May 02, 2006

Judge in Cornwall sex abuse inquiry will treat church like a 'public institution'

Ottawa Citizen

Zev Singer, The Ottawa Citizen; with files from the Canadian Press
Published: Tuesday, May 02, 2006
A judge's ruling yesterday that a Catholic diocese will be treated as a "public institution" at an inquiry into sexual abuse cases in Cornwall throws open the debate about the balance between church and state, says a University of Toronto expert on public law.

Justice G. Norman Glaude, the commissioner of the Cornwall public inquiry looking into allegations of sexual abuse in the Cornwall area, ruled yesterday that the Diocese of Alexandria-Cornwall would be open to the same level of scrutiny as the police and other publicly funded and controlled organizations.

Lorne Sossin of the University of Toronto said the ruling challenges the traditional definition that churches are private organizations.

"If churches are going to be considered public organizations, are they subject to other kinds of public duties and public obligations?" said Mr. Sossin. "Are they subject to the Charter of Rights in some circumstances or the other instruments we have for constraining government actions?"

Posted by kshaw at May 2, 2006 06:50 AM