Canadian police charge Roman Catholic priest with sexual assault

TRENTON, Canada

A 92-year-old Roman Catholic priest has been charged in a decade-long investigation into sexual abuse at a former residential school, Manitoba police said at a news conference Friday.

Retired father Arthur Masse is accused of sexually abusing a 10-year-old girl at the former Fort Alexander boarding school. The incident is believed to have taken place between 1968 and 1970, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said.

Masse was arrested Thursday at his home in Winnipeg, police said following an investigation opened in 2011.

The indecent assault charge came after more than 700 people were contacted by more than 80 investigators. They obtained 75 witness and victim statements, which resulted in the charge against Masse.

“This arrest is the culmination of a decade of work by RCMP investigators, who could not have brought this case to a successful conclusion without the incredible bravery of victims and witnesses who were willing to relive past trauma and speak of what happened,” said RCMP spokesman Sgt. Paul Manaigre.

Police also said the alleged victim showed remarkable resilience during the lengthy investigation.

“The victim in this case endured a lot throughout the investigation process and stood firm in speaking out about what happened to her,” Manaigre said.

The Fort Alexander Indian Residential School under the care of the Roman Catholic Church operated between 1905 and 1970. It was located on Sagkeeng First Nation territory and had a reputation for abuse, according to testimony from alumni of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The commission was created to listen to residential school survivors and their families from across Canada.

Religious orders of the Roman Catholic Church operated approximately 60% of the 139 residential schools, with the remainder operated by other churches. The first school opened in the 1820s and the last closed in the 1990s. Indigenous children were often removed from their families and forced to attend as the Canadian government of the day attempted to eradicate Indigenous culture .

Around 150,000 students attended and it is believed that around 4,500 died of disease and malnutrition and a significant number were victims of physical, mental and sexual abuse.

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