Jean Vanier sex scandal fallout reaches London, Ont.
LONDON, ONT. -- An internal inquiry this year by L’Arche International concluded its founder Jean Vanier sexually abused six women in France between 1970 and 2005.
The report revealed Vanier engaged in “manipulative and emotionally abusive” sexual relationships with these women.
A Catholic elementary school and a research centre at King’s University College in London, Ont. are named after him.
“We were very disappointed to hear the news about Jean Vanier. And when the news came out, we began to look at the need to change the name of the school community,” says London District Catholic School Board (LDCSB) Superintendent Kathy Furlong.
Director of the Jean Vanier Research Centre at King’s, Pamela Cushing, says she was conflicted when the news came out. “What happens when someone whose ideals you respect and admire, find out they aren’t always living up to all of those ideals. People had a lot of different reactions to it, and we’re still working through it.”
The report was released just prior to the pandemic’s arrival in Ontario, pushing back plans to change the names of the respective buildings. But there are processes that are now beginning.
According to the LDCSB, they are consulting parents, parishioners, students and staff to come up with an appropriate name.
“Each group will provide a submission of a name to the board of trustees,” says Furlong. “We’re planning on that happening during the December board meeting. And then the trustees will make the final decision as to the name of the school.”
The board hopes to have a school name in the early part of 2021, and will ask the local bishop to bless the new beginning for the community.
At the research centre inside King’s, they discussed whether their work could continue at all.
“That was actually an option we considered seriously,” Cushing says. “But all of us came around to thinking the situation of disabled people in our society continues to be very marginalized and oppressed. There’s so much work that has to be done."
The centre will be changing names after a proposal goes through the proper governance steps within the university, but they’ve taken the opportunity to look inward.
“One of the central things we’re trying to do, put a strong accent on involving disabled people in all of those decisions,” says Cushing
“That’s something in a way the inquiry caused us to go back and take a more serious look at that. Although that was part of what we were doing it wasn’t a big enough part.”
A new name and identity for the research centre is expected to be completed in 2021 as well.