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October 25, 2011 permalink
Scouts Canada is pledging to report all child allegations promptly to police and child welfare agencies. This may sound protective to naive readers, but remember, the agency, CAS, will not take action against the abuser. Their first move will be to snatch the child.
Few cases of past abuse are known. When there is litigation over abuse, it is generally settled on terms requiring the victim to remain silent about the abuse and the amount of compensation paid.
Scouts Canada dismisses reports it didn't share child abuse allegations
Any time Scouts Canada receives a report about possible abuse, it will immediately suspend the volunteer leader in question and then notify police and child-welfare agencies, a spokesman said Monday.
"I can confirm that in all instances of abuse allegations, that information has been shared with the police and child-protection services," Scouts Canada spokesman John Petitti said. "That is true now and, as far as we can determine, that is true of years past."
Petitti said any suggestion that Scouts Canada has failed to share information with authorities about abuse allegations "either recently or many years past" is false.
But the organization was unable to answer other questions first raised by CBC News and its documentary series The Fifth Estate — including how many individuals have been suspended or terminated because of suspected abuse and whether the organization was searching its records to see if anyone may have slipped through the cracks.
Scouts Canada also declined Monday to respond to a report that said Scouts Canada has signed confidentiality agreements with more than a dozen sex abuse victims as part of out-of-court settlements in recent years.
The CBC quoted a former boy scout, Mark Johnston, who said he was forbidden from disclosing the amount of a settlement he signed with Scouts Canada.
"The fact that you're not allowed to talk about it, you feel victimized again," Johnston said.
But a Toronto lawyer says large organizations, including Scouts Canada, are much less inclined these days to press for sweeping gag orders than they were in the past due to public outcry.
Elizabeth Grace said there's been a general recognition that gag orders that prevent sex abuse victims from discussing the underlying allegations are "reprehensible and problematic" and are a fundamental breach of freedom of expression.
Grace, who has represented about 40 plaintiffs in lawsuits against Scouts Canada over the past decade, said she could not recall one occasion during the process of resolving a lawsuit when Scouts Canada sought to prevent a plaintiff from talking about the abuse he suffered.
"The more offensive, problematic kinds of confidentiality terms regarding what happened to a plaintiff, these are not being pushed to the same extent as they were at one time," she said.
Confidentiality agreements today tend to be more narrow in scope, typically revolving around the amount of the settlement, Grace said. And even in those cases, defendants are more open to allowing for exceptions, such as allowing plaintiffs to discuss details of settlements with their close family members or financial and legal advisers.
Defendants sometimes seek to prevent a plaintiff from disclosing the fact that there was a settlement and this can be a little more contentious, Grace said.
Rob Talach, a London, Ont., lawyer who has represented clients in lawsuits against the Roman Catholic Church, said Monday while public outcry has had a "persuasive effect" in reducing the number of defendants insisting on sweeping gag orders, the fact that they are still seeking confidentiality terms at all is problematic.
"Muzzling is still active and in play," he said.
Any time a victim steps forward, it has the potential to create a "snowball effect" and prompt other victims to come forward, Talach said.
"The public exposure is kryptonite for the sex offender," he said.
Source: Vancouver Sun