Accused priest, archdiocese under fire

An Ottawa parishioner shared her frustration to CBC News a day after her former parish priest, Fr. Joseph LeClair, was charged with fraud over $5,000, as well as other charges.

Joseph LeClair, 55, alleged to have misappropriated more than $240,000

Police allege Father Joe LeClair misappropriated more than $240,000 while serving as priest at Ottawa church. 2:33

Shock and frustration is running through a Catholic parish in Ottawa after its former priest was charged with defrauding the church of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Father Joe LeClair, seen here in a video for You know who I am, an organization aimed at de-stigmatizing mental illness. (

Joseph LeClair, 55, has been charged with one count each of fraud over $5,000 and theft over $5,000, as well as criminal breach of trust and laundering proceeds of crime.

LeClair, who originally hails from Prince Edward Island, is alleged to have misappropriated more than $240,000 in cheques from the parish between January 2006 and May 2011.

Police also allege $160,000 in cash revenues were unaccounted for, while about $20,000 in furniture and household items belonging to the parish were taken from the rectory when LeClair left.

A portion of those items was recovered at a residence outside of Ontario, police said.

Archdiocese filed complaint

An Ottawa police investigation was sparked when Ottawa's Catholic archdiocese filed a complaint in August 2011.

The audit was initiated following a media report LeClair had racked up large credit card bills, as well as the discovery the church had few financial controls.

Parishioner Holly Doan, whose son was baptized at Blessed Sacrament, said her husband was disillusioned in response to the fraud charges. (CBC)

One parishioner CBC News spoke with was frustrated at the reactionary response from the church and LeClair's activities. Holly Doan said the church trusted LeClair too much, adding it is "too late" to put more controls on the financial freedom of priests.

She also called LeClair "a sinner".

In the past, members of the congregation have maintained a common attitude wishing for LeClair's repentance and wishing him well in his rehabilitation.

Archdiocese promises "greater controls"

The archdiocese also commented Wednesday with a statement describing how they plan to review the monitoring of priests.

"The events concerning Fr. LeClair which have come to light over the past year have obliged us to review our expectations of priests, as well as our care of them," said Rev. Archbishop Terrence Prendergast.

"The events of the past year have also led our archdiocese to institute a new protocol for the financial administration of our parishes. The protocol calls for greater controls, accountability and review."

LeClair had attracted a following in his 13 years at the Blessed Sacrament Church in Ottawa's Glebe neighbourhood and had a reputation as a charismatic speaker and community leader.

He stepped down in May 2011 amid allegations he had misappropriated church funds.

LeClair was released on Tuesday with a promise to appear in court July 25.