Picking up the pieces

Barb Sweet
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

Mount Cashel ‘boys’ still coping with the trauma; police say victims were ‘thrown to the wolves’

First in a three-part series.


For some, it might seem a small thing — being declined funding to work out at his gym of choice to combat anxiety, but for Billy Earle, it’s another in a lifetime of letdowns.

Earle wrote Premier Kathy Dunderdale in May about his gym dilemma, along with being turned down for counselling by the Victim Services Program because he’d run into trouble with the law.

It’s a symptom of the treatment Mount Cashel survivors receive from a system that should be aiding their recovery, he said.

The decision not to provide counselling for Earle has since been  reversed. But he was told in a letter from Justice Minister Felix Collins in June that he could not have a membership for a downtown gym just a couple of minutes from his home.

Instead Earle was referred to the Y, which has a financial assistance program, but he doesn’t want to run into clients he deals with through his job as a private process server and investigator.


“The Victims Services Program has no plans to provide financial support to individuals for membership to physical fitness facilities,” Collins wrote in the letter.

“You don’t hear us every day bawling out, screaming and looking for stuff,” Earle said of Mount Cashel victims. Earle said bureaucracy has once again let down the survivors, and if he had not fought the loophole that prevented him from accessing counselling, he would have continued on a downward spiral, as some of the other guys have.

He was arrested in January this year after consuming four bottles of wine on top of his prescription anti-depressants, and was charged with uttering threats and resisting arrest after an argument at his girlfriend’s house. He has since received a conditional discharge and probation.

He’s also been dealing for years  with two sons who both have juvenile records. And he remains distrustful of the police, fearing  vindictiveness for speaking out as an orphanage abuse victim.

“I just wanted to feel numb because I was hearing noises of (Mount Cashel victim) Johnny Williams screaming in my ears of when he was a little boy getting beaten. I was hearing it for a long time while trying to numb it up by drinking, on top of dealing with the issues of my kids in and out of the system,” Earle said of his January breakdown.    


It was fall 1975 when Earle and another Mount Cashel resident were brought to social services alleging physical and sexual abuse at the orphanage.  

A couple of months later, volunteer Chesley Riche reported the beating of Earle’s brother, Shane, to authorities.

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary opened an investigation headed by Det. Robert Hillier, who interviewed two dozen boys.

But Hillier’s findings were covered up, including the confessions he obtained from two Christian Brothers.

The scandal broke when Shane Earle went public in The Sunday Express in 1989 and the subsequent Hughes Inquiry detailed the horror of the abuse and the failure of the archdiocese, the government and police authorities to protect the boys.

Fifteen former Christian Brothers were eventually prosecuted.

Roughly 200 victims have either settled or are pursuing civil claims that trace back to the late 1930s.

The provincial government announced its own $11-million, out-of-court settlement for about 40 victims in the late 1990s.

The final deadline for claims against Christian Brothers entities is Aug. 1.

There are also some outstanding claims against the archdiocese. And there are claims against the provincial government.

A court decision barred the province from responsibility for those who suffered abuse in earlier decades, prior to 1970.


Hillier is still haunted by the memory of being a young police officer rounding up runaway Mount Cashel boys and bringing them back to the orphanage, in the years before he took on that infamous 1975 investigation.

“There were so many boys escaping from Mount Cashel and it was a battle. We were out all night long looking for them,” he said in a rare interview this week.

“You couldn’t handcuff them, but you did everything. You beat them up — not intentionally — but dragging them about trying to get them back in the home. They screamed until they got to the door. When they got to the door they were just scared. And we just threw them into the lions’ den.”

Hillier — the man who was told he “wasn’t very loyal to the Queen” because of his resolve to investigate the case in the mid-1970s — has zero trust in clergy, and doubts to this day the RNC would be able to resist a government-ordered coverup.

“Politics and government, they have control over the police and otherwise. They will deny it today. Don’t deny it to me — I don’t believe it,” said Hillier, who left the force almost 25 years ago.

Child abusers still have a belief they can get away with their crimes, he said.

And he said the Mount Cashel boys deserve any kind of support available in the form of counselling or therapeutic programs to deal with the legacy.

“They were left alone by everybody. Some of them were good boys, but didn’t have a chance to become good citizens in society, what they should have been,” Hillier said.

“I have nothing bad to say about any of those boys. It’s shameful we didn’t help them.”

But Hillier, almost a decade on the force by then, knew the writing was on the wall in 1975 when he began the file.

