Scouts abuse review shows need for oversight, lawyer says
A lawyer who represents childhood abuse victims says individuals who failed to report sexual abuse inside Scouts Canada should be held accountable.
Robert Talach, a London, Ont. lawyer, says that the review commissioned by Scouts Canada of its sex abuse confidential files is a step in the right direction, but the public still does not know who inside the organization made the decisions not to report cases to the authorities.
He says it is possible some people inside Scouts Canada "placed the reputation of the organization above the plight of the individual."
Talach points out that in the KPMG report there’s a reference to a policy suggesting that when terminating membership, staff should consider handling it at the provincial level rather than send it to the national office.
He noted that there were at least 65 new cases not reported to the police and 13 of those were after 1992, when it became mandatory to report such abuse.
The new cases surfaced Monday when Scouts Canada released the findings of a review of hundreds of confidential files on leaders who were thrown out over abuse allegations.
Talach points out that one of the ways to prevent childhood sexual abuse is to examine "how, institutionally, this happened." He feels this was not done as part of the KPMG review.
Scouts tighten record keeping
Scouts Canada says it has tightened the rules around record keeping, made it clear police have to be called when someone alleges abuse, and is taking steps to better screen those who come into contact with young scouts. Leaders will also receive better compulsory training.
Talach wonders if a 90-minute online training session that the Scouts announced is enough. "I think it demands a little more attention."
He also worries that police screening may provide a false sense of security. "All police screening says is that this person hasn’t been caught yet."
Talach would like to see "more teeth" in Canada’s child protection legislation.
"There’s a bigger fine for pirating videos than for not reporting child sexual abuse." He says the various governments have to take up the cause of child abuse and consider an agency to handle current and historical cases of child abuse.
But most important, Talach says, is that everyone, especially organizations like Scouts Canada, needs to stay constantly on guard.
"An organization that deals with that many children will in perpetuity, be attracting sex offenders … you have to be eternally vigilant."
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