Elusive justice

Russell Wangersky
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Billy Earle is the first to admit that he’s no saint.

He’s a survivor of abuse at the Mount Cashel Orphanage and, as with many, that survival is a complicated and difficult thing. Truth be told, he has more than his fair share of demons, and he probably has a right to every one of them.

And his demons sometimes come out to play: he’s facing criminal charges now for a violent night and a run-in with police officers that he says he can’t even remember, charges he says he will deal with in court as best he can. And  it’s not just a single incident: Earle admits he’s been in a bad spiral.

Ask questions on the street before writing a column about Earle and the responses are unsettling: don’t deal with him — he’s out of control.

That may be true. But what’s also true is that the justice system failed Earle before, and seems now about to fail him again, this time through simple bureaucratic carelessness and intransigence.

After his arrest, Earle found himself facing an uphill battle: first, the government balked at renewing support for his counselling, saying he couldn’t get the help it was pretty clear he needed while he was still facing charges. But counselling was something that, years ago, another government had promised Mount Cashel survivors they could always have, any time they needed it.

And everyone is innocent until proven guilty.

Funding for counselling was eventually provided, but it wasn’t an easy or quick argument.

When Earle did get a new counsellor, that counsellor wrote to the government and said that Earle would benefit from regular physical exercise, and suggested a gym membership should be part of his treatment.

Once again, there were hurdles. The government agreed, but with a caveat: it would provide the services, but only at one particular facility.

But that’s where it gets complicated. Earle makes his living as a process server, showing up at the front doors of people who definitely don’t want to see him. They are, in fact, occasionally extremely displeased to find him at the door.

Through the jigs and reels of the bureaucracy, some of those same extremely displeased people are provincial government-sponsored clients of the same gym the government wants Earle to use. So are some former residents of provincial correctional institutions.

Earle puts it simply: he’d have to have eyes in the back of his head to work out there. It’s hard to lose yourself in the endorphins and concentration of physical exercise while keeping your eyes open all the time and ramping up on stress, which would seriously reduce the benefits of exercise.

Earle says the province has been unable to understand the point he’s making, even though it’s pretty clear.

Just like there are regulations about getting counselling when you’re facing charges, there are probably criteria in place about which gyms are acceptable. Earle has been paying to use a different facility, and he’s running out of cash.

There are plenty of people who would advise anyone not to champion Earle — the same ones who caution you to steer clear. And I hear that, loud and clear.

But I’ve know Billy and others from Mount Cashel since I was at The Sunday Express when the scandal was first breaking. And to me, the biggest thing that Mount Cashel survivors are owed by any provincial government is enough honesty and integrity in their dealings with the government to eventually garner something close to trust.

How do you do that?

You make a promise and then you keep it.

And the province promised to help those victims when they needed counselling and other supports.

What some people in the Justice Department may have forgotten is that they’re still part of the same justice system that originally failed in its responsibility to help boys at  Mount Cashel.

What message do those victims hear when that same justice system fails to keep its word?

Time does not actually heal all wounds, and like any other kind of hurt, turning a blind eye to the issue does anything but make things better.

Sort this out.

Russell Wangersky is The Telegram’s editorial page editor. He can be reached by email at rwanger@thetelegram.com.

Organizations: Justice Department

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Recent comments

  • Ron Tizzard
    May 06, 2012 - 18:45

    Thank you Russell. A busy weekend; I'd like to finish up a few further comments on your 'Elusive Justice' piece from last week. First of all, Tortured From the Thought (a contributor) ...my promise...to suggest to some researcher that the time is present, perhaps, to do some research Re; how some Mount Cashel youths (adults today) are doing some 22 years after their discharge from Mt. Csahel. I have persued that, and awaiting a reply. It might be a while, but I'll let your know via the Telegram. I had promised to offer a final thought on this piece, I'm tardy, but I just wanted to mention that Mount Cashel was a major failure, and scandal in the final analysis. Russell Wangersky pretty much layed out the negative core-value of what had taken place in Mount Csahel, and didn't hold-back on his sense that the boys (men today) were still not well served by the Public Social Services upon the closure of the Orphenage. I would like to add this final note, and reminder concerning this entire matter before closing...that the injustice of which Mr. Wangersky speaks essentially was that of 'going forward' upon discharge. I would like to make the point, perhaps remind, that the recovery for these boys has multible layers associated with it. The catastrophy of abuse within the walls of Mount Cashel through time, as it has became known and documented, was the middle layer of desperation for those children; the primary, foundational layer was the actual living conditions within the homes of these children, their own home, living conditions i.e squalor and/or abuse mandating the mercy necessary to remove e these children from the dim potential for any normal development opportunities. The second negative personal, immoral, phschological and/or physical impact for so many of these children, as well, was the actual physical and sexual abuse received from (not all) but many of their malicious caretakers. I say all of this, to place somehow the injustice Russell Wangersky so rightly acknowledges in his Column i.e. the seeming 'most severly' missing link of essential care and attention for the material and psychological needs of all of the childern and youth while institutionalized and latterly released; and as Mr. Wangersky so astutely asserts most recently is still missing for these now...adults. The entire episode through so many years paints a picture of inhumanity still gone unrecognized, and/or under-resourced to offer succor in today's communities with its abilities to understand and address the material and psychological needs of those traumatized from whatever Pblic Service source through the years . It's never too late to give the Billy Earle(s) out there a call, or return their calls, and ask him/them to visit you. Please do. The position the many Billy Earl(s) find themselves in today was not a decision forged on their own behalves. It was an inheritance from a most serious PUBLIC aberration in duty to care. The entire affair still cries out for human respect and justice for a great many of these ADULT CHILDREN, in the clinical sense, therefore in a very real sense.

