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Montreal archdiocese hires retired judge to review church files, identify abuse cases

The Chancery of the Archdiocese of Montreal is seen Monday, February 15, 2021 in Montreal. The archdiocese is launching an initiative to thoroughly investigate sexual abuse in its ranks.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz. Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

Montreal’s archdiocese has mandated a retired Quebec Superior Court justice to review its files and identify any information tied to sexual abuse against minors or vulnerable people.

The archdiocese said Monday in a statement that André Denis began his work in December 2020 and will complete his task by this summer.

Archbishop Christian Lépine says anyone suspected of abuses will be suspended for the time it takes to complete an investigation.

Read more: Montreal’s archdiocese missed red flags in handling of priest’s abuse, review finds

Denis’s investigation will look at files pertaining to the ecclesiastical province of Montreal, which includes the Quebec communities of Joliette, Saint-Jean-Longueuil, Saint-Jérôme and Valleyfield.

Following the review, Denis has also been mandated to audit the five dioceses, looking at the years 1940 to 2020, with an eye on sexual abuse by priests who are living or deceased.

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The results of the statistical audit will be released publicly and officials have promised Denis will have unfettered access to files.

Denis, a long-time Quebec jurist, notably presided over Canada’s first trial involving the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act, which resulted in the conviction of Desire Munyaneza — a Rwandan citizen living in Canada.

Read more: Montreal archdiocese hires retired judge to conduct independent probe of Brian Boucher

Last November, former judge Pepita G. Capriolo concluded a report harshly criticizing how the archdiocese handled the case of ex-priest Brian Boucher, sentenced to eight years in 2019 for sexual assault on two minors. The archdiocese said a 12-person committee would oversee the implementation of Capriolo’s 31 recommendations to improve accountability in the church.

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