“How in the hell am I going to investigate this? How am I even going to bring it to the forefront?” he remembers thinking.

“Clergy ruled the government. … Basically, right from the get-go there was a coverup. And I could feel it.”

The then chief of police ordered him to alter his report to remove references to sex abuse.

Hillier said he would not change the intent.

“I challenged it inside,” he said, patting the left side of his chest.

“I didn’t do anything wrong. I remember being parked on Confederation parkway and I was trying to figure out how to get at those two guys I wanted to interview after having been refused the right to do that. I went ahead and got an admission.”

Had charges been pursued in 1975, Hillier believes many boys could have been saved a lifetime of anguish.

He said for those who have gone on with outwardly normal lives, he doubts the legacy ever escapes them.

“My opinion is very simple. I don’t care what profession they went in, I  doubt very much they are at peace with this. If they are, they are extraordinary and I don’t believe it,” said Hillier, who is stopped whenever he travels by former Mount Cashel residents and family members.


Reached in Oklahoma, former resident Leo Rice said he is constantly reminded of the past.

“It ain’t worth shit. You never forget crap,” he said of life after the abuse, before cutting off the conversation.


Fred Horne, who was one of two RCMP officers assigned to the Hughes Inquiry, still wonders why police and child welfare authorities were not dealt with harshly for their lack of accountability.

“My concern is what happened to those kids. They were all thrown to the wolves, you might say, for the sake of (people) not doing the right thing,” said Horne, who is retired.

“Kids who are molested that young will relive that forever. … The whole thing is sad.”


Mark Wall, also now retired from the RNC, held the Mount Cashel file for 20 years after the scandal broke in the 1980s, interviewing 1,000 former orphanage residents.

Many had escaped abuse. Others slammed the door in his face. Some pursued criminal and civil cases. And some just wanted to tell their stories to him, he said, recalling one man in Ontario who raised horses and rode around his property with Wall, recounting what happened. And that was the end of it for the man.

Always in the back of his mind was what had happened to Hillier, but Wall said his investigations were not interfered with.

“Nobody attempted it. It was just too public,” he said.


Billy Earle remembers Brother Doug Kenny grabbing the boys by the hands when they were dropped at the police station in 1975.

“He said, ‘You got to know where you live when you come out of there,’” Earle recalled.

At age 11, Earle gave a statement, saying that Brother Alan Ralph had come to his dormitory room pretty well every night for that past year, instructed him to turn in and then put his hands inside his pyjamas to fondle him.

Earle also stated Kenny kissed him in the swimming pool.

Earle said life would have been so different for the boys had they been listened to then.

“I don’t know what childhood was,” he said.

In the lead-up to the Hughes Inquiry, he said he dodged investigators at first and his anxiety and panic attacks have continued since his testimony and into the present.

Earle said some of his compensation was paid out in a divorce settlement. He has a monthly stipend and a chunk put in an annuity and he works as a private process server to pay his bills.

He had stopped counselling in 2004 when his longtime counsellor died.

After his breakdown in January, Earle went to Victim Services and was turned down. Earle appealed to The Telegram and said his counselling was reinstated after columnist Russell Wangersky wrote about it.

Now Earle sees a counsellor who he said is a former Christian Brother and is trying to overcome his anxiety and lessen his reliance on prescription medication by working out. He’s paying for the gym membership himself.

Earle said he didn’t realize the full impact of post-traumatic stress on his life, especially after his trusted counsellor died. Then he started taking account of where some of the other Mount Cashel boys of his era are.

“I look back now today where some of the guys are who I knocked around with, and it’s frightening,” Earle said.

“I guess I am one of the lucky ones to have supports around me.”

In Saturday’s Telegram, read about brothers John and Jerome Williams, whose lives were lost in the emotional wreckage of the Mount Cashel scandal, as well as the story of a man who did well in life, but who remains scarred from the abuse he said he suffered in the late 1940s and into the ’50s.

On Monday, a victim never heard before speaks out, and another man laments his alcohol-fuelled 57-page criminal record.



