Canadian child sexual abuse statistics are alarming. According to advocacy group Little Warriors, one in three girls and one in six boys will experience some type of sexual act, and 95% will know the person who abuses them. With a respected history of teaching children to be self-sufficient and law abiding citizens, parents trusted Scouts Canada to provide a high level of care and security to their children. Unfortunately, the trust parents had in Scouts Canada may have been betrayed. There have been numerous allegations of sexual abuse against Scouts Canada, as we outline below.

Sexual Abuse in Scouts Canada

A CBC investigation uncovered almost 80 cases of sexual abuse in Scouts Canada, dating from the 1950s to the present day. Each of these cases concerned active or former scout leaders that had committed some type of crime involving a youth in the organization. These crimes ranged from possession of child pornography to severe sexual assault. Other evidence suggests that more than 300 children were abused on some level by scout leaders over the same time period. Unfortunately some victims don’t realize they can pursue a claim even if the abuse occurred many years in the past, so they are never compensated for their emotional pain and suffering.

The Case of Richard Turley

A prime example of sexual abuse in scouting is the case of a man named Richard Turley. He was a young scout leader in both the Boy Scouts of America and in Scouts Canada. Today, he freely admits to molesting many young boys, and claims that if either of these organizations had intervened effectively, he wouldn’t have been able to keep doing it for so long.

He says that he was able to easily move between the groups and commit his crimes. He was asked to leave troops several times, which he did, but only after he’d been caught. Because parents and troop leaders declined to pursue legal charges against Turley, he was able to join other troops, where he continued to seduce boys with candy, alcohol, and porn.

Both scouting organizations were clearly aware of his actions, according to documents and witness statements. Some troops even had confidential files on Turley, but they failed to share information with other troops, the organization’s leadership, or the police. The record shows Scout troops and officials on both sides of the border tried to cover up for Turley’s abuse, in some cases dissuading parents from filing charges, and even transferring scoutmasters who complained about Turley’s behavior. Their actions in several incidents seems to indicate that they were much more concerned with protecting the reputation of the organization and shielding it from legal action than they were about the safety of the boys under their care. Turley’s abuses continued for many years because of their negligence.

Scouts Canada Tries to Cover up Abuse

Turley wasn’t the only perpetrator, yet how many others were involved in abuse isn’t known. Since 1995, at least two dozen victims have filed lawsuits against Scouts Canada, which they settled out of court, and they took steps to keep their legal settlements secret, burying important information that potentially could have prevented ongoing abuse. Another CBC News investigation sheds some light on this.

13 of these agreements included a confidentiality clause to prevent any of the victims from discussing the details of the case publicly. Information on how much they were paid and why, or even that such an agreement existed, was sealed. One specific agreement the CBC uncovered was a requirement from a former Scout to never admit publicly that the abuse occurred at all.

In 2012 Scouts Canada belatedly referred more than 100 cases of possible sexual abuse to the police for investigation.

Justice for Victims of Child Sexual Abuse in Canada

If you or someone you know has been the victim of sexual abuse, it’s important that you understand your legal options. For example, you can pursue criminal charges against the person that abused you, or file a lawsuit through the civil justice system seeking compensation for the harm caused by the abuse.

Criminal Charges

Criminal proceedings are intended to punish a perpetrator for their offenses. Once charges have been filed with the police, there will be an investigation, and the evidence will be handed over to a crown prosecutor, who will decide if charges will be filed. If the case is prosecuted, and the accused is found guilty, the court will decide the appropriate punishment. As a victim, you have very little influence over the proceedings or outcome.

Civil Compensation Claim

A civil case is intended to compensate a victim for harms and losses caused by the abuse. It’s possible to bring forth evidence in a civil case that wouldn’t be allowed in a criminal proceeding and in general, the victim has more control over the process. It’s also possible to pursue both criminal charges and a civil claim. Deciding the best course of action depends on the circumstances and requires the counsel of an experienced sexual abuse lawyer.

John McKiggan Q.C. has received national recognition for his work on behalf of survivors of childhood abuse. He has worked tirelessly to help victims of Scouts Canada obtain settlements for the abuse they’ve suffered. He and his team have decades of experience successfully litigating sexual abuse cases. It’s important for victims to understand that a claim can be filed for abuse even if it happened years in the past. If you or anyone you know has suffered abuse as a result of membership in Scouts Canada, we’d like to hear your story.