Three Jesuits accused of sexual abuse were active in Kingston

The old Regiopolis College from a postcard circa 1910. Image from Toronto Public Library Archives.

Content warning: This article discusses sexual abuse and sexual abuse at the hand of religious authorities, and may be harmful or traumatizing for some readers.

Three Jesuit priests who worked in Kingston between 1930 and 2000 have been named on a list of accused sexual abusers of minors.

On Monday, Mar. 13, 2023, Jesuits of Canada (JOC) released the names of Jesuit members that have been “credibly accused” of sexually abusing minors. According to the release, three of the men — George Topp, William Savoie, and Lorne Trainor — spent time working at Regiopolis College (as it was known prior to becoming Regiopolis Notre Dame Catholic High School) and at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Kingston. All three have since died.

A letter from Father Erik Oland, Ontario’s provincial leader of the Jesuits of Canada, accompanied the release. Oland stated that publicly sharing the list of names was “the latest in a series of steps taken by the Jesuits of Canada since the 1990s to address the reality of sexual abuse and its aftermath.”

The list includes the names of Jesuits from 1950 to the present who have been credibly accused of the sexual abuse of minors, and is the product of a thorough review of Jesuit records. In addition to the archival records, investigations of historic allegations were undertaken by third-party consultants, the King International Group. Of the current 208 Jesuit members in Ontario, three men have had a credible accusation made against them. It should be noted that many of those men named on the list served at Indian Residential Schools and First Nations Territories, as well as high schools, colleges, and residences for boys.

Oland stated that the vast majority of cases came to light after the alleged perpetrator was deceased, and that some of those cases never went to criminal or civil litigation. “While as exhaustive a file review as possible has been done, it is still possible that other names may surface. The list must be considered a living document, which may be added to or modified in future as additional information is presented.”

To do so, the JOC are encouraging anyone who has suffered such abuse to notify the appropriate law enforcement or child-protection agency in the location in which the incident took place. They are further encouraged to contact Mr. William Blakeney, the JOC’s delegate for allegations of misconduct in Ontario. He can be reached confidentially via email at [email protected], or by mail to the Jesuits of Canada, 25 Jarry St. W, Montreal, QC, H2P 1S6.

Oland admitted, “We cannot rewrite the past. We do wish to contribute to reconciliation, to right past wrongs, and to rebuild trust. The undertaking of our audit and the decision to publish the names of those credibly accused express our commitment to transparency and accountability.”

The priest acknowledged though, “Not everyone will regard the publication of the list as a positive step. We are aware that seeing the name of an abuser in print can reopen old wounds. Nevertheless, we are publishing this list partly at the request of victims and victim advocacy groups to help promote healing, to recognize the magnitude of their trauma and suffering, to acknowledge their experience, and to promote justice and transparency.”

“The Jesuits of Canada, like the global Society of Jesus, are committed to walking with those whose dignity has been violated, in a mission of reconciliation and justice. Since the 1990s, we have learned much and been humbled and transformed by our encounters with victims of abuse. We know that we have more to learn. We ask your help in continuing to walk this path of healing,” Oland wrote.

St. Mary’s Cathedral from a 1910 postcard. Image from Toronto Public Library Archives.

The accused men with Kingston connections

George Topp was born in 1921, was ordained in 1951, and died in 1997. He has been accused of multiple credible allegations. Topp’s pastoral assignments were at Loyola College (Montreal), St. Mary’s University (Halifax), St. John Brebeuf Parish (Winnipeg), Regiopolis College (Kingston), Saint Paul’s High School (Winnipeg), Ignatius College (Guelph), Manresa Retreat House (Pickering), and St. Mary’s Cathedral (Kingston).

William Savoie was born in 1898, was ordained in 1930, and died in 1989. He has also been credibly accused of multiple allegations. His pastoral assignments were at St. Boniface College (Winnipeg), Campion College (Regina), Loyola College (Montreal), Ignatius College (Guelph), Regiopolis College (Kingston), and Regis College (Toronto).

Lorne Trainor, born in 1923, was ordained in 1960, and died in or around 2000. He too has been credibly accused of multiple allegations while working at his pastoral assignments, which were at Regiopolis College (Kingston), Gonzaga High School (St. John’s, Nfld.), Brebeuf High School (Toronto), and Ignatius College (Guelph).

Kingstonist reached out to the Algonquin and Lakeshore Catholic District School Board for information about the historic employment of the three men, but the board replied, “We have no information to provide.”

The only record that St. Mary’s Cathedral had of George Topp was in their necrology noting his death in 1997.

José Sánchez, Director of Communications of the JOC, provided a chronological record of the steps the Jesuits have been taking to address abuse over the last 30 years. For his part, Oland reiterated the JOC’s commitment to preventing abuse in the future.

“Abuse of any kind is a terrible betrayal of trust, and we are determined to do everything in our power to prevent it from happening again. We will continue to ensure survivors are heard and supported,” he stated. 

In a press release, the JOC state that they have established comprehensive procedures to receive and investigate allegations, and have put guidelines in place for reconciliation, healing, accountability, and prevention of future incidents. The religious organization said it enforces a zero-tolerance policy towards any form of abuse, which they indicate is a reflection of their commitment to creating a safe and supportive environment for all. 

In acknowledging that the list may be painful to survivors, family members, or even members of the general public, the JOC has provided access to trained third-party counsellors “to listen to you and support you. This service is free of charge and completely confidential. Please note that the service is for immediate emotional support rather than long-term counselling.”

Those who are more comfortable speaking to a woman in French can contact Hélène Côté at [email protected].

Those who are more comfortable speaking to a woman in English can contact Anne Macaulay at [email protected].

Those who would prefer to speak to a man in English or French can contact Jeff L. Nayman at [email protected].

Those who would like to speak to a Jesuit, in English or French, can contact Father Robert Foliot at [email protected].

First Nations, Inuit and Métis seeking immediate emotional support can contact the Government of Canada’s Hope for Wellness Help Line toll-free at 1-855-242-3310, or by online chat at hopeforwellness.ca. The National Indian Residential School Crisis Line provides 24-hour crisis support to former Indian Residential School students and their families toll-free at 1-866-925-4419.

Kingstonist has reached out to Kingston Police to find out if the JOC contacted local police about this public declaration, as well as what, if anything, local police can do for surviving victims. No response was received by time of publication.

Kingstonist has also reached out to the JOC to find out the definition of “credibly accused,” as well as the length of time and dates that the accused men served in Kingston, but no response was received by time of publication.

Kingstonist will update this article if/when more information becomes available.

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