Beardy cleared after police investigation

Published September 1, 1998

No criminal charges will be laid by the Ontario Provincial Police following an investigation into the use of proceeds of a walk for Native healing by Keewatin Bishop Gordon Beardy.

But the stress of the investigation and its attendant publicity led Bishop Beardy to cancel his planned trip to Lambeth this year.

The OPP began the investigation in the spring after a complaint by Ron Risley, a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of former Anglican priest Ralph Rowe, that Bishop Beardy had used the healing fund to pay for flying lessons for a victim.

Mr. Risley charged that the use of the healing fund for flying lessons, rather than counselling, is a betrayal of the purpose of the fund and an insult to victims. He said it contravened the purposes listed when the fund-raising venture began.

But Det. William O’Lynick of the Kenora OPP says police found no evidence to substantiate a criminal charge. “From what we looked at there was nothing to indicate an offence has been committed,” he said.

Bishop Beardy, who was interviewed by the OPP, said he just wants to continue “helping people” in whatever way he can. “Every abuse victim has a different way to heal.”

The bishop defended the grant for flying lessons when the controversy initially arose in March by saying the young man had asked him for help, and he gave it, matched by a grant from a Native band.

Mr. Risley, whose complaints to the Winnipeg Free Press, then the OPP, sparked the controversy over the healing fund, remains convinced Bishop Beardy was wrong in spending the money on flying lessons.

Mr. Risley, the son of a former Anglican priest, said he was irked that church officials including Primate Michael Peers issued strong statements of support for Bishop Beardy without waiting for an investigation.

Interviewed just as Lambeth was getting under way this summer, Bishop Beardy said he cancelled his plans to attend the conference in order to spend time with his family, after a year of travelling extensively.

“My family, I have always taught them, whatever happened in their life to make it positive,” he said. But when he saw his name splashed across the newspapers in connection with the investigation, “it was embarrassing. It hurt my family and I’ll confess, it hurt me. I felt I was abused.”

Meanwhile, the second leg of the Sacred Walk for Healing got under way in early August. Bishop Beardy left the Lac Seul First Nation near Sioux Lookout, Ont., with a group of supporters, headed for Ottawa.

They hope to meet with South African President Nelson Mandela in Toronto on Sept. 25. “It would be an honour to meet with one who has felt oppression in his own land, one who is working at initiatives for healing,” Bishop Beardy said of the potential meeting.

The walk’s aims are to raise awareness of sexual and other kinds of abuse that exist in many communities and the need to heal. It is also to raise funds to support healing initiatives for individuals, families and communities.

Bishop Beardy expects to reach Ottawa by early October.


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