OTTAWA - Fr. Joe LeClair, a popular Ottawa priest who has been charged with theft, fraud and breach of trust, had his first court appearance postponed until Oct. 17 after one of his lawyers asked for more time to examine the evidence.

Defense counsel had only received disclosure of evidence in the previous week and also wished for pre-trial consultations with the crown, the lawyer told the court on Sept. 5. LeClair was not present.

LeClair was charged July 3 with one count each of theft, fraud, criminal breach of trust and laundering the proceeds of crime after a lengthy Ottawa Police Organized Fraud investigation that was launched more than a year ago following a complaint from the archdiocese of Ottawa about missing funds from Ottawa's Blessed Sacrament parish.

Over a review period from January 2006 to May 2011, police found $240,000 in parish cheques were misappropriated and $160,000 in cash that was not accounted for.

LeClair, who has served in the Ottawa archdiocese for 25 years, was largely credited with the revival of Blessed Sacrament parish in the Glebe neighbourhood. In the spring of 2011, he admitted to a gambling addiction after the Ottawa Citizen ran a series of articles revealing huge credit card debts and cash advances. The priest denied ever misusing parish funds to feed his gambling habit.

The archdiocese of Ottawa asked for a forensic audit around the same time the newspaper began its reports. After the audit was completed, the archdiocese filed the complaint.

Published in Canada

OTTAWA - The Ottawa Catholic District School Board has been fined $275,000 for its role in a 2011 classroom explosion that killed student Eric Leighton.

“As a school board ultimately we’re responsible for what happens in the schools,” said Julian Hanlon, director of education. “We’ve accepted that responsibility all along and this process will hopefully help bring some closure to the case, in particular for the Leighton family themselves.”

When Leighton tried cutting a 55-gallon drum in half with an angle grinder during his morning shop-class on May 26, 2011, the steel barrel exploded. The blast sent five students and A teacher to hospital, all of whom left with minor injuries except for Leighton. The Grade 12 student later passed away. He was 18.  

Charged in January under the Occupational Health and Safety Act with failing to provide instruction or supervision, failing to take every reasonable precaution to protect the workplace and failing to properly acquaint a supervisor with the handling of equipment, the board faced up to $500,000 in fines.

A media release from the Ministry of Labour stated that “the barrel the student was using had been washed out with flammable cleaner ... the barrel had been stored with its caps closed prior to the class project, allowing flammable cleaning vapour to accumulate.”

The family has called for a coroner’s inquest which is still being considered according to Dr. Roger Skinner, regional supervising coroner for Ontario east.

Published in Canada

OTTAWA - “I have never been in a church this big,” said one soon-to-be ex-Anglican priest to Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa in the sacristy of St. Patrick’s Basilica on Divine Mercy Sunday.

The occasion was a solemn Mass in the “Anglican Use” to receive some 40 members of the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada into full communion with the Catholic Church. The several dozen new Catholics will form a quasi-parish that, while fully Catholic, will celebrate the Eucharist according to approved liturgical books which draw upon their Anglican heritage.

Published in Fr. Raymond de Souza

A few weeks ago, I was shanghaied by one of my friends into attending a Bible study with Ottawa Christian Fellowship.

I must admit I was not particularly optimistic about this venture, given the brutal Ottawa winter in full swing at the time. Also, as a product of numerous retreats and Catholic conferences during high school, I was equally doubtful that I would learn anything new. So with a degree of scepticism, I followed my friend and her Bible study group into one of the major residences on the University of Ottawa campus.

Published in YSN: Speaking Out
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coptic egypt christians

Charles Lewis: We must open eyes to anti-Christian bigotry

Most of us take for granted the safety and peace of our houses of worship so when that is broken it is akin to being punched in the gut, Lewis writes.


Pope's homily