2-year jail sentence for Winnipeg pastor who sexually abused children

Winnipeg Free Press/February 9, 2016

By: Mike McIntyre

A long-time former Winnipeg priest is headed to prison after admitting to years of sexual abuse against three young boys he took under his care.

Rev. Ronald Leger, 77, the former head of Holy Family Parish on Archibald Street, was given a two-year sentence on Tuesday under a joint recommendation from Crown and defence lawyers. Leger had previously pleaded guilty to three charges of sexual assault and one charge of sexual interference.

Leger was arrested in early 2015 after the victims went to police following years of silence.

Two of the victims were attacked in the 1980s, while the third was molested between 2002 and 2004. They were between the ages of nine and 18 at the time of the abuse.

All three presented powerful victim impact statements which were read aloud by Crown attorney Debbie Buors on Tuesday. They described ongoing feelings of anger, anxiety, depression and even suicidal thoughts. All expressed a loss of faith in the church.

"These were young, vulnerable children at the time," said provincial court Judge Wanda Garreck upon hearing the facts.

Leger read his own statement out loud, expressing hope that his prison sentence will bring a sense of justice and closure to the victims.

"I hope my punishment will be an aspect of the healing process," he said. "I’m very sorry for the hurt I caused to you and your families. I pray you will find peace in your heart."

Defence lawyer Saul Simmonds said his client continues to have strong community support and will have a difficult time behind bars, especially while battling health issues such as high blood pressure and arthritis.

"For a man of his age, to be saddled with a two-year sentence is not a minor matter," said Simmonds. He described Leger as "genuinely remorseful."

"The sadness of the entire situation all around is extreme," he said.

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