He abused dozens of Indigenous children in Ontario. But did Jesuit priest’s painful legacy begin in Montreal?


WARNING: This story incorporates distressing particulars.

As a Jesuit priest in Ontario, George Epoch sexually abused dozens of children in the Sixties, 70s and 80s.

But Epoch’s abuse allegedly dates again even earlier, to the Nineteen Fifties, when he taught at Loyola High School, a non-public Catholic faculty in Montreal.

Two college students who had been half of Epoch’s 1957-58 preparatory class advised CBC News the priest inappropriately touched them. 

Alfred Martijn describes that 12 months as a depressing one, stuffed with worry and unease. In these days, it was obligatory for the prep college students to be boarders, so it was tough to elude Epoch.

Alfred Martijn describes the 12 months he spent in Father George Epoch’s class at Loyola High School in 1957-58 as terrifying. He is seen right here in the category picture from that 12 months. (Submitted by Bob Lemieux)

“When you might be confronted with one thing that is completely international to your upbringing, it is greater than a shock,” stated Martijn, who was 13 on the time of the alleged abuse.

“You do not know methods to deal with it. You simply do not know. And what takes over is worry. You are ruled by worry. It’s so simple as that.”

Confiding in his dad and mom was not an possibility, Martijn stated, as they believed the Jesuits might do no fallacious.

He additionally could not convey up the alleged abuse along with his classmates at college.

“How do you speak to anyone about it? You do not,” stated Martijn, now 77, in a video interview from his house in Belgium. “It was simply type of talked about in passing, ‘Hey, be careful for this man. He’s bizarre. He does humorous issues.'”

Following Epoch’s instructing stint at Loyola, he was assigned to parishes in Nova Scotia and a number of other Indigenous communities in Ontario. After his demise in 1986, many of Epoch’s alleged victims got here ahead to hunt monetary damages.

To date, the Jesuits have paid a whole bunch of 1000’s in compensation and for acceptable help to Epoch’s victims.

WATCH | Alfred Martijn describes his fears as a 13-year-old boy:

Alfred Martijn says he was focused at age 13

Martijn says he was inappropriately touched by Fr. George Epoch as a scholar at Loyola High School in the Nineteen Fifties.

From retreat home to First Nations group

After a number of quick postings, Epoch was assigned to Jesuit retreat homes in Beaconsfield, Que., a suburb of Montreal, in addition to Pickering and Guelph, Ont., between 1963 and 1969. 

These properties supplied weekend retreats for Catholics. The monks would hear confessions, supply mass and provides tutorial talks.

Patrick Wall, an American clergy abuse knowledgeable, suspects the Jesuits could have used these placements as a means of distancing Epoch from his goal inhabitants — younger boys.

“They should make that funnel smaller and smaller, the place they attempt to make it virtually not possible for him to reoffend,” stated Wall. 

The Jesuits of Canada denied any explicit significance to Epoch being moved to those properties.

Black and white photo of stately home.
Father George Epoch was assigned to the Manresa Jesuit retreat home in Beaconsfield, Que., in 1963-1964. The house was initially owned by Arthur Drummond however was bought to the Jesuits in 1946. The chapel is on the left. (Société historique Beaurepaire-Beaconsfield, assortment Mrs. A.T. Henderson)

In 1969, Epoch was assigned to be the priest in Wikwemikong First Nation, on Manitoulin Island in Northern Ontario.

This isn’t a surprise, stated Wall, as your entire church system was beneath assault and the Jesuits did not have sufficient monks to workers parishes.

“He’s an ordained priest who’s respiration, in order that they despatched him to essentially the most weak people who they’ve,” stated Wall. “It’s horrendous.”

Lawyer John Tamming represented dozens of Epoch’s alleged victims in Ontario. Most of them had been from the Saugeen First Nation or Cape Croker, which is positioned north of Owen Sound. Cape Croker is now referred to as the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation.

Epoch was the parish priest in these communities between 1971 and 1983.

