How common is child sexual abuse in residential schools?

Written by Jonathan Lindsay, CNN

Canada is one of the few countries in the world that does not formally regulate residential schools, and the government has not conducted much research about the impact of the boarding schools.

Hundreds of thousands of indigenous children were sent to these institutions from the late 1800s through the 1970s.

Kirsten Robinson of NORAD University School of Public Policy and Governance at Concordia University argued that the RCMP should become involved in the investigation of residential schools cases to help “take away some of the obstacles and criticisms or criticisms of the current inquiry.”

Robinson, who is also assistant Professor of Public Policy at Humber College, also proposed that the matter be reviewed by an independent commission rather than a single inquiry to serve a greater goal, “a greater purpose to ensure meaningful progress.”

How often do police investigate cases?

Figures for Canada are limited, but police in the United States and United Kingdom have said that there is an absence of police investigations into crimes like sexual abuse. A quick search of a UK National Police Database revealed that “criminologists view the chances of officers finding victims and witnesses in the long-term of ‘unusual’ or particularly heinous crimes is remote at best.”

In April 2018, a British coroner’s court ordered the Metropolitan Police to provide an accounting of investigations into historic cases of alleged child abuse in Anglican and Catholic institutions for children between the ages of five and 18 in England and Wales.

In 2016, a UK tribunal overseeing the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (RCICSC) ordered the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) to review all recorded investigations of alleged sexual abuse and to submit a report to the government within one year.

Although it has not formally investigated residential schools cases, the NPIA has placed strong emphasis on investigating cases of child abuse in Catholic institutions. In the past two years, nearly 90,000 child abuse cases have been reviewed, mostly in Catholic institutions.

Former Bishop of the Diocese of Norwich Paul Bayes speaks at a news conference at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, December 19, 2006. The first multi-jurisdictional multi-disciplinary public inquiry into institutional child sexual abuse in the United Kingdom opened on December 19, 2006, in London. AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth

While the specific allegations can vary from case to case, one of the latest reports from the inquiry came from a woman who was raped as a 13-year-old at the Minto Country Post Office in Leicester. A suspected pedophile used the post office’s swimming pool as a gathering place, with children in position of authority over others that included the post master, postmaster’s assistant, the roadmaster and postmaster’s assistant’s son.

Survivors said at least 14 children were abused between June 1998 and March 2001, with assaults reportedly becoming more violent as the abuse progressed. One of the victims disclosed that she was sexually abused on the same day that her body was discovered in a car fire.

A criminal case against two of the accused – both named as Rosemary Thompson and Gerald Renouf – is ongoing.

Several survivors responded to the “investigation’s” progress, expressing skepticism about its significance.

“What I know is that (I) can’t see the point of a round-the-clock investigation, just one thousand and eight witnesses for 90 days, leaving all other issues in the states,” wrote one.

“It seems more like a ‘full house’ that’s been reassembled to sing more songs.”

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