990

Willowdale, Ont. — How ironic that the report on the efforts of Rev. James Roche to stand in solidarity with the Innu protest over NATO flights over Nitassinan (R.C. Priest Local Hero To Natives – Feb. 12), should appear on the same day as the opening of the open-skies conference in Ottawa.

How can the Mulroney government flaunt itself as the chief proponent of “open skies” when it violates our own native peoples from the air over Labrador and cravenly agrees to the testing of U.S. first-strike Cruise missiles over Northern Alberta?

Joanna Manning Willowdale, Ont.


Natives seek UN recognition

The Ottawa Citizen

23 November 1989

GOOSE BAY, Nfld. (CP) — A recently formed alliance of Indians says it will seek formal recognition from the United Nations.

The announcement came Wednesday following the first official meeting of the Treaty Alliance of North American Aboriginal Nations, the brainchild of Chief Bernard Ominayak of Alberta’s Lubicon band.

Nineteen Canadian bands, representing about 50,000 natives, are part of the alliance formed in July to defend each other in treaty and land-claim battles with government.

This week’s meeting in Goose Bay was a strategy session.

“We looked at the human resources we have and might need in our struggles… the lawyers available across the country who we know, people who lobby for us, and other people we require from time to time, both native and non-native,” Ominayak said.

“We also discussed what the Innu people need up here in their case, and also what the Lubicon people need, so we know what to go after.”

Labrador‘s Innu have been fighting NATO military activity over the area, claiming that low-level jet flights disturb their children and disrupt the migratory patterns of the caribou they hunt.

Dozens of Innu have been charged with mischief for protests held on runways at Canadian Forces Base Goose Bay.

After their meeting, the Indian leaders visited the local jail to talk to Father James Roche. The Roman Catholic priest has been in jail since September for refusing to sign an undertaking not to go on military runways at the base.

The alliance represents Indian bands from Ontario, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan and Alberta.


Thundering flights of fear

The Calgary Herald

05 November 1989

Gilbert, Terry

“When I was growing up I wondered what is happening to my people. Why are they dying so quickly?” – Innu Raphael Gregoire

When the jets roar overhead, the children scream in fright. Though it happens many times a day, day after day, they never get used to the noise.

Their fear is one reason Raphael Gregoire, a 40-year-old Innu, signed himself out of jail last month to tell Canadians how low-level flying over Labrador is threatening the very existence of his people.

“It’s very stressful on the children especially,” Gregoire said in an interview. “The kids get hysterical when they hear the jet noise.”

“People who normally like to live in the country have a fear of being overflown.”

In mid-September, Gregoire and his companions used the cover of night to sneak onto the heavily guarded Canadian Forces Base at Goose Bay, Labrador.

“The next morning at 9 when the jets take off, we ran to the ramp to block them,” said Gregoire. “This is how much we believe we are losing our freedom.”

Gregoire was arrested and spent 31 days in jail, finally gaining his release by signing a document promising to stay off the runways. Immediately after, he accompanied Innu elder Sylvester Andrew on a tour of western Canadian communities, including Calgary.

“We are struggling as a people,” Andrew, speaking in his native language of Innu-eimun, said through a translator. “We have not signed any treaties with the Canadian government or with other countries to use our land as a military playground.”

For hundreds of years the 10,000 Innu who live in Labrador and northern Quebec have survived by hunting, trapping and fishing. The life the Innu live today, as described by Andrew and Gregoire, is a sharp contrast.

The thunder of low-flying jets has frightened away wildlife and rattled the people. Men from the base visit their town, Sheshatshit, to pick up women. Some of them have become pregnant.

“We fear other things also,” said Andrew. “We are afraid of drugs that could be introduced into the community. We are afraid of child prostitution, which could become a way of life.”

And they live with the constant fear of what further military technology will do to their lives. In 1988, British, West German and Dutch fighter jets flew about 7,500 training missions over the area, which the Innu calls Nitassinan.

Canada has invited NATO to establish a $500-million fighter jet training base at Goose Bay. If that happens, it is estimated training flights over Labrador will escalate to 40,000 a year.

Says Gregoire: “The sonic boom is something we dread.”

As recently as 40 years ago the Innu were a nomadic people. But in the ’60s, Andrew said, community living was “forced on us.”

“People who lived on the land for thousands of years were not able to cope with community living. It was something too foreign.”

Alcoholism became a problem. “People weren’t too happy. Lots of our people died.”

Gregoire described Sheshatshit, with its population of 800, as a poverty-stricken community 50 kilometres from Goose Bay. Unemployment is high. “A lot of homes have no water or services. The houses are mostly run down.

“”The collapse of our people started with living in the community,”” said Gregoire. “”You can’t live somebody else’s life. You have to choose how to live in order to survive.””

More than 10 years ago many of the Innu began leaving the town, returning to the country to live the lives they had always known.

“”People’s lives started to turn around,”” Andrew said. “”But when low-level flights began in ’80, ’81, we began to be afraid for our lives again.””

At first, the flights were infrequent. “”They happened only a few times a year and at high altitudes,”” said Andrew.

