Scouts Canada turned out to be a haven for at least one pedophile, an investigation by CBC News has revealed, and his now-adult victims are still struggling to heal—and get justice.
The network reported that former Anglican priest Ralph Rowe, also a pilot and Scoutmaster, is “one of Canada’s most prolific pedophiles, but not well known outside of the northern communities where he used his positions of authority to prey on boys.”
As the U.S. grapples with former football defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky’s molestation of eight boys at Penn State University between 1994 and 2009—as well as the failure of people in key positions to report the abuse they witnessed—dozens of aboriginal men and their families are coming to grips with similar crimes in their remote First Nations communities in Manitoba and Ontario.
In these cases it was not a university but Scouts Canada that did nothing to stop the abuse, according to recently settled lawsuits and other allegations. And rather than eight boys, it was dozens.
In all, Rowe has been convicted on more than 50 charges of child sex abuse that he perpetrated during the 1970s and 1980s, CBC News reported. It was during his time serving in First Nations communities, many of them fly-in only, conducting church services, organizing youth groups and leading scout trips. He had been involved with the Scouts since the ’50s, CBC News said.
“Rowe started several scouting groups in the Wunnumin Lake community,” CBC News reported on October 24. “He abused boys on scout camping trips, church outings, at his cabin and even at an out-of-province Scout jamboree.”
Two or more suits against Scouts Canada related to Rowe’s molestation of dozens of boys in northern Ontario and Manitoba First Nations communities were settled out of court recently, CBC News said. Both contained confidentiality clauses. Although the silence is supposed to apply only to discussion of monetary terms, many victims have felt they are not allowed to talk about any aspect of their cases, CBC News said.
Since the settlement of those cases, which involved 39 plaintiffs, 24 more Native men have come forward, The Star reported on November 8.
Rowe tended to churches in 20 First Nations communities, “the perfect cover for a pedophile,” the newspaper noted. The 24 men who came forward recently filed complaints with the Ontario Provincial Police, but they may not get a chance to face their abuser: In 1994 Rowe cut a plea deal with the Crown stipulating that he would not face more jail time if any more cases surfaced, The Star reported, if they predated the other offenses and were no more serious.
Victims have told both The Star and CBC News about glue-sniffing, substance abuse and other psychological problems stemming from their need to forget.
The Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) runs a support group called the Ralph Rowe Survivors Network, according to The Star. It has received $1.5 million in funding from the Ministry of the Attorney General since 2005. Deputy Grand Chief Mike Metatawabin told The Star that 18 suicides may have been at least indirectly caused by Rowe's abuse. Moreover, there are probably many more victims who have not come forward, he said.
“The damage this person did to many innocent young men while he was working has caused so much dysfunction to many families,” Metatawabin told The Star. “These men definitely want to go to trial. They want to face Rowe.”