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92-year-old charged following investigation into historic sexual abuse at Manitoba residential school


WARNING: This story contains details that are disturbing.

Manitoba RCMP have charged a 92-year-old Winnipeg man in connection with alleged sexual abuse that happened at a residential school more than 50 years ago.

Retired Father Arthur Masse of Winnipeg was arrested on Thursday and charged with one count of indecent assault in connection with an allegation of sexual abuse at Fort Alexander Residential School.

RCMP said the alleged incident occurred between 1968 and 1970, and involved a 10-year-old female student at the school.

The charge has not been proven in court.

Masse was released with conditions and will appear in court in Powerview, Man. on July 20, 2022.

RCMP received the tip about the alleged abuse in February 2010, with an official investigation beginning in 2011.

Manitoba RCMP Sgt. Paul Manaigre said officers interacted with more than 700 people across North America during the investigation, receiving more than 75 witness or victim statements during the investigation.

“Investigators combed through thousands of documents including student lists, employee lists, and quarterly returns in order to identify any possible victims,” he said.

Manaigre said this is the only investigation into residential schools Manitoba RCMP is involved with, and says the charge against Masse is the only charge that will be laid at this time.

“Unfortunately, due to the passage of time, many of the victims were not able to participate in the investigation, whether that be due to mental or physical health reasons, or because the victim is now deceased,” he said.

“The emotional trauma investigated by victims or abuse is very real, and despite the years that have intervened between these alleged occurrences and when police were investigating, that trauma was still present. Investigators were aware of that trauma and approached the investigation in a way intended to limit further injury,” he added.

The school was opened in 1905 in the community of Fort Alexander, which later became Sagkeeng First Nation, and closed in 1970.

In a statement, the Archdiocese of Saint Boniface said it was deeply saddened by the news of the arrest.

“Each time the heinous crime of sexual abuse is reported, all victims of such abuse, as well as their families and communities, are wounded again,” they said in a statement. “The Archdiocese of Saint Boniface wishes to stand in solidarity with all victims of sexual abuse and more particularly those who suffered this abuse while students at Indian Residential Schools operated by members of the Catholic Church.”

The archdiocese has a parish in Sagkeeng First Nation, and said it is important to reach out to parishioners, community members, the chief and band council.

“We wish to express our shame and sorrow. We wish to listen, to ask for forgiveness and to learn how the people of Sagkeeng might allow us to be part of their healing and reconciliation,” the archdiocese said.

The Indian Residential Schools Resolution Health Support Program has a hotline to help residential school survivors and their relatives suffering from trauma invoked by the recall of past abuse. The number is 1-866-925-4419.

With files from The Canadian Press Top Stories


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