“”Since the tests began in earnest, you feel the impact. The jets fly at an altitude of 50 feet and there are planes they could fly lower. The purpose of the flights is to escape radar detection by the enemy.

“It disturbs the animals and the people that use the land to hunt, trap and fish.”

Wildlife is no longer as abundant as it once was.

“When the jets fly over the animals panic and die from fright,” said Andrew. “When they fly over the lakes and rivers the exhaust fumes from when they shoot up into the sky drops to the ground.”

Said Andrew: “If things go at the pace they are going, the Innu as a people will not be there anymore. The future of our children will be destroyed.”

Many times, the Innu have protested.

“There are 275 mischief charges clogging the courts because people walked on the runways or set up tents on what DND calls their land,” said Bob Bartel, of the Mennonite Central Committee, who accompanied Gregoire and Andrew on their tour.

Two protesters, former Catholic priest James Roche and Martha Hurley, remain behind bars.

Bartel added the courts have only dealt with charges against four of the Innu. They were acquitted of mischief, because they honestly believe CFB Goose Bay is on their land. The Newfoundland appeal court recently struck down the ruling on a procedural error. The Crown must decide whether to apply for a new trial.

In the most dramatic protests, Bartel said entire families – including elders leaning on canes and parents carrying babes in arms – have walked on the runway at Goose Bay. Up to 200 people have attended some protests.

In 1988, Andrew became the first Innu to occupy the bombing range at Menei-Nipe Lake, about 90 kilometres from Goose Bay.

“I saw a lot of evidence of damage, where the military and the Canadian government stated damages would be minimal.”

There was no evidence the area was still inhabited by animals. The land was severely damaged.

“I saw indiscriminate gouging of the earth by dropping bombs for practice purposes,” said Andrew. “There are big holes in the land, trees knocked down that will never grow back.”

When the testing began, Andrew said the Innu were told the smoke bombs would not exceed 25 pounds. “There is evidence of 500, 600, 800 even 900-pound bombs being used,” he said.

Andrew fears if the NATO flight and weapons-training centre is established, the military could open additional bombing ranges to the north and south of Goose Bay on prime hunting area used traditionally and today by the Innu.

“If Canada allows foreign countries to open bombing ranges, including live, there will be no more place for the Innu to go.”

Gregoire said it heaps insult upon injury that other countries are conducting their low-level flight training over Labrador because they are unable to do so in their own countries.

“It’s insulting when other countries don’t want it in their countries, that they’re able to export it back to Canada.”

The Innu are seeking an injunction against the Department of National Defence and the countries which practise low- level flying, to protect their way of life. NATO planners could recommend a site – Canada and Turkey are the two contenders – as early as this month. Bartel said he expects “gaping holes” in the review of environmental impact.

He claimed a 1986 study that concluded the Innu were not suffering any hearing damage because of the flights, is invalid.

“Since that study was done in 1986, the number of flights is up by one-third.”

Said Bartel: “We as a white culture are tied to what happens to the Innu. If their lives are not something to be preserved and sacred, then none of our lives are sacred.

“”If the land is unfit for these people to live on, then what is the safety of the rest of the country? If they are allowed to practise dropping conventional and nuclear bombs over Innu territory, what does that say about all of our safety?””


Innu step up flight protest

The Windsor Star

 25 Oct 1989

HALIFAX (CP) – Demonstrators gathering support for a fight against low-level jet training flights over Labrador expressed concern Tuesday for the survival of the Innu people if the flights continue or are increased.

Several Nova Scotia peace and women’s groups set up a mock jail complete with iron bars in front of the Halifax Public Library and gathered signatures from passers-by on a petition asking Ottawa to stop the flights.

Some of the protesters spent the day in the mock jail as a sign of their support for Innu jailed in Goose Bay, Nfld., because of demonstrations at the military base there.

Five Innu and a Roman Catholic priest appeared in court Tuesday in Goose Bay to face mischief charges in connection with the protests, some of which interfered with military flights.

Trial dates were set for early February. Two of the demonstrators, including Father James Roche, were remanded in custody until then.

The Innu, a nomadic people who live off the land by hunting and fishing, say the flights are destroying their way of life and disrupting the migration of caribou which they rely on for food.

While supporters protested in Halifax, two Innu spokesmen on a fundraising tour of central Canada said in Kingston, Ont., that the jets, which start flying begin between 8 and 9 a.m. and continue until dusk, fly low over native campsites even though they are not supposed to.


Jet flights threaten way of life, Innu say

The Toronto Star

25 October 1989


THE HAGUE (Reuter-AP-CP) – Native culture in Labrador faces extermination if NATO countries greatly increase the number of low- level military training flights over the area, an Innu leader says.

Native people fear the number of noisy flights over their territory could increase to as many as 50,000 a year from the present 7,000 to 8,000 if plans proceed to expand military operations at Goose Bay, Nfld., Chief Penote Michel said yesterday.

“We know that with this military expansion our culture will be exterminated,” said Michel. He was referring to the effects of the thundering roar from low-flying F-16s and other North Atlantic Treaty Organization jets.

Jet fighters practising military manoeuvres in Labrador sometimes fly as low as 15 metres (about 50 feet) off the ground.

