Sean Frankling also contributed to this story.
David Norton, a former Anglican priest already in prison for molesting boys in Ontario, will serve a further three years for sexually assaulting two First Nations boys in Yukon in the 1980s.
Yukon Territorial Court judge Michael Cozens found Norton, 77, guilty of six charges, including one count each of historic sexual assault, sexual interference and sexual assault for both victims, following a two-day trial in June. On Nov. 6 he sentenced Norton to two concurrent three-year sentences, meaning they will both be served at the same time.
Norton is currently serving a 13-year prison sentence at the Bath Institution in Ontario for sexually assaulting boys in that province, including at St. Andrew’s parish on Chippewa of the Thames First Nation, APTN News reported.
The Yukon sentences will be served concurrently with Norton’s Ontario sentence, totalling 16 years in prison. Cozens also ordered that Norton be added to the national sex offender registry for the next 10 years.
Norton abused the Yukon victims between 1983 and 1987, during which he was the “Indian Ministries coordinator” for the Anglican diocese of Yukon, ministering to a congregation mainly of Indigenous people. He was also in charge of St. Simon’s Church in Whitehorse, often called the Old Log Church, and St. Saviour’s Church in Carcross.
Bishop Lesley Wheeler-Dame of the diocese of Yukon said while the criminal justice system had come to a conclusion in Norton’s case, “a conclusion by the justice system does not take away the pain and suffering of the victims and the trauma they have experienced.”
“I sincerely hope that the sentencing will assist in the healing process,” the bishop added. “I ask that all continue to seek God’s grace, wisdom, and healing for the victims and everyone impacted.”
The two victims testified at trial that they were between six and eight years old when Norton’s abuse began, CBC News said. They said they came from a poor family and became close to Norton after their family begin attending Old Log Church, serving as altar boys.
Cozens in his decision said the victims were robbed of their childhood innocence. The judge noted parallels between Norton’s crimes in Ontario and Yukon. In both cases, Norton would develop relationships with vulnerable Indigenous boys while working as a priest, give them gifts, take them on trips, host sleepovers and then sexually abused them while they slept.
The victims testified that they later spent years struggling with drug and alcohol addiction, according to CBC News. Both said they have difficulty trusting people and are very protective of their own children. However, they testified that they bear have no ill will toward Norton and asked to speak to him privately, which Cozens approved in the hope that it would facilitate healing.
Along with the impact of the abuse, Cozens said aggravating factors include the “egregious” breach of trust, the victims’ ages, the particular vulnerability of Indigenous children in the north and Norton’s multiple instances of abuse.
Testifying in the trial this June, the two survivors in the most recent case told the court that Norton had taken them out to eat, to movies, and ski-dooing as well as on trips to cabins and the Bahamas, even while he had been abusing them. They said, however, that they had forgiven Norton for his crimes and bore him no ill will, which crown attorney Noel Sinclair said should not be interpreted in Norton’s favour due to the long mentorship relationship he carried on with the boys during the period he was abusing them.
“The forgiveness of the victims is a credit to their humanity, but it is not from my perspective, deserving of any mitigation towards Mr. Norton because it is forgiveness that is built upon psychological manipulation,” he said.
Speaking to the Journal after the conviction, Sinclair said he was arguing for Norton to serve an additional 10 years consecutive to the 13 years he has already spent in prison.
“I think it’s important for people in the church in any sort of trust position to recognise that we’re in a new era and people who breach trust and sexually abused children are exposed to lengthy penitentiary sentences in a way that didn’t exist in the past,” Sinclair said.
Norton will finish serving all his sentences in 2034 but will be eligible for parole sooner.