Ontario church member arrested in ‘multiple incidents’ of sexual assault

Toronto police said a 39-year-old man has been arrested in connection with ‘multiple incidents’ of sexual assault at a church in North York, Ontario. Members of St. Ignatius Parish in the city’s North York…

Ontario church member arrested in 'multiple incidents' of sexual assault

Toronto police said a 39-year-old man has been arrested in connection with ‘multiple incidents’ of sexual assault at a church in North York, Ontario.

Members of St. Ignatius Parish in the city’s North York district said they were horrified to hear of the alleged incidents of violence.

“It’s unbelievable, I feel very badly for them. My heart goes out to the family and the parish. It’s pretty heinous,” Theresa Tafari, 47, a parishioner, told the Canadian Press.

It is alleged the incidents went on from 2013 until 2018.

“We’re still trying to get to the bottom of it,” Rob Hutchins, who chairs the provincial task force on violence against women and youth, told CBC News.

The arresting officer said a woman had reported abuse to the police in May 2018, and police laid charges in the ensuing investigation.

“He is considered a prime suspect,” Sergeant Meaghan Gray told CP24.

“He’s been arrested. He’s not in custody at this time, because, of course, as you can imagine, when a suspect is arrested, we’re investigating, we’re building a case. But he is considered a suspect.”

Police did not specify when the alleged incidents took place.

The arrests followed “a lengthy investigation by Toronto police that involved conducting extensive victim interviews”, a police statement said.

A post on the Christian Mothers Association’s Facebook page said the organisation takes “very seriously” the matter.

“The organization has sent a letter to the parish community notifying them of the arrest of a member of our Christian Mothers Association,” the letter said.

Police said they would seek a life term for the accused if he was convicted. The Toronto Star reported that he was charged with five counts of sexual assault and three counts of assault with a weapon.

Canada’s sex crime laws do not require the disclosure of a suspect’s sex. However, the crime is considered a sex crime under a section of Ontario’s Criminal Code, which says a person can be charged with the first offence committed in any form “when the act of the sex offender is committed with force or with recklessness”.

“If there was a particular pattern of at least two offences, that could classify this as two sex crimes,” Hutchins said.

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