    May 03, 2012 - 10:20

    Ron Tizzard Thanks! I hope some Professor from Memorial University reads this article and brings forward your suggestion to his/her students and recommends that the subject would be a good research piece. And Thanks Mr. Wangersky for bringing this subject forward again, it needs to be talked about until the torture that happened to the children of Mount Cashel is eradicated from the face of the Earth. I remember some of the boys at Mount Cashel had younger brothers and I will never forget hearing them tell the story of how they tried to protect their baby brothers from the abuse they were receiving by telling their protectors, who it seemed were also abusers for not doing anything about the situation. During the time of hearing the horrendous details that came out from the Inquiry, I wondered if the children would ever be able to overcome the severe abuse they received or would their lives be further impacted from their tortured souls and get themselves in trouble with the law. It appears that many of them were so tortured that they were unable to overcome what they had gone through. It seems to be a closed case for Church though, and yet, still abuse cases are uncovered all over the World to this very day, the Church does not speak of it. It appears to me that the Church has no soul.

  • Tortured from the thought of the abuse inflicted on the children of Mount Cashel
    May 02, 2012 - 16:53

    I am wondering how much of the crime in the general community today can be attributed to the sexual and physical abuse inflicted upon the tortured motherless/fatherless boys of Mount Cashel, abuse inflicted upon them by those they were supposed to trust? The Mount Cashel story seems to have no ending and I think the problems involved from that torturous and scandalous period in time will reverberate for another century or more.

    • Ron Tizzard
      May 03, 2012 - 08:15

      Tortured from the thought...you ask an interesting question; which, perhaps, would be a wonderful research piece for some Masters student...in Social Work, Psychology or Sociology. My bet is that the "Mount Cashel event', among others, has sewn a seed of hope around the world. Personally, in our communities, and uncountable others in the 'civilized' pieces left on earth, I think, without stats to show (another research piece?), we will see serious reductions in these largess, institutional styles of abuse, simply because of the prevalence of 'news reporting' today, and ease of 'citizen whistle-blowing' posing little to no danger associated with 'MAKING THAT CALL', and societies' maturation and heightened civility around the FACT that these heinous crimes are inhumane, and indefensible any longer. Your mind-set has already watered that seed of hope for heightened civility ...and on it goes, and goes......

  • Ron Tizzard
    May 02, 2012 - 10:07

    ‘Elusive Justice’, an editorial by Russell Wangersky (the Telegram, May 1, 2012) updates the continuing saga of a Mount Cashel ‘boy’ (William ‘Billy’ Earl), still struggling to pull pieces of his life together, following the close of the orphanage in 1990. The theme of the piece is that the system (Government) is failing him, by not living up to promises made and responsibilites asssumed, to help him (and other boys). Mr. Wangersky presents Mr. Earl’s struggles with government and recovery services through time as having, figuratively, elements reminescent of the a the Gordian Knot. Life at Mount Cashel for many boys, as we now know, had produced many psychological scars which haunt the psyches of numbers (unknown really) of former residents to this day, some moreso than others; causing emotional disconnects, unresolved maturation and development problems. Mr. Earl struggles to this day, attempting to keep his ‘psychic-demons’ at-bay. These continuing inner-psychic energy-drains take an emotional (and rational) toll on many aspects of normal personal ‘rounded’ development. And, this is where Mr. Wangersky’s ‘Elusive Justice’ column pick’s up the pieces. Mr. Earl, in the public’s haste to correct an ‘absolute injustice’ was thrown into a recovery system 22 years ago which was short on insight, answers and solutions to the needs of these young boys, about to be thrown to the winds. To be fair, back then, the problem was not one resolved by a simple vaccination. The problems to be realized were froth with shadows, emotions and less we forget, some brutal physical trials. There were no quick fixes, it would be years, perhaps too many, before there would be a sense of proportion developed regarding the depth and breath of need for, and supply of adequate recovery services to be provided these young boys, and many of their families, in layers…and the public domain via various news agencies. Yes, the public suffered trauma, as well, which has gone really unnoticed and under-reported. That said, and fast-forwarding to Russell’s wonderment about the disconnect in the community regarding recovery services and their sometimes disconnect with some Mount Cashel boys to this day…in this instance Billy Earl….simply, these boys of yester-year, in many instances, are still ‘boys’ emotionally, to varying degrees depending on their opportunities to experience ‘normal world’ realites since ‘that time’. That opportunity to socially decompress would be a long, drawn-out process for many, and those ‘many’ in essence would be the ‘numbers’…the Billy Earl(s), represented in Russell Wangersky’s ‘Elusive Justice’ piece…’still finding their ‘psycho-social’ legs’ these many years since Mount Cashel’s closure. (…to be continued…, pending the Telegram’s generosity).