Helpline ( Brothers of the Christian Schools in Alfred and Uxbridge Ontario)

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Brothers of the Christian Schools


Hoffman, along with Canada’s former Ambassador for Disarmament, former Roman Catholic journalist and more recently former Senator, Doug Roche, devised and mediated the reconciliation model for victims (Helpline) from St. John’s Training School in Alfred, Ontario, a facility close to Cornwall, Ontario but within the boundaries of the Ottawa Archdiocese, operated by the Brothers of the Christian Schools, a Roman Catholic lay order.  The order is known variously as the Institute of Christian Brothers, Brothers of the Christian Schools, Lasallian Brothers, or De La Salle Brothers. The brothers are frequently referred to simply as Christian Brothers  and are therefore sometimes erroneously confused with the Christian Brothers involved in the Mount Cashel Newfoundland sex abuse scandal.

The first victim to seek justice for the physical and sexual abuse he had endured at the Alfred training school was David McCann. McCann was eager to have an inquiry commissioned. However after McCann retained Roger Tucker (Roche’s former son-in-law) and with Tucker’s assistance set up Helpline McCann apparently slowly began to conclude that mediation was a better solution than either an inquiry or civil litigation. That decision was apparently firmed up when Tucker was demanding payment for Helpline’s escalating legal costs and Ronald Caza, a lawyer for the Ottawa branch of the Christian Brothers, suggested Church and government officials might kick in funds – IF Helpline ceased its calls for an inquiry.

The calls for an inquiry ceased.

Roche saw the Caza offer as breakthrough. A number of Helpline members saw it as a sell out.

At a later date when a reporter asked about a public inquiry Roche responded: “The participants do not want a public inquiry.”

Originally the mediation process modeled by Roche and Hoffman was to include the Christian Brothers of St. John’s School in Uxbridge. A number of victims from St. John’s were members of Helpline, the organization set up by McCann and Tucker for victims of the Christian Brothers at both Alfred and Uxbridge. The brothers from Uxbridge however eventuallypulled out of the mediation process.

Approximately 400 victims from both schools were involved to varying degrees in the mediation process. Those who signed on to the final agreement gave up their right to sue.

According to Boys Don’t Cry, “Hoffman was behind the scenes all along “advising Helpline’s lawyer Roger Tucker on the possibilities of a mediated settlement and briefing Roche on the process.” Hoffman was officially brought on board as Roche’s consultant in mid-February 1991.

The process started in 1990. It was ‘completed’ in 1995. Many victims were upset with the tumultuous process, the time it took to finally reach an agreed settlement and the settlements themselves which in most cases amounted to a few thousand dollars or less.

07 April 2019:  St. Joseph’s Training School abuse: Why papal apology matters to survivor, 60 years later


Ben Hoffman and Douglas Roche QC jointly produced:  “The Vision to Reconcile:Process Report on the Helpline Reconciliation Model.”  Here is background information on both Hoffman and Roche:

Ben Hoffman on Advisory Panel for the Cornwall Public Inquiry

Doug Roche  Bio from his official website

A quote from The Vision to Reconcile:

“When abuse occurs in institutions, the harm that is suffered often cannot be repaired by punishing the perpetrators. Other remedies, such as apologies and vocational training may actually be more important to the victims of the abuse.”


Vision to Reconcile

The following information is drawn from “Vision to Reconcile,” a joint September 1993 report issued by Hoffman and Roche on the progress of the mediation process:

* When abuse occurs in institutions, the harm that is suffered often cannot be repaired by punishing the perpetrators. Other remedies, such as apologies and vocational training may actually be more important to the victims of the abuse.

* Documents indicated that Cabinet Ministers and Church officials knew of the abuse and did nothing.

* Hoffman and Roche favoured mediation between the victims and the various institutions.  Mediation, according to them, “avoids the traditional adversarial process.” It avoids the “polarized, adversarial context” of traditional litigation.  Therefore, presumably, “each participant feels that it receives something.”

* Roche and Hoffman viewed civil actions as “expensive, time-consuming, technical and limited in their scope of remedies” with no attempt at reconciliation and little room “to acknowledge that the Brothers may also be victims.”

* Assurances were sought from the  Attorney General that “nothing said nor any documents or materials provided at mediation would adversely affect an accused person.” * The process of creating a collaborative dispute resolution mechanism should not address any specific allegations or fact situations. Similar fact evidence concerns are therefore inapplicable.

