(Winnipeg) Retired priest Arthur Masse, 92, has been charged after a decades-long investigation at the Fort Alexander Indian Residential School northeast of Winnipeg, police said.Manitoba RCMP.
Posted at 2:35 p.m
Arthur Masse is charged with an indecent assault on a 10-year-old girl who was a student at a boarding school, the RCMP said. The incidents in question happened between 1968 and 1970, when Arthur Masse was working for the establishment.
The Residential School opened in 1905 in the Fort Alexander community, which later became the Sagkeeng First Nation. The facility closed in 1970.
Chief Derrick Henderson admitted this arrest has reopened old scars.
“People have been talking about it for years, but did the population believe them? That’s always the hardest part,” Mr. Henderson replied.
The RCMP became aware of allegations of sexual abuse at this boarding school in 2010.
Officers then interviewed more than 700 people across North America during their investigation and obtained testimonies from 75 victims and witnesses. More than 80 investigators worked on this file.
Police said the investigation involves reviewing archived school records, including student and staff lists.
RCMP Sergeant Paul Manaigre recalled that the trauma of sexual abuse can last for many years and that he felt it during the investigation.
According to the police officer, the investigation made it possible to find more victims and other aggressors linked to this boarding school. But over time some people died, in other cases there was not enough evidence to make arrests, or some victims did not want to report them.
“It’s a traumatic experience. Some of them don’t want to experience it again. That’s something we understand,” he said.
Arthur Masse was arrested at his home in Winnipeg and will appear in court Monday.
A boarding school already known for its harsh methods
Fort Alexander boarding school already had a reputation for being a school where abuse was commonplace.
During testimony before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, survivors testified that they were deprived of food and subjected to sexual abuse and severe discipline. More than 20 First Nations children attended the boarding school for about 10 months each year.
Sagkeeng First Nation recently discovered 190 anomalies using ground-penetrating radar during an archaeological dig near the school.
Initial data shows certain irregularities are linked to graves, but community leaders have warned more information is needed before a decision is made.
Chief Henderson was surprised to learn of Thursday’s arrest. He said the retired priest often attended hockey games and other community events.
However, he insisted that while such arrests stir up buried emotions, it is important to get the truth out.
“This is another step in this story, another chapter in the history of boarding school abuse,” he said.