Boys Don't Cry: The Struggle for Justice and Healing in Canada's Biggest Sex Abuse Scandal


336 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-7710-4066-0
DDC 364.1'536




Reviewed by Ashley Thomson

Ashley Thomson is a full librarian at Laurentian University and co-editor or co-author of nine books, most recently Margaret Atwood: A Reference Guide, 1988-2005.


Mount Cashel Orphanage in Newfoundland. This book documents an even
bigger scandal that occurred at two Ontario training schools for boys
run by the Christian Brothers between the 1940s and the early
1970s—the first at St. Joseph’s in Alfred, the other at St. John’s
near Uxbridge.

Ironically, the two scandals are connected, for in 1989, when the story
in Newfoundland broke, David McCann, who had been victimized as a child
at St. Joseph’s, approached Darcy Henton, a journalist with The
Toronto Star, to tell his story. When McCann’s story was published,
hundreds of other victims of institutional neglect as well as physical
and sexual abuse at the two schools came forward to share their horrible
experiences. Not long afterward, McCann helped the group unite into an
organization called Help-line to ensure that no one would not be ignored
by the church, the government, or the justice system. Henton reported on
Helpline’s fight for a negotiated settlement with the church and the
government, detailing the organization’s struggle in the courts for
justice against individual perpetrators. The decision to negotiate
rather than litigate was a significant one, and the book underscores the
role of former Conservative MP Douglas Roche in mediating a historic
$13-million settlement. The courtroom fight against the perpetrators,
which saw justice served on such horrible people as “The Hook,” had
yet to be completed when this book was published.

As a result of better monitoring by outsiders and better training of
institutional staff, a scandal such as the one reported here will likely
never re-occur. But the story should not be forgotten. Boys Don’t Cry,
like The Boys of St. Vincent, will serve as a continual reminder.


Henton, Darcy, with David McCann., “Boys Don't Cry: The Struggle for Justice and Healing in Canada's Biggest Sex Abuse Scandal,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 13, 2024,