“The extent of the harm he induced is actually staggering,” stated Tamming.

“It’s abuse upon abuse as a result of all of the dad and mom of my purchasers had been residential faculty survivors.”

Epoch’s personnel file was by no means disclosed, Tamming stated.

He was advised by one of the Jesuit attorneys that a big half of it was lacking, which he discovered suspicious, as it could have included indirect references to inappropriate behaviour in the Nineteen Forties, 50s and 60s.

The Jesuits of Canada stated any paperwork associated to Epoch and his assignments had been produced throughout discovery. The non secular order stated it’s not conscious of any counsel ever having been suggested that recordsdata had been misplaced. 

‘It’s one thing that is lived with me perpetually’

Bob Lemieux was in the identical class as Martijn at Loyola High School.  At first, Epoch handled him properly and praised his work, Lemieux recalled.

Bob Lemieux as a 12-year-old boarder in his preparatory 12 months at Loyola High School in 1957-1958. That 12 months, he was taught by Father George Epoch. He says the priest inappropriately touched him. (Provided by Bob Lemieux)

In hindsight, Lemieux wonders if he was being groomed.

One day, Epoch took him right into a classroom alone and forcibly kissed him and compelled his tongue into his mouth, he stated.

The incident despatched him right into a panic. When Lemieux returned house on the weekends, he cried and pleaded along with his dad and mom to not ship him again. 

“I used to be petrified,” stated Lemieux, 77, who now lives exterior of Kalamazoo, Mich. “It’s one thing that is lived with me perpetually.”

His dad and mom disregarded his protests. Lemieux figures they in all probability thought he simply did not like boarding faculty. He additionally grew up in an period the place the Jesuits had been trusted implicitly.

He did his finest to steer clear of Epoch after that, however lived in fixed worry, realizing he was weak if Epoch threatened him with extra sexual advances.

A gifted hockey participant who performed in the junior ranks and briefly with the Oakland Seals in the NHL, Lemieux stated it is in all probability no accident that he developed a popularity as a troublesome man.

Bob Lemieux says he hopes by coming ahead about his alleged abuse, it may well result in significant change in the Catholic church. (Provided by Bob Lemieux)

Decades later, when he heard in regards to the lawsuits in Ontario, he contacted the lawyer and supplied to testify. But the circumstances had been settled out of courtroom.

“I needed to ensure he was punished for his actions,” stated Lemieux, who has little question the Jesuits had been conscious of Epoch’s behaviour at Loyola.

Now, he desires to carry the church accountable.

“It’s time for me, so long as I’m alive, in the time I’ve left, I’ve to attempt to put my foot down and name these folks out,” stated Lemieux, who continues to be non secular.

“We can not settle for lame duck excuses.”

Calls for accountability

Martijn’s motivation in coming ahead is grounded in an analogous need to see the church make significant adjustments.

Frustrated by what he perceived because the church’s failure to deal with clergy sexual abuse, he shared his expertise about Epoch along with his classmates at their fifty fifth faculty reunion in 2018.

The following 12 months, the Jesuits of Canada employed a agency to comb by way of their personnel recordsdata for credible allegations of abuse relationship again 60 years and pledged to launch a listing of priest’s names. Martijn contacted them along with his story.

“I simply needed to be rid of this ghost which was haunting me,” stated Martijn, who recounted three distinct incidents the place Epoch allegedly touched him inappropriately.

Like Lemieux, he was invited to satisfy with Epoch alone, ostensibly to debate his report card. Martijn stated Epoch would lock the door from the within and ask him to take a seat on his lap. 

Father George Epoch taught at Loyola High faculty between 1947-1949 and once more from 1954-1958. He is pictured right here in the Loyola College Review’s 1956 yearbook. (Concordia University Archives)

On weekends, the classroom constructing was usually abandoned, so screaming was pointless, stated Martijn.

It was additionally tough to bodily deflect Epoch’s relentless advances as he was a giant man.