* In August 1991 during a meeting in the offices of Roger Tucker’s law firm, “it was pointed out that the Helpline process had stimulated the government to appoint a committee of Deputy Ministers (from Community and Social Services, Solicitor General, Health and the Ontario Women’s Directorate and chaired by the Deputy Attorney General) to conduct an intense internal examination into the scope of sexual abuse in Ontario provincial institutions.”

*  “ Helpline was breaking a path to help the government decide whether reconciliation should supplant the courts as a means of dealing with the emerging and spreading problem of sexual abuse.”

* Hoffman’s background was dealing with battered women.  When he was called in to assist Roche in dealing with men who had been physically and sexually abused as boys by Roman Catholic priests and brothers he relied on the “sensitivities” he had developed in working with “men who batter.”

* Hoffman saw the overall objective of the reconciliation agreement as “reconciliation and healing.”

* “Blaming behaviour” was to be avoided.  The focus was to be “on the future.”

* Participation by all involved parties (Archdiocese’s of Ottawa and Toronto), the Christian Brothers of Uxbridge and Alfred, the Government of Ontario, Helpline (the victims) “was not an admission of guilt” but a “moral responsibility” where “the focus would be on the future, on healing and reconciliation rather than on the past, on culpability.”

* The mediated package was to include a provision “ for research on child abuse and its prevention”

* One of the over-riding goals of the mediation process was “A commitment to help eradicate abuse generally and its underlying causes.”

* “Better education of institutional staff and the general public would allow earlier detection and more appropriate governmental and Church responses.”


Preface to “Vision to Reconcile” by Doug Roche QC

On December 13, 1990, I was invited to meet in Ottawa with David McCann, chairperson of a new organization called “Helpline,” and his legal counsel, Roger Tucker, to discuss my possible role in a proposed mediation process concerning sexual abuse. On December 11, 1992, I certified that a Helpline Reconciliation Model Agreement had been ratified and was ready for implementation. Between these two events lay two years of negotiations to produce an unprecedented reconciliation model which aims at healing the impact of abuse and restoring lost trust in the spiritual and secular institutions of our society.

The parties to the Agreement are: Helpline, an association of former students (the number 400 was used for calculation purposes) of St. Joseph’s Training School for Boys, Alfred, Ontario and St. John’s Training School for Boys, Uxbridge, Ontario; the Brothers of the Christian Schools of Ottawa; the Government of Ontario; the Archdiocese of Ottawa; and the Archdiocese of Toronto.

The Agreement is about reconciliation between the members of Helpline, who reported sexual and physical abuse at the two schools, and the secular and religious institutions. The complete text of the Agreement (15 sections and seven schedules) is reproduced as Appendix “C”. The Agreement is an effort towards healing and has these features:

Apologies are at the heart of the reconciliation process. The Agreement will facilitate apologies by those responsible where injuries are found to have occurred. Claims by former students will be submitted for review to the Reconciliation Process Implementation Committee, made up of participants in the Agreement. The Committee will forward the claims to members of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board of Ontario (CICB- designate), who will receive evidence and information from the claimants and determine entitlement to payment for pain and suffering.

The Agreement contains a formula by which the Brothers will increase the award of the CICB-designate.

An Opportunity Fund has been created to provide to validated claimants medical/dental services, vocational rehabilitation, educational upgrading and literacy training.

As a gesture of good faith, a contribution will be made toward lost wages.

Counselling services for Helpline members are being provided.

A Recorder will publish the experiences of former students who wish to be heard and make recommendations designed to prevent abuse in institutional settings.

The participants are committed to the eradication of child abuse and are taking a number of preventative and educational steps.

While there are factors that make it difficult to state precise costs, the Agreement, in its final form, could be valued at approximately $12,835,00. The participants, other than Helpline, are paying the costs of implementation and are also paying Helpline’s operational and legal expenses.

This report on the process is written to serve as a working guide for others in the dispute resolution field. A commitment to help eradicate abuse generally and its underlying causes transcends the present Agreement. While each dispute has its own characteristics, the Helpline Model could be tailored to a wide range of needs.

