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Saskatchewan priest charged with sexual assault: RCMP

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WATCH: This video contains content about alleged sexual violence and may be triggering for some viewers. A priest in east-central Saskatchewan has been charged with sexual assault – Dec 17, 2020

WarningThis article contains content about alleged sexual violence and may be triggering for some readers. Please read at your own discretion.

A priest in east-central Saskatchewan has been charged with sexual assault.

Humboldt RCMP arrested Anthony Atter, 45, after receiving a report on Nov. 5 about “multiple incidents of a sexual nature,” police said in a news release. The alleged incidents occurred between Sept. 1 and Nov. 4, 2020.

Atter was the priest for parishes in the villages of Lake Lenore, Annaheim and St. Gregor.

Read more: Changes to legislation further protect sexual assault survivors in Saskatchewan

He has been charged with sexual assault, sexual exploitation and sexual interference. Sexual interference charges are laid when the alleged victim is under 16.

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In a statement, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon said it learned of the charges on Wednesday, and promptly removed Atter from ministry.

“The Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon takes the matter of sexual abuse and serious misconduct very seriously and is committed to the care and support of victims of sexual abuse,” the statement says.

The diocese has a “safeguarding action plan” against sexual abuse. It states that church officials are to receive regular training on “safeguarding policies” and how to support survivors.

Atter is expected to appear in Humboldt provincial court on March 22.

Broken trust

Sexual violence can be uniquely challenging for small communities, said Hayley Kennedy, executive director of PARTNERS Family Services in nearby Humboldt.

“It really shakes that view that small rural Saskatchewan communities are categorically safe,” she said.

The smaller the population, the more likely people are to know both the accused and survivor, Kennedy said. Respecting survivors’ privacy is crucial, she added.

Cases that involve trusted leaders – particularly those meant to provide moral guidance – affect an entire community’s sense of safety, she said.

“These are the people that we look up to,” she said.

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“Religious communities can be a place where we will turn to at times of trauma to find that guidance, and these parishes now are going to be left in a unique situation trying to navigate through that.”

St. Anthony’s Catholic Church in Lake Lenore, SK. File / Global News

If you or someone you know has experienced sexual violence and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 911 for immediate help.

Visit the Department of Justice’s Victim Services Directory for a list of support services in your area.

Women, trans and non-binary people can find an additional list of resources here.

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