The jets have scared away most of the game on traditional Innu hunting grounds, Innu Basil Marc said. Other native leaders have also said that the flights have changed the migratory habits of the caribou and resulted in a decline in the number of animals.

Innu delegation

An Innu delegation from Canada is campaigning against low-level flights over Labrador by the Dutch, British and West German air forces under agreement with the Canadian government. The group visited the foreign ministry here yesterday to urge a halt to Dutch flights.

Innu leaders fear the number of flights will increase significantly if Canada successfully bids for a NATO tactical fighter training range for their area.

Innu Guy Bellefleur said the Innu have filed lawsuits with the Federal Court in Ottawa against the countries using Goose Bay for training flights.

If the court doesn’t issue injunctions to halt low-level flying, Bellefleur said, the Innu will take their case to the Geneva-based Human Rights Commission of the United Nations.

Meanwhile yesterday, Dutch military police said they arrested five of some two dozen activists who tried to occupy an air force base runway to protest the NATO flights in Canada.

The Dutch parliament agreed last year to allow the flights after defence officials vowed to avoid Innu encampments and keep disturbances to a minimum.

In Halifax, several Nova Scotia peace and women’s groups set up a mock jail in front of the public library and gathered signatures from passersby on a petition asking Ottawa to stop the flights.

Five arrested

Some of the protesters spent the day in the mock jail as a sign of their support for Innu jailed in Goose Bay because of demonstrations at the military base.

Five Innu and a Roman Catholic priest appeared in court yesterday in Goose Bay to face mischief charges. Trial dates were set for early February. Two of the demonstrators, including Father James Roche, were remanded in custody until then.

It has been estimated that about 100 similar charges have been laid in such demonstrations over the past year.

In Ontario on a fund-raising tour of central Canada, Innu told a news conference in Kingston that the flights are making the caribou calve earlier and the beavers feed only at night.

Ambroise Marc, of La Romaine, Que., and Bart Penashue, of Sheshasheits, Nfld., said a pregnant Innu woman was frightened so much by the flights that she tripped, fell down and lost her baby.


Innu leaders remain in jail

The Windsor Star

12 October 1988

GOOSE BAY, Nfld. (CP) – Seven Innu leaders and a Roman Catholic priest remained in jail Tuesday after they again refused at a bail hearing to sign a promise not to participate in further protests on a local military runway.

The eight, including Chief Daniel Ashini and Rev. James Roche, have been in jail since the arrests were made after an Innu sit-in a month ago.

The Labrador Indians are protesting the use of their hunting grounds for NATO jets practising low-level bombing. The Innu, who have never signed a treaty, are also making land claims to an as-yet undetermined chunk of Labrador and possibly northern Quebec.

Seventy other Innu also remain in jail on mischief charges for participating in various sit-ins as recently as last Saturday.

The jail now is so overcrowded that authorities are considering transferring the prisoners to St. John’s, Nfld.


150 Indians arrested in protest

The Montreal Gazette

05 October 1988

GOOSE BAY, Nfld. (CP) – About 150 Indians were arrested yesterday after they occupied the main runway at Canadian Forces Base Goose Bay to protest military aircraft training.

Nine people have been charged with mischief and are being held in custody until a bail hearing, said Sgt. Joe MacDonald of the Goose Bay RCMP.

About 12 RCMP officers joined military police and airport security at about 9 a.m. to clear the runway of a group of men, women and children from the Innu band at nearby Sheshatshit.

No violence

There was no violence but the protesters had to be carried on to police vans, MacDonald said. A Canadian Airlines International flight was diverted west to Wabush.

Yesterday’s protest was the fourth the Innu have staged in three weeks to protest military planes performing low-level flying and bombing exercises from the base.

Jets from Canada, West Germany, the Netherlands, Britain and the United States now fly about 50 missions a day from the base, but that could increase to 200 if Goose Bay is chosen as the site of a NATO tactical training centre.

There are about 10,000 Innu living in communities in Quebec and Labrador. They have hunted and fished on the peninsula for thousands of years, and say they have never ceded their rights to the territory with a treaty or land-claims agreement.

Among those charged yesterday were Rev. Jim Roche, a local Roman Catholic priest who was on a hunger strike from Sept. 12 to 24 in support of the band’s protest. Innu Chief Daniel Ashini was also in custody.

Roche had been camping out with about five members of the band on the bombing range, about 100 kilometres south of Goose Bay.

MacDonald refused to allow a reporter to speak to Roche or Ashini over the phone but Bob Bartel, a Goose Bay resident and member of a Mennonite development organization that is supporting the Innu, said most natives from Sheshatshit are now living in about 20 tents set up at the end of a runway on Department of National Defence property.

Nothing else to lose

“Basically, you’ve got a desperate people here who are saying ‘We’ve got nothing else to lose’,” he said from Goose Bay.

He said the noise from bombs and Phantom and Tornado fighter jets is changing migration patterns of animals and frightening young children to the point where they no longer want to go into the bush.


2 Responses to Roche: Father James Roche omi

  1. Glen says:

    Was this Father Jim Roche a high school graduate of St. Pius X in Ottawa?

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