Saturday: shattered lives

Organizations: Victims Services, Hughes Inquiry, Christian Brothers RCMP

Geographic location: Mount Cashel, Oklahoma, Ontario

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page



Recent comments

  • Classmate
    August 18, 2012 - 08:56

    Courageous young men, each and every one of you. Many of you were my classmates, teammates and playmates. None of us knew what was going on at Mt. Cashel ... and everyone of you guys kept it to yourself. You formed a bond with each other and endured unspeakable hardships at the hands of a few. I say a few because many of the Christian Brothers did a lot of good. I think you guys also invented "power walking". Every day at lunch hour we would walk from St. Pius (and later Gonzaga) to the end of Elizabeth Ave., eat lunch and walk back again all within an hour ! (I lived next to KFC). I hope you can find something to look forward to in the future, or hold on to what you have now that lets you cope with what happened. It's too easy to pick up the bottle and drown your sorrows, and yet, it's not easy at all to put the bottle down. I'm so proud of you guys for stepping forward and telling the world what happened. I can only imagine how hard that must have been for you. There's been a lot of talk in this forum, some of which is encouraging and some of which is disheartening. It was YOU who lived through that era, now pick yourself up and dust yourself off, for you are a much stronger man than you know. I wish I could have helped you guys back then, but that time has passed. Perhaps I can help at least one of you now. Billy Earle, I figure if you're in the gym, then it can only help, so if you're serious, then I'll pay for half your gym membership for you. I'm not made of money, and I'm not about to be taken for a ride, so the deal is you have to go at least 10 days out of the month. If you don't, the funding ceases. (We'll put those checks in place if you accept.) Let me know which gym it is by responding to this email, or by going to www.insightefap.org and sending an email via the "contact us" feature. I'll get your message and make the arrangements. Good Luck to you all, and remember we only have today to create our future. Member of the Class of '74 Vikings

  • someone that is not using taxs payers money
    August 08, 2012 - 07:28

    My two cents back at you... First of all MR.EARLES need to stop crying for every little thing he wants, Us taxs payer;s already gave them Earles well enough of money. instead of him buying bottles of wine, house, cars and suv's spend it in a gym pass or better still with this beautiful weather of ours go for walk's, run;s around our city better still take a few garbabge bags with you and pick all the shit you leave behind you.You earle men got enough money of us tax payers, GET A LIFE BILLY EARLE... you cry baby

    • Jacquie
      August 13, 2012 - 14:27

      As predicted yet another disgruntled greedy and jealous relative that climbed out their hole when the boys got their settlements for the abuse done unto them at the Mount. The nieces, nephews, cousins, fake relations that were so transparent….loved the Earle men then hey? What’s wrong? You didn’t get a piece of the pie! Crawl back under that rock now and go away…and take that big welfare cheque with you as you never worked a day in your life. Scamming people is the name of your game…the Earle men had your number and you hate them for it. Pathetic…

  • Patrick Williams
    July 21, 2012 - 17:11

    I agree with the comments of TELL THE FULL STORY to some extent however the irony that I as a Mount Cashel boy lived and continue to live through is that as a ward of the Newfoundland Government no one not one person ever followed up on my life while in the orphanage. This I will carry to my grave I received an education but some parts of that education I could have lived without and knowing that others were sometimes savagely beaten in full view of the rest of us kids; hearing the bed visiting sounds in the evening, the giggles (from the Brothers) and the cries of the particular boy of the moment is not something I can easily forget. Anyone who says he did not witness at least some of these moments is kidding himself. Shame on anyone who would denigrate the pain of others for a reputation that was so often tainted with evil. I don't expect my comments will be shown and that is the ultimate hurt.

  • RWC Away
    July 20, 2012 - 17:03

    Ref. JOSEPH MCGRATH statements ... Judging by your "letter" , I am guessing you are either a politician , have strong ties to the Catholic "system" or the time you spent in these places, you wore rose coloured glasses the whole time ... I grew up in that disgusting, corrupt, abusive, degrading "system" , was abused, beat, humiliated and used .... as were many of my friends... I even bet , you had friends that were .... It's good that you got out without any physical, or emotional scars ... I am truly leaning toward the rose coloured glasses, theory ... for the only discipline I witnessed and was a part of was, throwing books, erasers, or whatever was handy, or picking students up out of their desks by their sideburns , and taking a handful of hair with them, throwing kids against walls .... as for the after school activities I use to call it prey time .... the nightmares haunt me ... of trying to get out of the school before one of the brothers ( and trust me, there were more than one) dragged me, or cohered me into one of those classrooms ( with the obscured windows) to have their way. Your story Mr. McGrath, is only one of how many thousands of young children, to go through that "system" , not just in NL, but the whole "system", Only 15 were charged out of the MC scandal ... and that almost didn't happen ... I can name that many in one school, that should have been charged , and good candidates to bring back capital punishment ... put those through what these young children went through My question is, how does a "system allow, tolerate, cover up and accept such behaviour, or let this kind in a system where children's well being is at jeopardy ? Or is it the "system" it'self that breeds this kind of sickness. ? and how dare you insinuate that "stories" ( these are peoples lives) paint a dark cloud", these , these , these sick individuals .... brought this on themselves, and should be held accountable, not just for Newfoundland, but the whole country., from the time they came here ( Canada) to pass on their "teachings" I truly am glad for you, that you got out without the physical, or emotional scars .... but it's no reason to get on with praising , such a corrupt, violent, disgusting, abusive, "system" ... While you are at it Mr. McGarth, clean your rose coloured glasses, and check your memory bank ! I am sure there are , friends, classmates and school mates of yours that weren't as fortunate ... as there are thousands and thousands of "stories" (as you called them) , that will fall on deaf ears , or not told at all .... shame on you for promoting such "evilness"

