WINNIPEG – NEWS – In February 2010, allegations of sexual abuse at the Fort Alexander Residential School in the Powerview/Fort Alexander area of Manitoba were made to Manitoba RCMP’s Major Crime Services. Investigators began to gather information to determine what took place as well as the scope of the occurrences. A criminal investigation was launched in 2011.
On June 16, 2022, officers from RCMP Major Crime Services arrested retired Father Arthur Masse, 92, on a charge of Indecent Assault. The offence occurred between 1968 and 1970, when the female victim was 10 years old and a student at the school.
Masse was arrested at his residence in Winnipeg. He was released with conditions and will appear in court in Powerview on July 20, 2022.
Officers conducted archival research and spoke to or interacted with more than 700 people across North America throughout this investigation in an effort to locate any possible victims or witnesses. In total, 75 witness and victim statements were obtained by police. More than 80 RCMP investigators have been engaged with this investigation.
“The size and scope of this investigation has meant many years of investigative work,” said Sgt. Paul Manaigre, Media Relations Officer with the Manitoba RCMP. “While we have certainly had the steps involved in a police investigation top of mind throughout the whole process, we have also been very aware of the affect our investigation was having on the community. The emotional trauma experienced by victims of abuse is very real, and despite the years that intervened between the alleged occurrences and when police were investigating, that trauma is still present. Investigators were aware of that trauma and approached the investigation in a way intended to limit further injury.”
An important part of the investigative process was to ensure any potential victims were given time to consider their options and whether they wanted to relive their trauma by providing statements and potentially going through the court process.
This is the only investigation into residential schools underway by the Manitoba RCMP. With this charge, the investigation is concluded.
“Unfortunately, due to the passage of time, many of the victims were not able to participate in the investigation, whether that be for mental or physical health reasons or because the victim is now deceased,” said Manaigre.
Investigators have followed up on the leads generated through archival research, door-to-door canvassing, and interviews and statements. In consultation with Prosecution Services, it has been determined that there will be no further charges in relation to these allegations.
Important information for survivors of sexual assault
Under the Criminal Code of Canada, individuals under 18 years old cannot consent to sex where the other consenting party is in a position of trust, authority or there is a dependency on that person.
There’s no time limit to report a sexual assault to police. Even if you were assaulted years ago, you can still report it to police. Many survivors do not report right away, and choose to do so later in their lives. Reporting a sexual assault can help you seek justice and start the healing process.
If you wish to report a sexual assault, you can contact your local police to make a report. If you choose not to report sexual assault to the police directly, you can report the crime through a third party.
Third party reporting is when someone else reports the crime to police. It allows survivors who do not want to report the crime directly to ensure police receive a report about the crime.
Klinic Community Health is able to receive third party reports from survivors of sexual assault who are 16 years and older anywhere in Manitoba.
In this process, the survivor completes a form with the support of a Sexual Assault Crisis Program worker, and this information is sent to police without the survivor’s identifying information.
For more information on third party reporting please contact Klinic’s 24/7 Sexual Assault Crisis Line at 204-786-8631 or toll free at 1-888-292-7565.
A National Indian Residential School Crisis Line (1-866-925-4419) has been set up to provide support for former Residential School students. You can access emotional crisis referral services. You can also get information on how to get other health supports from the Government of Canada.