“You’re solely a 13-year-old child. You do not even weigh 50 kilos, you do not have an opportunity. When he wrapped himself round you, there was no query of resistance,” stated Martijn.

One day, he bit down on Epoch’s lip so laborious when the priest tried to kiss him, blood was spurting in all places.

“He was struggling to get me off and he was pushing me and pushing me and hitting me on the top along with his fist to get off, however I used to be so scared, I did not need to let go,” stated Martijn. He remembers Epoch sported a fats lip for fairly some time as a result of harm. 

Epoch by no means approached him once more, however Martijn stated the priest singled him out in class. Martijn developed a rebellious streak and, inside a couple of months, acquired a popularity as a troublemaker and poor scholar. Throughout his teenagers, Martijn struggled with self doubt and prevented bodily intimacy.

Jesuits urge victims to achieve out

When requested in regards to the abuse allegations, Loyola High School stated it was conscious of Epoch’s “devastating historical past of sexual abuse” in different communities on account of media studies.

In the Nineteen Fifties, the varsity was instantly administered by the Jesuits.

“Any accusations on the time would have been dropped at their consideration, and subsequent information would equally be held by the Jesuits,” stated Loyola High School’s principal, Mark Diachyshyn.

Diachyshyn stated the security and safety of Loyola’s college students is of the utmost significance. There at the moment are strict authorized procedures in place on the subject of reporting a suspected incident of baby abuse.

The Jesuits of Canada declined an interview request. In an electronic mail, spokesperson José Sánchez stated that as quickly as abuse allegations in Ontario surfaced in the Nineteen Nineties, the non secular order’s attorneys examined the Jesuits’ information for earlier complaints.

Epoch taught at Loyola between 1947-1949 and once more, after he was ordained, from 1954-1958.

“There is nothing in the Jesuit recordsdata that signifies that any criticism was ever made in opposition to Fr. George Epoch, who appeared to have been a preferred instructor at Loyola,” Sanchez stated.

In the Nineteen Fifties, Loyola College and High School had been instantly administered by the Jesuits of Canada, a spiritual order of the Catholic Church. (Simon Martel/CBC)

Although a couple of folks alleged they suffered abuse in Halifax and at retreat homes in Ontario, most of Epoch’s victims got here from First Nation communities the place the priest lived by himself, exterior of a Jesuit group.

“It had been considerably naively assumed that Epoch can be much less prone to take benefit of younger folks in prosperous city communities the place he would have been residing in a Jesuit group,” Sanchez stated.

“This doesn’t seem to have been an accurate assumption.”

Sanchez stated the Jesuits first realized there may be potential victims from Loyola in 2018 when CBC printed an article about intercourse abuse allegations in Halifax that included a photograph of Epoch in entrance of Loyola High School round 1958.

The Jesuits confirmed one scholar from Loyola later contacted them about his alleged expertise with Epoch. The order was not conscious of any additional victims till contacted by CBC.

“Given the next incidents of abuse which have been substantiated in different communities, we sincerely hope that anybody who skilled hurt will attain out to us,” stated Sanchez.

Every candidate that now applies to the Jesuits undergoes a psychological analysis. If admitted, they’re frequently evaluated at key factors throughout their coaching to gauge their private improvement and suitability for the priesthood, Sanchez stated.

Although the Jesuits promised to launch the names of monks accused of sexual abuse by January 2021, the audit was postponed as a result of the archives had been closed through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Work started once more in August, however there isn’t a date for completion but.

Martijn hopes the audit will result in a system that can expedite complaints of wrongdoing — in any other case, it is a waste of money and time.

“The solely approach to break by way of the tradition of silence is to teach the individuals who have been harmed to return ahead in order that they know that they’ve a voice,” stated Martijn.

Support is on the market for anybody affected by this report. You can speak to a psychological well being skilled through Wellness Together Canada by calling 1-866-585-0445 or textual content WELLNESS to 686868 for youth or 741741 for adults. It is free and confidential.


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