A review of how Scouts Canada handled allegations of sexual abuse by its group leaders has found that dozens of cases reported to the organization were not passed on to the police.
Despite past assurances by Scouts Canada that it had informed police about "every record of abuse" within its ranks, the audit has found at least 65 instances where that did not happen.
Thirteen of those cases occurred after 1992, when the organization's policies changed to make it mandatory to report abuse. In a further 64 files, it was unclear whether information was shared with police, according to an independent review that the Scouts released Monday.
All those cases have now been reported to authorities, Scouts Canada assured.
Overall, Scouts Canada had auditing firm KPMG examine 486 records from 1947 to 2011 where adult scouting leaders were suspended or terminated on allegations of sexual misconduct against children and youth. The final tally found that in 328 cases, "authorities appear to have been aware of the situation before it came to the attention of Scouts."
Of the remaining 158 files, there is only evidence in 29 that the Scouts contacted authorities at the time.
CBC investigation prompted audit
Scouts Canada ordered the forensic review of its suspension and termination records following CBC's fifth estate investigation into how the organization dealt with past cases of sexual abuse.
Scouts Canada's chief commissioner, Steve Kent, said the review "found no systemic intent to cover up or hide incidents of abuse," though it did uncover cases where the youth organization did not handle incidents "with the rigour we would expect."
"Bad things happened in the past in many organizations. Scouts Canada, unfortunately, is no exception," Kent said. "We invested considerable time and money to ensure that no stone was left unturned."
In response, lawyer Rob Talach of London, Ont., who has represented victims of childhood abuse, said the KPMG report was "simply a documentary review" and it would be "bold" to draw conclusions about whether there was a coverup.
"Motives, intent, the reasons behind doing things are often not extracted until you get to interview the players involved. Reviewing the documents and the information they contained isn’t a solid enough foundation to exonerate yourself as an institution," Talach said.
"I think the more shocking number is, if you look at the cases when the police didn’t come to the Scouts first, their rate of reporting when they were the first to learn is only about 18 per cent. That tells that there was a systemic or cultural or institutional-wide resistance to report."
Kent acknowledged that the rate of cases that went unreported to authorities is "not a number that I'm particularly happy with."
"Any instances where things were not reported to authorities in a timely fashion — any instances are unacceptable," he said Monday.
But he added that the lapses didn't stem from malice.
"We found examples of individuals being unsure of how to report abuse, or whether it was necessary to report. In some cases, an offence was thought to be inappropriate for a Scouts leader, but not necessarily criminal in nature, and therefore did not require reporting to authorities," Kent said.
"In other cases, particularly in earlier decades, a victim’s parents would not agree to report to the authorities."
The KPMG review also found that in 14 instances, someone who was kicked out of the Scouts for sexual misconduct was allowed to continue to partake in the organization's activities. Three of those cases occurred after the rules changed in 1992. KPMG blamed some of those errors on a failure to inscribe the expelled volunteers' names on a central list that Scouts maintained.
In conjunction with the forensic review, Scouts Canada unveiled an updated framework for child and youth protection on Monday. Elements include new policies on bullying, abuse reporting and screening of volunteers. The organization said one of the steps it will take is to flag anyone who doesn't complete its volunteer screening in its central database so that they can't partake in any scouting activities.
In 2011, the fifth estate, in a co-investigation with the Los Angeles Times, looked at Scouts Canada's controversial system for recording the names of pedophiles who had infiltrated its ranks and had been removed from the organization. It was known as the "confidential list." The investigation followed a public legal battle involving the Boy Scouts of America, which paid out millions in legal settlements.
CBC first reported in October 2011 that Scouts Canada signed out-of-court confidentiality agreements with more than a dozen child sex-abuse victims in recent years.
Key documents shed light on the long history of records that the Scouts kept on alleged child abusers. Click here to see them.
Two months later, Scouts Canada issued a blanket apology to former scouts who were sexually abused by leaders. It also said at the time that it had 350 confidential files that it turned over, not to police, but to KPMG for its forensic review. The organization subsequently found 136 more dossiers that it handed to KPMG.
However, the apology maintained "that every record of abuse has been handled properly and shared with police."
In February, Scouts Canada's Kent acknowledged that his organization did not report all allegations of sexual abuse to police in past decades, contrary to its previous denials.
Meanwhile, earlier this month, an Oregon court approved the release of so-called perversion files compiled by the Boy Scouts of America on suspected child molesters within the organization over two decades, giving the public its first chance to review the files on 1,200 people.
The files, gathered from 1965 to 1985, came to light when they were used as evidence in a landmark Oregon ruling in 2010 that the Boy Scouts of America had failed to protect a plaintiff who had been molested by an assistant scoutmaster in the early 1980s. The U.S. scouting organization was ordered to pay the man $18.5 million US.
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