Saskatoon

Convicted sex offender Denis Hall running for Catholic school board

A candidate running for a seat on the Saskatoon Catholic school board is a convicted sex offender, CBC News has learned.

Church officials trying to convince candidate to withdraw from race

Denis Hall, a convicted sex offender, is running for a seat on the Saskatoon Catholic school board. (Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools' election website)

A candidate running for a seat on the Saskatoon Catholic school board is a convicted sex offender, CBC News has learned.

Church officials said they expressed concern around Denis Hall's nomination and encouraged him to withdraw his name from the ballot, but they stopped short of taking further action.

"I must say Mr. Hall listened and received those comments and I did express and encourage him to withdraw … I'll leave it to him to make a decision," said Father Kevin McGee, acting administrator for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon. Bishop Don Bolen was installed as Archbishop of the Regina diocese Friday. 

McGee noted he was surprised and dismayed when he heard Hall was running for a trustee position. 

"I have reason for serious concern that Denis is not suited for this position," McGee said. "Having said that, Mr. Hall has met the legal qualifications to run as a candidate. We trust in the electoral process and the wisdom of the electorate."

In 1981, Hall pleaded guilty to two charges of indecent assault, as well as two charges of having sex with females aged 14 to 16, according to court documents. He was pardoned in 1994, according to the documents. 

By law there's nothing stopping convicted offenders from running for election as school trustees. The Greater Saskatoon Catholic School Board told CBC News the board became aware Hall was running after nominations closed.

The school board said it has no choice but to let Hall run, under Saskatchewan's Local Government Elections Act. ​

GSCS also noted administrators have taken steps over the years to prevent Hall and his Young Athlete Sports camp from gaining access to GSCS students and buildings.

Fourteen years ago, then-Catholic Schools board chair Jerry Zimmer banned Hall and his sports group from setting foot in any Saskatoon Catholic school. For more than 40 years, Hall has run YAS Summer Basketball Camps in Regina and Saskatoon. 

In his online campaign biography, Hall said five of his children graduated from Saskatoon Catholic schools.

Banned from entering Catholic schools in city

In 2002, Hall was banned from entering any Saskatoon Catholic schools.

While it's unclear if Hall will withdraw from the race, he is still invited to participate in Tuesday's all-candidates' forum at E.D. Feehan High School, according to Derrick Kunz with the GSCS. 

Kunz noted the forum for school board candidates was being held after school hours, and said there would be "limited access" to any students. 

We've been working hard over the last 15 years to rebuild trust in the general community. So we are obliged to discern very carefully situations like this. -Blake  Sittler

CBC News has been unable to contact Hall.

Blake Sittler, who oversees the church's "safe environment" policy, also expressed his concern.

"We've been working hard over the last 15 years to rebuild trust in the general community. So we are obliged to discern very carefully situations like this," Sittler said.

No power to ban

Sittler and McGee expressed their concern for Hall's victims, but Sittler said they had no power to ban people like Hall from seeking election.

Diocese lawyer Dick Batten initially suggested a ban could be put in place, but then said any changes would likely have to be made by the provincial government.

There is a code of ethics for the province's Catholic school trustees. It states trustees shall live in a way "that reflects the teachings of the Church."

Ken Loehndorf, executive director of the Saskatchewan Association of Catholic School Divisions said the code is voluntary. He said individual divisions must set their own policy, and isn't sure regulations are warranted.

According to a written statement issued Monday by Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools, Hall qualifies as a candidate under provincial law and the division "has no legal recourse and is bound by the legislation."

"We will continue to take the necessary steps to ensure the safety and security of our students in the future," read the statement.

Corrections

  • A previous version of the story used the term "pedophile". The word has since been replaced with "sex offender".
    Oct 20, 2016 7:48 PM CT

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