350 Scouts Canada sex-abuse files under review

An outside company has begun the massive task of sifting through Scouts Canada records of suspected or alleged sex abuse, totalling about 350 cases since the 1940s.
Scouts commissioner Steve Kent issues a video apology to former scouts who were abused 6:07

An outside company has begun the massive task of sifting through Scouts Canada records of suspected or alleged sex abuse, totalling about 350 cases since the 1940s, the organization says.

Steve Kent, Scouts Canada's chief commissioner, reiterated his apology to former scouts who were abused, in an interview Friday. (CBC)

In a wide-ranging interview with CBC News on Friday, Steve Kent, the youth organization's chief commissioner, revealed that consulting firm KPMG received the files last week or the week prior.

Though a public report is expected early in the new year, Kent says the company will be given as long as necessary to complete a thorough review.

"Some of these files are 65 years old so the information's not always complete, [and] the files are not always consistent in format," said Kent.

The interview took place a day after Scouts Canada announced the external review of its confidential files, issued a blanket apology to former scouts who were sexually abused by its leaders and promised an expert panel would examine its child protection policies.

In Friday's interview, Kent repeatedly reiterated the organization's apology to any members who came to harm, saying he "deeply and truly" regretted any harm of scouts.

"I firmly believe that an apology is the right thing," Kent said in the interview with CBC's Diana Swain at Scouts Canada's national headquarters in Ottawa. "But that's just one step. It's important that we acknowledge how deeply sorry we are for any harm that's been done.

"But beyond that we also need to ensure that we learn from whatever mistakes occurred in the past."

Willing to lift confidentiality clauses

Scouts Canada says it is willing to lift controversial confidentiality agreements with sex abuse victims. (CBC)

Kent acknowledged that the apology was sparked by media scrutiny in recent months. An investigation by CBC-TV's The Fifth Estate that aired in October found that Scouts Canada kept a "confidential list" of pedophiles barred from the organization and discovered that Scout leaders abused more than 300 children over the past seven decades.

Scouts Canada's chief commissioner also addressed some victims' lingering concerns.

When pressed on the matter, Kent said that the organization is willing to lift controversial confidentiality clauses contained in some of its out-of-court settlements with child sex-abuse victims.

Scouts Canada has been criticized for including conditions that barred victims from revealing the existence of settlements in many cases but went as far as to forbid any mention of the abuse. Some victims felt muzzled and confused by the agreements.

However, Kent noted that factors such as the privacy of third parties may affect decisions about whether to fully lift confidentiality clause conditions. He encouraged victims to contact Scouts Canada to discuss their agreements.

"We don't want to prevent any of those people from telling their stories, if that's helpful in their healing, if they believe that that can help others then we want to do what we can to enable that," said Kent.

Don Wright, founder of the B.C. Society for Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse, applauded the retreat from confidentiality agreements.

"I think that's very significant because it's the secretive nature of the abuse which is one of the most damaging aspects of it," said Wright.

Public apology not enough: victim

Kent also said Scouts Canada's phone lines are open to sex-abuse victims if they'd like to talk about their experience. Counselling services are also available, he said.

They should be apologizing to us individually. They should be making more of an effort to us as individual victims.

"We want to do whatever we can to support those victims and we encourage them to contact us," said Kent. "We want to do the right thing."

Wright, who works with male victims of sex abuse, has called for the organization to go one step further and set up a compensation fund to pay for therapy required by victims.

While some former scouts who suffered abuse at the hands of their leaders applauded the review of files and policies, the apology has left some wanting.

Former scout Jason Davies was molested repeatedly over five years by Richard Turley, a Canadian pedophile who used the scouts to target boys in California and B.C.

"They should be apologizing to us individually," said Davies. "They should be making more of an effort to us as individual victims."

Turley case a breach of protocol

Turley molested at least eight scouts in the 1970s and '80s. The U.S. scouts agreed to refrain from going to the police if Turley left the organization. A former Boy Scouts of America official recently said that he hoped Turley returned to Canada and became "their problem." Turley did return to Canada and continued his trail of abuse.

The two scouting organizations operate separately but share information about barred members. Kent says they've discussed the breach of protocol in the Turley case with U.S. officials.

The troubling Turley case was uncovered by CBC-TV's The Fifth Estate.

Kent says Turley was added to the organization's so-called "confidential list" when they learned of his behaviour in the mid-1990s when police laid charges against him.

The chief commissioner says he hopes Scouts Canada's newfound transparency sends a message.

"This is difficult. This is difficult for all of us, but it's absolutely important that we hold ourselves accountable for whatever wrongdoing has happened in the past."

If you have more information on this story, or other investigative tips, please email investigations@cbc.ca.