In this part of the report, I will narrate the flow of events and indicate the strategies used to advance the process which, at several points, appeared near collapse. In the second part, my colleague Ben Hoffman, president of Concorde Inc., The Dispute Resolution Professionals, will provide an analysis of the issues and procedures in the multi-issue, multi-party dispute. Both of us, while receiving permission from the participants to write this report, are bound by confidentialities. It should be remembered that those who work to rebuild lost trust must themselves maintain their trustworthiness.

Douglas Roche, O.C. September 1993


September 1993, Part One:  Douglas Roche QC:  The Vision to Reconcile Process Report on the Helpline Reconciliation Model Agreement Part One

September 1993, Part Two:  Ben Hoffman:  The Vision to Reconcile Process Report on the Helpline Reconciliation Model Agreement Part Two Ben Hoffman

September 1993< Appendices:   Vision to Reconcile Appendices


Media Coverage

A call has gone out for men abused as children in an Ontario reform school after a recent tentative deal between victims and Toronto Christian Brothers.

Lawyers have been unable to locate 54 men involved in a class-action lawsuit. It was filed against the Catholic religious order for failing to fulfill financial obligations set out in a 1992 abuse settlement.

The class action was launched by Vancouver resident David McCann in 2002 in a bid to recover more than $1.7-million still owed to some victims of abuse at St. Joseph’s Training School in Alfred, Ont., east of Ottawa.

Mr. McCann, who was sent to St. Joseph’s as a child, negotiated the original $16-million compensation package for 1,600 victims of abuse at that institution and at St. John’s in Uxbridge, Ont., near Toronto.

He said yesterday he fears some of the victims may have died since the first deal was negotiated 12 years ago. Many were elderly and had struggled with alcohol and drug abuse through their difficult lives.

“It would be nice to see everybody get to participate,” he said. Lawyers for the victims and the Christian Brothers are slated to go to court Jan. 30 to have the Nov. 27 deal approved.

If ratified by the courts, 153 victims will share about $780,000, according to court documents. The money is in addition to funds they received a decade ago from the Ontario government, the Catholic Church and the Christian Brothers.

Mr. McCann’s lawyer, I. H. Fraser, said the missing victims are entitled to share about $170,000. The final payout won’t be made until 2005 to give them a chance to come forward.


Judge approves victims’ suit in Canada’s largest sex scandal

Kingston Whig-Standard

08 October 2002


Premier insists he’s sorry for abuse

Toronto Globe and Mail

22 March 2000


Left to `twist in the wind’ Sex abuse victims got a compensation deal. But many say it’s not enough, and they’re getting little support from governments or advocacy groups as they fight for more

Toronto Star

11 July 1997

Darcy Henton


Report gives whole story of child abuse

The Ottawa Citizen

06 July 1996

Bob Harvey


Toronto Brothers’ sex victims urge inquiry: Many of the former students at St. John’s say the were forced to accept the lower cash awards.

Vancouver Sun

29 June 1996

Bob Harvey


Church’s apology for sex abuses too little, too late

The Toronto Star

22 April 1996

By Rosie DiManno Toronto Star


Archbishop apologizes at emotional reconciliation

The Ottawa Citizen

22 April 1996

April Lindgren


Former students call for public inquiry into world’s largest sex-abuse settlement

The Ottawa Citizen

02 July 1996

Bob Harvey


Inquiry sought as order rejects sex-abuse deal

The Calgary Herald

29 June 1996

Bob Harvey


Church to apologize for Alfred abuse

The Ottawa Citizen

21 April 1996

April Lindgren,  Brenda Branswell


Healing St. Joseph’s survivors; Record legal settlement and counselling serve as model

The Ottawa Citizen

16 March 1996

Bob Harvey


The last of the Christian Brothers convicted of abuse at a training school in alfred was sentenced Friday. It closes another sad chapter in the lives of…The boys of St. Joseph’s

The Ottawa Citizen

12 February 1994

Sean Upton





Abused students to get $13M

The Ottawa Citizen

12 December 1992

Sean Upton


Sex abuse victim used cocaine, trial told

Toronto Star

11 November 1992

Cal Millar


Assault witness under fire; St. Joseph accuser has led life of lies, defence lawyers say

The Ottawa Citizen

10 November 1992

Sean Upton


1 Response to Helpline ( Brothers of the Christian Schools in Alfred and Uxbridge Ontario)

  1. Donald Haley says:

    In the book Boys Don’t Cry, David McCann mentions that he was able to get his files relating to his stay at the training school. How could I go about getting my files from my stays at St. John’s training school?

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