Scouts Canada sex abuse files could be made public
Scouts Canada has no plans to publicly release confidential files relating to abuse allegations at the organization, but the files could eventually see the light of day through litigation, a lawyer specializing in sexual abuse law says.
"I think that at some point you could see the Canadian files in its totality made admissible in a civil proceeding," said Rob Talach, who represents clients suing both former leaders and Scouts Canada over allegations of abuse.
Talach's comments come as confidential files kept by the Boy Scouts of America on men they suspected of child sex abuse were released Thursday in the U.S. after a two-year court battle.
The release of the files involves 20,000 pages of documents the Scouts kept on men inside — and in some cases outside — the organization believed to have committed acts of abuse.
A review of how Scouts Canada handled allegations of abuse by its group leaders — prompted by a fifth estate investigation into the system, which recorded the names of pedophiles who had infiltrated its ranks and had been removed from the organization — found that dozens of cases reported to Scouts Canada were not passed on to the police.
Steve Kent, chief commissioner and chair of the board of governors for Scouts Canada, said in an email to CBC News Thursday that "every document that we have has been shared with police."
Kent said that in Canada it's necessary to balance "individual needs for privacy and confidentiality with the need to protect our most vulnerable citizens."
"We believe that at Scouts Canada we have achieved a good balance between these two concerns."
Talach said that in the case of Scouts Canada, all the names in the files would have to be redacted.
"At the end of the day, you’ll have to go back in certain cases I think and know the identities of those individuals, especially if it appears they may still be at large, if it appears there was a unique aspect to their abuse. So I could see something similar to this happening in Canada down the road."
Although Scouts Canada did not make the files public, it had the 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.
Kent said that the organization undertook the review because it is committed to showing leadership in child and youth safety.
"We wanted to ensure that we protected the privacy of children, youth and their families while simultaneously making sure that the appropriate authorities had the information they needed to deal with real and potential issues of child abuse," he wrote, adding that the Boy Scouts of America operates in a different environment in terms of legal and privacy requirements.
Kent said Scouts Canada was pleased that Boy Scouts of America was making the records available so the cases can be properly addressed.
"However, we feel sympathy for the people who may have chosen to keep their story private, and may find themselves reliving past and present pain, even though their names have been redacted from public view," he wrote.