Albert LeBlanc

Former Yarmouth priest sentenced to 5 1/2 years for sex abuse

Albert LeBlanc, an 83-year-old former Roman Catholic priest, was sentenced Friday in Yarmouth provincial court to five and a half years in prison, for indecent assault of children. (BRIAN MEDEL / Yarmouth Bureau)

 November 23, 2012 – 1:26pm
 November 23, 2012 – 8:53pm
Albert LeBlanc, an 83-year-old former Roman Catholic priest, was sentenced Friday in Yarmouth provincial court to five and a half years in prison, for indecent assault of children. (BRIAN MEDEL / Yarmouth Bureau)

YARMOUTH — It’s been a long and winding road from the house of the Lord to the house of correction but 83-year-old Albert LeBlanc was finally on his way Friday.

The former priest and convicted child molester was handed a 5 1/2-year prison sentence after earlier pleading guilty to years of assaults on young boys.

The former priest climbed into a sheriff’s van for a ride on stainless steel seats to his new home — a federal penitentiary.

Until recently, LeBlanc was living in Bouctouche, N.B.

He travelled to Yarmouth in May, where he pleaded guilty to six counts of indecent assault on six different victims.

LeBlanc faced 50 counts, all alleging sexual abuse of boys — some as young as nine — during his days in Yarmouth County where he worked first as a priest and later, after leaving the priesthood in 1975, as a probation officer.

The remainder of the charges were dismissed.

“Make no mistake that Albert LeBlanc is going to answer for those crimes today, and make no mistake, he’s going to jail,” judge Jim Burrill said at sentencing in provincial court in Yarmouth Friday.

“This isn’t simply the case of a priest making a mistake or two. This is a priest who, even after leaving the priesthood, continued to abuse boys. This is a priest who involved himself in conduct of sexual predation on young people over the span of nearly two decades on multiple occasions,” said Burrill.

The statements from victims refer to abuse in and around Yarmouth.

Some details of LeBlanc’s horrific abuse were read out in court as friends and family of some of his victims listened in stunned silence.

One time LeBlanc apparently could not wait to get his hands on a young altar boy and began molesting the youth while he still wore his priestly robes.

Another time, LeBlanc plied the altar boy with some of the sacramental wine. In fact, many assaults took place in church, after services.

But LeBlanc didn’t limit his crimes to the sanctuary.

He was an opportunistic predator, watching over his flock to see where he could strike next. His systematically groomed youngsters, usually altar boys, said Crown Attorney Rick Harlem.

In a police report, one victim told of a time when LeBlanc was driving him home and the former priest reached across the front seat and squeezed his groin through his clothing so hard, it made the victim cry out in pain.

LeBlanc was smiling and would not relax his grip. He seemed to enjoy it, said the victim.

LeBlanc also used hockey to lure his victims, said the Crown.

He had a lot of hockey memorabilia in his parish rectory office.

LeBlanc once promised an autographed hockey puck to one young altar boy, who then was forced to sit on LeBlanc’s lap. The priest then fondled the boy, who sat frozen, confused and terrified, all the while tightly clutching the promised hockey puck.

And when the victim was older and informed LeBlanc that he would tell his mother what was happening, the priest tucked a two dollar bill in the boy’s shirt pocket and left him alone from that day on.

The boy never did tell his mother about the abuse.

Often the priest would worm his way into the hearts of entire families. As the parish priest he was always welcome in the homes of most parishioners and the judge himself expressed the opinion that it would be an honour for a family to have a son selected to be an altar boy.

One victim said he once had to spend a night at the rectory because of a storm. LeBlanc appeared in the bedroom completely naked and assaulted the boy.

Later when the victim was about 13, LeBlanc would occasionally make the boy drive the priest’s car while he sat next to him and fondled the driver as they motored along.

Abuse was often repeated over time and one victim suggested he was assaulted about 300 times.

Victims eventually were able to break away after becoming teenagers.

LeBlanc left the priesthood after 20 years and became a probation officer, continuing to spend time with young boys and share their passion for hockey, said the Crown.

One victim said he was once at LeBlanc’s home after he was no longer a priest.

LeBlanc fondled the boy, who recalled grabbing a pillow from the sofa and covering his face with it while LeBlanc assaulted him.

The victim said LeBlanc became angry and jealous when he discovered that a girl liked the victim.

The defence did not contest any of the facts about LeBlanc’s offending behaviour. “The community is no doubt outraged, as it should be, by the conduct of Mr. LeBlanc,” said Burrill.

He sentenced LeBlanc to 11 months for each of six counts for a total of 66 months or 5 1/2 years in a federal prison.

An original complaint against LeBlanc was made in April 2010, RCMP have said.

Yarmouth RCMP went to Bouctouche and arrested LeBlanc in January 2011.

LeBlanc, who married after leaving the priesthood, originally faced 40 counts of gross indecency and indecent assault spanning 15 years, beginning in 1970. But in March 2011, it was revealed LeBlanc would face 10 additional charges, also dating back to the 1970s.

A spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth said last year LeBlanc was ordained in New Brunswick in 1955 and served as a priest in Digby and in Yarmouth County.

LeBlanc left the priesthood in 1975 and became a probation officer, the source confirmed.

Meanwhile, three men have accused LeBlanc of abuse and are seeking more than $5 million in damages in a civil action, according to court documents filed in February.