Shatter our state of collective anesthesia

Marie-Andrée Pelland
Professor in the Department of Sociology and Criminology
University of Moncton

I would like to highlight the excellence of the documentary Le Silence by Renée Blanchar. The latter makes it possible to make visible a phenomenon known, but often little discussed, even ignored in Acadia.

This work places us before the courage of the survivors, before the effort of some to protect children, but also before the loneliness of the survivors to obtain answers to their questions, to obtain redress, to demand a change. This documentary calls on us to shatter our state of collective anesthesia in the face of the victimization of hundreds of men and women in Acadia.

Although this is not a new subject, although between 1989 and 2020, 38 priests were convicted of various crimes of a sexual nature in the Atlantic provinces, although allegations were made against 26 priests who served the territory covered by the bishoprics of Bathurst and Moncton, our collective inaction still persists.

A glimmer of hope was felt when, between 2012 and 2014, the Diocese of Moncton retained the services of retired judge Michel Bastarache to conduct a process of conciliation with victims of sexual crimes by priests. of this diocese.

More than 200 victims shared their stories, with some addressing their experiences of victimization for the first time. This process paid out more than $ 18 million to some of these victims. However, this process helped to maintain silence. We still do not know the identity of the priests against whom allegations have been made. In addition, we cannot take cognizance of the acts for which they are accused and the consequences of these victimizations on the survivors or even on Acadian society as a whole.

Renée Blanchar’s documentary forces us to take off our blinders in the face of the acts committed by certain priests. He encourages us to take a stand in the face of the silence that has persisted for decades. Are we collectively going to demand answers in order to understand how for decades we could not have managed to protect our children from these abusers?

It encourages us to ask ourselves what we can do to repair and prevent this type of victimization. How can we demand a change?

In the short term, we can demand that the Catholic Church disclose the list of priests against whom allegations of sexual violence have been made. We can also ask the provincial government to change the law, to compel priests to report any information they have access to about child victimization to the police and the Department of Social Development.

In the medium term, we can draw inspiration from Newfoundland, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Australia and the Netherlands who have all set up different commissions of inquiry to help to understand the phenomenon and its effects on survivors.

We can also draw inspiration from the corrective measures that have been implemented in these different countries to ensure the protection of children here. In the longer term, research can help us identify the intergenerational effects of victimization by priests on the Acadian people and put in place strategies to prevent sexual violence in our province.

We must not forget that in recent years New Brunswick children have been among the most at risk of sexual violence in Canada. We must therefore act, for our common future.

I ask you first to see the documentary Le Silence and to take note of the courage of the survivors who entrust us with their experiences. Then, I ask you to join me in continuing Renée Blanchar’s action to break the silence. Together, we can demand that an investigative process be put in place that will allow us to obtain answers and that will allow us to demand better protection of victims in the justice system.

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