Priest charged in Canada 50 years after assault at Indian boarding school

A former Catholic priest at an Aboriginal boarding school has been arrested and charged in connection with an investigation into sexually assaulting a student fifty years ago in central Canada, police said Friday.

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92-year-old Father Arthur Masse, now retired, has been freed and will appear before a judge in the province of Manitoba on July 20.

He is being prosecuted for indecent assault on a 10-year-old child at the time of the events, at the Fort Alexander boarding school between 1968 and 1970.

In Canada, there is no statute of limitations for sexual assault cases.

The Canadian police explained that they had investigated this case for ten years, which required a great deal of archival work. Nearly 700 people were questioned and 75 other victims or witnesses found.

“Unfortunately, due to the passage of time, many victims were unable to participate in the investigation, for mental or physical health reasons, or because the victim was deceased,” explained Sergeant Paul Manaigre of the Manitoba Federal Police at a press conference.

For the victim, “the thing that matters most to him today is to be heard,” explained Sergeant Paul Manaigre.

“At this time, this is the only residential school investigation undertaken in Manitoba and the only allegation made,” he said.

As in many other boarding schools, the former students of Fort Alexander had reported before a commission, a few years ago, having been victims of ill-treatment there (punishments, deprivation of food, etc.) And some had denounced the sexual abuse that they had suffered.

The boarding school was opened in 1905 and closed in 1970.

Between the end of the 19th century and the 1990s, some 150,000 Indigenous children were forcibly recruited into more than 130 residential schools across the country, where they were cut off from their families, their language and their culture, and where they were victims of abuse.

Thousands never came back.

Pope Francis is expected in Canada at the end of July, where he is expected to renew his historic apology for the violence perpetrated for decades in church-run residential schools for indigenous people.

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