  • TOOT
    July 20, 2012 - 13:42

    Thank You!! Mr Hillier!!!!!!!!!! For caring when no else did, including the Frank Moores Government!!!!

  • my ten cents worth
    July 20, 2012 - 12:42

    What about all those other people who are living with Post Tramatic Stress, the young girls abused by the nuns and even today cannot talk about it. The people left to morn their losses as a result of the helicopter crash or the ocean Ranger Disaster that impacted alot of families in this province. What is there for them? Mr. Earle, you had the same opportunities as them to resolve your issues and allowed the courts to support a decision you were comfortable with. You, more than others, had the opportunity to say no to any financial compensation deal. As for the counselling well i do believe something like that would be needed but for the Gym Membership! give me a break. go outside and walk or run like most of us do because we cannot afford the Gym membership.

  • Joseph McGrath
    July 20, 2012 - 10:16

    I would llike to take this opportunity to thank the Christian Brothers for the excellent education that they gave to me when I attended one their schoos here in the city.I received nothing but excellent instruction in the school subjects that were neccessary to complete school and continue on to do post secondary education The Brothers were always fair,believed in dicipline and gave up wiilingly their time to ensure that I was well instructed.They also spent endless hours helping in after school sports programs and many other areas such as drama plays,music,sportsdays etc.etc.A few of them are still alive today and deserve never ending thanks for the good work they did and still do on a very smaller scale.This story of abuse is sad but not a true reflection of the good works hundreds of Christian Brother did in NL.I cannot speak for anyone else but I can thank them for all they did for me.My also children received most of their education from Priests and Nuns and I say it was the best a student could receive.I feel for any abused or molested child but their stories cast a dark shadow over the wonderful ediucation given to thousands of youth in NL for many years by the Christian Brothers.I latter attended a Catholic University run by Priests and they too provided a terrif educational opportunity for me.Obviously the Tely feels this Mount Cashel affair is one that needs to be retold and retold and retold along with abuse by certain priests over the years.I say carry on but the article/s in no way effect my continuing to be a practicing Roman Catholic nor will it ever.I

    • Jim
      July 20, 2012 - 13:30

      Mr. McGrath With all due respect this article is not about the quality of the education you received or your choice to continue in your Roman Catholic faith. I too went to Christian Brother run schools for all of my education and overall my experiences and education and those of my five siblings was very good. Judging from your comments you only went to a Christian Brother school and did not live in the orphanage. I can assure you the quality of our education DOES NOT change what happened to those young victims. Their stories need to be told and retold so they are never forgotten. The victims have every right to speak of there experiences If you find the stories difficult to read (which they are) then simply don’t. The victims did not cast the dark shadow you refer to , that was done by the Christian Brothers!

  • Jeremiah
    July 20, 2012 - 10:08

    My heart aches for the victims of these monsters and they continue to be victimized by society and the system.

  • In the neighbourhood?
    July 20, 2012 - 10:00

    Exactly how and when the "....scandal broke...." is a little more complex. For example there was apparently a call to a radio call in show mentioning that during an inquiry into a suspicious fire into a Cabinet Minister's apartment a constable referred to the MC cover-up or CID interference. Then about the same time the other scandal broke when a priest was convicted. Once the wall was breached with the clergy, the lay orders had no barricades left(?). But the media never make seem to make the context clear. The denominational culture (for lack of a better term) in NL influences(ed) EVERYTHING. Lt. Governors and Police Chiefs have to alternate between denominations. Even the hospitals were denominational. For some inter-denominational (both Christian spouses) marriages were marginalized and Divorce for some was social suicide. Mount Cashel was an archaic bldg. and institution but was adjacent to the new post confederation subdivisions. JRS had planners allow for the new Elizabeth Avenue to have churches for every denomination along the route - ending, ironically at Mt. Cashel. How could this go undetected in this neighbourhood? Was curiosity from other neighbours or religions welcome, even by the victims. "They" were "those people", that is "their" orphanage - mind one's own business. Rumours and gossip had to be taken in the context of the parish from whence it came and the parishioners that it affected - to cross parish lines was dangerous, much less denominational lines. The evidence that these events still smolder for decades might indicate that the crime(s) have yet to be completely solved. The most relevant question is where and how are current perpetrators operating NOW? Religious orphanages????.... been there, done that, they move on?

