The Archdiocese of Vancouver has established an external office to handle clergy abuse cases. Register file photo

Counselling offered to Vancouver clergy abuse victims

  • September 16, 2020

VANCOUVER -- The Archdiocese of Vancouver is following through on the first recommendation in last year’s clergy sexual abuse report by establishing an external office to handle clergy sexual abuse complaints.

The archdiocese has entered into an agreement with Coquitlam-based Denis Boyd and Associates, an independent, non-denominational counselling agency, to provide victims of clergy sexual abuse with confidential support.

Last year’s report said the archdiocese should receive complaints through an intake office “staffed by individuals specifically trained to deal with the complexities of clergy sexual abuse.” Archbishop J. Michael Miller added that the office “should be independent of the archdiocese and function at ‘arms reach.’ ” Until now, complaints of sexual abuse by clergy were made to archdiocesan personnel.

“We haven’t done anything quite like this, before,” said Denis Boyd, noting however that his group has had contracts with major companies and unions to provide counselling for large groups of staff.

His practice includes 22 professionals, some of whom have significant experience in dealing with sexual abuse and trauma.

Social worker Jennifer Foster will be doing the bulk of the initial discussions. She said it’s especially meaningful that the counselling group is independent.

“The fact that we’re a separate entity is key,” she said. “I hope it will offer people comfort and confidence, knowing that there’s no bias in the people they’re speaking with.”

The archdiocese is funding the initiative to ensure no cost to the callers, but will not be involved in the delivery of the service.

While Boyd and Associates will offer counselling for victim survivors and their families, they can also help individuals who want to file an official report for investigation.

Boyd expects some people may need to take a number of months before deciding to come forward.

“We’re opening up a history of pain,” he said. “People have dealt with their experiences the best way they could, by putting them away somewhere. But the reality is there are new therapeutic tools that will help them navigate through that to a healthier place.”

Foster emphasizes the value of professional counselling.  

“Disclosing information like this can overturn the applecart in more ways than people might anticipate. It needs to be safe. There’s a team of people here with many different skills who can be supportive” in ways an archdiocesan official cannot be.

“The Archdiocese of Vancouver is firmly committed to eradicating the evil of clergy sexual abuse,” said Miller. “We sincerely hope that by taking this step to appoint a third-party independent agency to handle the intake process and provide support, victims will feel more comfortable to come forward and find healing and justice.”

The number to call to report clergy sexual abuse is (604) 363-7338.

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