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Former Winnipeg priest facing sex assault, interference charges

01/06/2015 06:28 EST | Updated 03/08/2015 05:59 EDT
Father Ronald Leger said he will plead not guilty to three sexual assault charges and one charge of sexual interference brought against him.

Two of the sexual assault charges date back to the 1980s.

The remaining two charges go back to 2002.

The 76-year-old priest used to head up Holy Family Parish on Archibald Street and founded Teen Stop Jeunesse (TSJ).

'I was completely shocked,' says former student

Patrick Leblanc, a former student of Leger's who helped him get TSJ started, said he was shocked to hear of the allegations registered against Leger.

"I was completely shocked," said Leblanc. "I am having trouble putting this together in my mind."

Leger was formerly Leblanc's math teacher. He said he has known Leger for 40 years and that he is still holding out hope that the case isn't as bad as it seems.

"I am hoping in the end, it's not quite what it's been made out to be," said Leblanc.

Leblanc, who commented in his capacity as a former student of Leger's and not on behalf of TSJ, said prior to the recent charges, he had never heard any incriminating stories about Leger.

"Over the time that I have known Ron, there has never been any rumours, there has never been any innuendos, there's never been any talk like that," said Leblanc. 

"I think back to the Theo Fluery ... thing. There was always rumours on those hockey teams and so forth, so I still find it very hard to believe."

Archdiocese taking allegations seriously

The Archdiocese of St. Boniface said it has been cooperating with Winnipeg police since it learned about the investigation in February of 2014.

Catherine Green, president of the board of directors for TSJ, said Leger hasn't been a part of the organization for more than two decades.

"It's not appropriate for us to comment because Father Ron hasn't been actively involved in Teen Stop Jeunesse for over 20 years," said Green.

In an emailed statement, the Archdiocese expressed “deep sorrow to the victims who have come forward as well as to their families and the entire parish community of Holy Family who have been affected by the alleged actions by their former pastor."

The Archdiocese went on to say in the statement that it will help “those victims who have come forward as well as those who have not yet made known their suffering.”

In an interview with CBC Tuesday night,  Archdiocese spokesperson Léonce ​Aubin added the church is taking the allegations very seriously.

"We take it seriously, these allegations, and we don't brush them off," said Aubin. "And if some need some counselling, you know of different types ... or to be accompanied in their struggles, we are with them."

CBC Radio Canada reached Leger in Montreal where he is currently living.

He said he will plead not guilty and he has the support of his current order.

His court date is set for the end of the month.

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