  • Robb
    July 20, 2012 - 09:30

    First of all, to "Someone who knows the difference"......what the hell do you know, and you sound like you are just full of sh*t. You don't know, so come down off that stupid high horse and educate yourself before you spew garbage. It's people like you that disgust me with your ignorance. These poor little boys were thrown to the wolves and there is nothing that they could "have" now that will ever bring back the innocence of the tender years......I know many of these boys and I went to school at St. Pius X where many of the brothers taught...I seen it all........we always wondered why the Mt. Cashel boys were so tough, and if you said something to one of them (at recess), you had several of them after you.....that's all they had, each other. For some idiot to say they bet they have a nice carhome or whatever is just the lowest of the low......you are pure scum. Can you imagine your childniecenewphew in the same situation.....be quite different when the shoe is on the other foot. My heart goes out to all of these "victims" as they never really hadhave the normal life they so deserve, and to hear idiotic comments just boils the blood. As for the church, I never step foot in there unless I absolutely have to (weddingsfunerals)......if I want to pray to God, I will do it my own way, and I certainly don't need a bunch of "strange" men showing me the way. God bless all the victims.....and it was not only the boys, but girls homesfoster care was just as bad if not worse...!!!...so people, if you don't know, shut up out it.

    • adding my ten cents for all of society
      July 20, 2012 - 12:30

      What about all of the other victims from other disasters or situations. how do Mr. earle think they should be treated? The surviving families from the cougar helicopter crash or the people I have heard from who were subject to the abuse from the nuns. They have moved on with their lives and probably continue to deal with their horrid stressors in life. Society has paid Mr. Earle the price through the judicial system and he has accepted. He had every opportunity to say no to any deal that was not right for him. If he want to get exercise, do what most people do in this province who cannot afford it. go for a walk or a run outside. I can swallow the counselling because I do believe it is probably needed. but a GYM Membership?? Rediculous!!!

  • Dan
    July 20, 2012 - 09:07

    May you all have the peace you seek, you all deserve the right to be at ease with your life. The failure of the system in this case is abhorrent.

  • MR
    July 20, 2012 - 07:46

    We all feel sorry for the MC boys but asking for gym fees is too much. Jog around the block.

    • CW
      July 20, 2012 - 08:06

      That is a heartless comment. If that helps him deal with the horror he lived as a child, then it's the least that can be done for him. It makes me cringe to think that while I was living a happy childhood in St. John's in the late 60's and early 70's, these boys were suffering at the hands of the very people entrusted with their care. Many of these boys went to school with my brothers, were their freinds..and they never knew. It's not about feeling sorry for them. It's about feeling compassion for them. There is a difference.

    • sleeveen
      July 20, 2012 - 08:53

      I see nothing wrong with giving him a gym membership. Anxiety can be helped tremendously with exercise (every bit as much as the pills they are paying for already) and that makes it a medical thing. After what he went through a couple hundred a year for that shouldn't be denied.

    • MR
      July 20, 2012 - 11:16

      Like everybody, I was disgusted with the MC story. It seems like whenever Billy has a problem, he goes to the media. If I want to go to the gym, I'll work for the money. Have any of the other victims asked for gym fees?

  • Joe
    July 20, 2012 - 07:20

    The catholic system had one aim in mind: Maintain control and make themselves look good even if that meant crucifying others. This philosophy was alive and well not only at Mount Cashel but in the education system in general. Of course the Mount Cashel situation was grievous beyond words because the corrupt church was crucifying innocent sweet children and had the evil power to muzzle justice. I knew many Mount Cashel boys including Billy. I can say without reserve they were good children. Too bad their caretakers were not likewise.

    • Family
      July 21, 2012 - 23:39

      For those of you out there that think "a gym membership" is redicilous...i pray your children never get abused especially since the stats out there now are 1 out of 2 children will be sexually abused!!! Only a real person reaches out for help. And only those that know "unconditional love" completely understand. Life after abuse ....do u understand really!!!