Dalhousie Law Journal


Canada, church, paedophilia, criminal law, clergy, sexual abuse, physical abuse, children


In the last few years Canada's churches have been plagued by sexual abuse scandals from Newfoundland to British Columbia. Members of the clergy and of lay orders across the country have been charged with, and convicted of, criminal offences involving the physical and sexual abuse of children. Mediareports and television documentaries have emphasized the tremendous scope of the problem of clergy paedophilia, the seriousness of the harm done to the victims, and the irresponsible and sometimes heartless behaviour of church officials who received reports of such abuse. These stories have shocked the Canadian public and have given rise to a sense of crisis to which the law and society must respond. The purpose of this article is to explore the question of whether churches and religious organizations should be held criminally responsible for the acts and omissions of senior clerics who, in response to reports of clergy paedophilia, engage in organizational behaviour which is designed to protect the abuser and to promote the interests of the church or organization concerned, at the expense of past and future victims.

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Criminal Law Commons