Jun 12/98: Sincerity of bishop in question


The Province
June 12, 1998, p. A24
Suzanne Fournier

[S.I.S.I.S. note: The following mainstream news article may contain biased or distorted information and may be missing pertinent facts and/or context. It is provided for reference only.]

Shuswap leaders doubt whether Catholic Bishop Hubert O'Connor is sincere about choosing to face his victims in a healing circle instead of a third trial for rape. He's never taken responsibility or admitted guilt for sexual assaults, so we doubt a healing circle would be effective without him being accountable and honest with us," said Soda Creek band Chief Dorothy Phillips. Agreed Canim Lake Chief Antoine Archie: "He's denied and denied the rape of our women all these years, and all of a sudden we're supposed to believe he's sincere? He has caused a lot of pain, not just for the women he hurt, but also to their families and our whole communities."

Archie emphasized that a healing circle is not "an easy way out" but a rigorous, gruelling process that requires an offender t be honest and understand the pain he may have caused. O'Connor, now 71, spent six months in jail after he was convicted in 1996 of the sexual assault of two teenage Shuswap girls in the 1960s, when he was their priest and principal at St. Joseph's Indian residential school near William's Lake. The parole board noted at the time that O'Connor was "remorseless" and refused treatment. But O'Connor was released in 1997 pending an appeal and on March 24, 1998, the BC Court of Appeal acquitted him on one sexual-assault charge and ordered a new trial on the other.

Yesterday, BC assistant deputy attorney-general Ernie Quantz said the Crown would appeal O'Connor's case all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada but is willing to permit O'Connor's lawyer time to "explore an alternative healing process." By agreement the time to file the leave application has been extended to permit Bishop O'Connor and appropriate members of the First Nations community to explore an alternative healing process," said Quantz. "If support is developed for a healing circle, the Crown will consider this factor in assessing the public interest in continuing criminal proceedings."

The Crown could drop the appeal if the healing process does proceed, Quantz told CBC radio. O'Connor's lawyer, Chris Considine, said his client, who is living in a Duncan monastery run by nuns, had a heart attack in 1995 and is in failing health. Considine has argued that O'Connor should not have to be put through another trial. O'Connor admitted to impregnating one Shuswap girl, whose baby girl was then adopted out. Several of his alleged victims testified in earlier trials the sexual assaults by O'Connor destroyed their religious faith and their trust in him as a father figure, priest and principal.

Letters to The Province: provedpg@pacpress.southam.ca

S.I.S.I.S. note: Sources report tremendous pressure on local band councils and victims to consent to a "healing circle" process to permit the high ranking BC cleric to avoid a rape trial. There were also allegations that bribes were offered to some witnesses to persuade them not to testify at trial. Deputy AG Quantz and the North Shuswap Band Council leaderships collaborated closely together during the Gustafsen Lake affair against the besieged Shuswap traditionalists of the Ts'peten Sundance camp in 1995. They are also deeply involved in the bogus and fraudulent BC Treaty Process.

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