Toronto priest, Journal contributor found guilty of public indecency

Photo: JHVEPhoto/Shutterstock
Published April 1, 2024

An Anglican priest in Toronto has been given a suspended sentence with one year of probation after being found guilty of committing an indecent act in public.

Canon David Harrison was found guilty Oct. 17, 2023 of committing an indecent act in a public place, a charge laid April 22, 2022. Justice Rick Libman, of the Ontario Court of Justice, said Harrison’s actions were not predatory—he said he could accept that Harrison did not intend to be seen—but that he was acting recklessly, which the court found to be sufficient to constitute criminal conduct in this case.

During sentencing Oct. 31, 2023, Libman said it would have been apparent to Harrison at the time that there was potential for others to witness his act. He stated that the suspended sentence was necessary to denounce the conduct and discourage others from doing the same.

The conditions of Harrison’s probation include a requirement that he attend counseling and remain at least 100 metres from the address where the incident took place as well as anywhere else the people who witnessed the act are, to his knowledge, working or living.

A statement released by the diocese of Toronto Oct. 18, 2023 said Harrison “has been inhibited from representing the Anglican Church of Canada as priest or in any other capacity.”

Harrison served as rector of the Church of St. Mary Magdalene, Toronto for more than a decade before voluntarily resigning in November 2020 to pursue other ministry opportunities. He was previously a priest at the Church of St. John the Evangelist, Port Hope, Ont. Harrison sat on the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF) board of directors, has served as a member of General Synod and was among the nominees in the diocese of Toronto’s 2018 episcopal election. From 2016 to 2019 Harrison was a member of the Anglican Journal coordinating committee. He has written numerous columns for the Journal.

In a statement emailed to the Journal after the sentencing, Harrison wrote, “This incident involved an error of judgement on my part, and one I take very seriously and have been dealing with spiritually, therapeutically, and legally over the last eighteen months. I am relieved that the trial has concluded and it is now known what happened, and also what did not happen. This incident involved a private act in what I thought was a private place unseen by anyone else. It involved no one else and was not intended to create any harm.

“In the therapeutic work I have done recently it is apparent to me that my diagnosis of PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] was a factor in what happened that day as one of the symptoms of PTSD is poor decision-making. It is a relief, now that the trial is concluded, to be free from any suspicion or conjecture that I intended harm to anyone. I am ready to rebuild my life and ministry and I hope and pray to be changed by all that has happened.”

Harrison told the Journal in a follow-up email that he intended to appeal the decision. The Journal has since confirmed that a date to open the appeals process has been set in a Toronto court.

—With files from Sean Frankling


  • Matthew Puddister

    Matthew Puddister (aka Matt Gardner) is a staff writer for the Anglican Journal. Most recently, Puddister worked as corporate communicator for the Anglican Church of Canada, a position he held since Dec. 1, 2014. He previously served as a city reporter for the Prince Albert Daily Herald. A former resident of Kingston, Ont., Puddister has a degree in English literature from Queen’s University and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Western Ontario. He also supports General Synod's corporate communications.

Related Posts

Skip to content