The Revictimization of
Irene Deschênes by the
Diocese of London, Ontario, Canada
We, the Justice for Irene Network are a group of professionals, artists, and social activists who are supporting Irene Deschênes who was sexually abused as a child by “Fr.” Charles Sylvestre. The photo on the left is of Irene when she was 10 years old which was taken by her abuser. In 2000, Irene Deschênes settled her civil suit with the Roman Catholic Diocese of London based on the statement by the Diocese that they had no knowledge of Sylvestre’s pedophile proclivities prior to her abuse. But in the words of the 2011 KMM legal decision [para 130] concerning one of Sylvestre’s other victims: “There was a cover-up by the Diocese. There was a cover-up by the Roman Catholic Church itself. The cover-up was for the benefit of the Diocese and church and at the expense of the victims”. (Irene was part of a 2006 criminal trial with 46 other victims in which Sylvestre pled guilty) The Diocese of London claimed they didn’t know but we know that they knew in 1962 . Now they are taking Irene to the Supreme Court of Canada to avoid a settlement based on the truth. We think this is unjust and simply re-victimizes our friend. It’s not about money, it’s about morality. If you would like to help, please read on!
How You Can Help
Become a Justice for Irene Supporter
You can become a Justice for Irene Supporter by going to our Contact page and using the Send us a Message form. When you sign up, you will receive media releases and information about our Network’s most recent actions. By becoming a Supporter, you will also help us gain strength in numbers as we address government bodies, the media and the church.
Write a Letter
The Justice for Irene Network sent a letter to Pope Francis on Jan. 16, 2021 requesting that he intervene in Irene’s case and ask Bishop Fabbro to cease and desist. If you would like to read the Network’s letter or if you would like to access our template letter to send your own letter to Pope Francis, go to the Supporters tab.
The Catholic Network for Women’s Equality (CNWE) has created a template which you can use to express your concerns to Bishop Fabbro about the Diocese of London’s appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. Go to the Supporters tab.
Make a Donation
We encourage the public to make a donation to Anova. Anova provides safe places, shelter, support, counselling, and resources for abused women, their children, and all oppressed individuals to find a new start. Donate to Anova here.
What Some of Irene’s Supporters Say:
I stand in support of Irene in her quest for justice and for just restitution. Sadly, her situation is not the only one I have heard about where the Catholic Church has misrepresented the facts about an abuser to force a survivor to settle for less money. I am rooting for Irene to prevail!Melanie Sakoda, SNAP Network
We at SNAP (Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests) stand in solidarity with Irene Deschênes and her decades long fight for justice and transparency. Irene has been a close friend of SNAP since she first met with our founder, Barbara Blaine in 1993 and has been a dedicated advocate for herself and other survivors over the course of those many decades. The sad reality is that Irene is in an uphill battle against an institution that is known for treating abusers with kid gloves but playing hardball with abuse victims. Irene is not alone in her battle, and as her case moves in the Supreme Court of Canada, we hope that she will get a decision that benefits her and other survivors as opposed to allowing church officials to continue to dodge transparency and responsibility.
Irene and her group have written to Pope Francis directly because he has the best ability to influence the way the bishops and other church officials treat victims of abuse. While we hope that the church will take a long hard look at how they fight victims at every legal turn with every legal technicality possible, we look forward to Irene’s chance to have her day in court and share her experiences with the people who can truly make a change — the secular justice system.
We stand with Irene and hope she prevails in Canada’s highest court. The hopes of survivors worldwide are with her as she moves forward with this fight.Zach Hiner, Executive Director, SNAP
The Justice for Irene Network is a team of intelligent, thoughtful, compassionate and courage driven visionaries…we foresee a time when no children or vulnerable people are abused and re-abused by powerful institutions, like the church.Dr. Kathleen Kevany, Dalhousie University, Truro, Nova Scotia
Anova stands in solidarity with Irene Deschênes and her fight against the Catholic Church, which continues to defend predators. Irene’s struggle for justice, accountability and transparency reveals how our society is built on inherently unequal and violent structures that continue to protect abusers instead of survivors. Irene’s strength and conviction in her fight for justice brings hope to other survivors. We stand with Irene and wish her success in holding the church and others accountable for their treatment of survivors of sexual abuse.Jessie Rodger, Executive Director, ANOVA