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Canadian organizations grapple with Jean Vanier's legacy after sex abuse report

Last Updated Feb 24, 2020 at 3:49 pm EDT

Jean Vanier, the founder of L'ARCHE, gestures as he talks during a news conference, in central London, Wednesday, March 11, 2015. Canadian schools and organizations associated with the late Jean Vanier are facing difficult decisions in the wake of a report that found the once-revered figure sexually abused at least six women.THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Lefteris Pitarakis

Canadian schools and organizations associated with the late Jean Vanier are facing difficult decisions in the wake of a report that found the once-revered figure sexually abused at least six women.

Trish Glennon, a community leader at l’Arche Daybreak in Richmond Hill, Ont., said she hopes the revelations about the group’s founder won’t taint public perception of the non-profit dedicated to people with intellectual disabilities.

She says that for the moment, staff and volunteers at L’Arche are processing their own feelings of shock and betrayal and have been focused on supporting their members with intellectual disabilities and their families. She says it’s still too soon to know what longer-term steps the international organization will take to address Vanier’s now-tarnished legacy.

L’Arche International said in a report that Vanier — a prominent Canadian Catholic figure who died last year at the age of 90 — had “manipulative sexual relationships” with at least six women between 1975 and 1990 in which he “used his power over them to take advantage of them.” The women were not disabled.

A number of Catholic schools across Canada are named after Vanier, and some have also begun debating whether to strip his name from their institutions.

At least one Ontario Catholic school in Milton is already considering a name change, while the Regina Catholic School Division says it expects to have conversations with the school community as well as the Archdiocese before making a decision.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2020



The Canadian Press