Confessions from pedophile priest could help Quebec sex abuse lawsuit
A convicted pedophile priest has left behind a confession meant to help his victims sue the church.
Paul-Andre Harvey died of natural causes May 3 at a minimum security prison in Laval, Que. He was serving a six-year sentence for the sexual abuse of 39 girls.
Over the last several months, Harvey wrote a series of documents in French, explaining his crimes and laying out how he got away with them for decades.
Harvey blames police for not stopping him, and his superiors for not getting him help.
Harvey writes that when he was confronted by the bishop at the time, there were no consequences. “He told me to be more careful around children in the future and to pray more.”
The documents were prepared with the help of a prison lawyer, and then handed over to the legal team representing Harvey’s victims in a class action lawsuit. It was signed and witnessed less than two weeks before his death.
In the document, Harvey writes that police questioned him four times about touching young girls, but he was never charged.
“There was never a follow-up to the complaints that were filed. That could explain in large part the multiplicity of deviant acts that followed. I think reprimands by the justice system could have halted by sexual abuses.”
Harvey was ordained in 1962 and retired in 2002. He spent his career in the Saguenay region working for the Chicoutimi Diocese.
Police arrested and charged Harvey in 2012. Originally there were only three victims, but after the case went public, dozens more came forward.
The victims were young girls between the ages of five and 12. There was also one young woman. Some of the charges dated as far back as 1965.
Harvey pleaded guilty before the case went to trial, June 16, 2015.
The Montreal law firm Trudel, Johnston & Lespérance is suing the Chicoutimi Diocese’s corporation. They’re asking for $175,000 for each victim.
More than 80 people have come forward and joined the suit.
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In the documents, Harvey explains in detail how he went after some of his victims. He describes building relationships with the girls’ parents and then taking advantage of their confidence.
He says his “desire” was so strong that if he knew he was going to see one of his victims, he would have trouble sleeping the night before.
“I didn’t try to get rid of my perverted thoughts, far from it. I fed them, I became sexually obsessed. The young girl would occupy all my thoughts.”
Harvey outlines what he calls a rigid and prude upbringing and mentions two traumatic events as a child. One of them is the death of his brother when he was very young. The incident isn’t described in detail. Harvey only writes that his brother died of an accidental injury by a knife Harvey was holding at the time.
A lawyer for the diocese is downplaying the documents.
“This is the solitary story of a dead pedophile who’s looking to justify himself and blaming others,” says Estelle Tremblay. “He’ll never face cross-examination.”
The law firm behind the class action suit says the documents help their case immensely, insisting they show the diocese was aware of the abuse.
One of the victims says the documents lays out exactly what she experienced. When she tried to complain, she was told nothing would be done.
“One priest at the time said to me ‘OK, your little princess fit, you’re going to stop that,’” says Suzanne Tremblay. “’There were other victims before you. There were some at the same time, and there will be others after you. And you can’t do anything about it.’”
The lawyer who worked on the documents with Harvey says he insisted his superiors knew what was going on. Instead of getting him help or going to police, his superiors moved him to a different parish. He was moved 12 times in 20 years.
Harvey writes that his superiors and police took his crimes lightly, and never got him the help he needed.
“We would move me to put out the fire,” he writes. “After a few months in the new parish, I would fall back into the same occasional difficulties.”
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