Monday, April 12, 1999

Nova Scotia abuse victims want answers

HALIFAX — In Nova Scotia, some men who were sexually abused as boys by their probation officer are having to come to grips with new information.

A CBC Radio news investigation has found the government had warnings of problems with Cezar Lalo, but did not stop him.

A paper trail of memos, e-mails and scrawled notes shows there was no system to catch the signals.

Even after a mentally disabled boy complained to police, the department allowed Lalo to continue working alone with children.

Lalo has since been convicted of seven sex-crime charges and faces 135 more.

That mentally disabled boy who first went to the police is nearly 40 now. When he was a foster child, Cesar Lalo was his social worker.

Police believe Lalo abused him from the time the boy was 12 until he was 22. They never laid charges because they didn't think the boy would be a good witness.

The man finally told a neighbour about the sexual abuse. That neighbour took him to police. In February, 1989 the RCMP told a senior official in the department of community services about the investigation.

An internal memo reveals that official didn't tell anyone else in the department for four months. It took another two months before Lalo was moved to a job that didn't involve children.

During those 6 months Lalo kept meeting with his clients, often behind a locked office door.

There is proof he was sexually abusing at least one boy during those months.

Lalo has pleaded guilty to that.

This was not the first time officials in the department had heard concerns about him.

CBC Radio news has found documents from a decade earlier. There's a record that senior officials spoke to Lalo after a mother complained Lalo had put his hand down her son's pants.

Other complaints are not as specific. There were calls from parents upset that Lalo talked to their son about how male prostitutes make money, or taking their son for drives alone at night.

But Lalo's job evaluations don't reflect those concerns. There's one glowing rating after another.

It doesn't appear that the department had a system to track the complaints.

Kevin Stacey says if there had been his life might have been different.

In 1981 he was sent to Lalo for counselling.

There is evidence the department had received at least five complaints by then. "I feel robbed of my youth over something that could've been avoided. He took part of my life away and the fact that could've been avoided offends me. Isn't government here to help us?"

Lalo has been convicted of forcing Stacey to perform oral sex.

Lawyer John McKeigan represents several men who have laid criminal charges against Lalo and have civil suits against the province. Those suits say the government should have known something was going on.

McKeigan says the evidence of complaints over almost 15 years shows the system failed. "What kind of record keeping did the department have? Was there a file for complaints, allegations? Was it simply a trash bin they went into?" McKeigan says any evidence officials were warned means the government is as responsible as Lalo for the damage done to alleged victims.

Thirty-three are suing for compensation.

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Created: December 6, 2000
Last modified: January 15, 2001
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