March 22, 2006
Toronto Sun Publication
Foster parent guilty of abuse
'He's the father I never had'
By IAN MCDOUGALL, COURTS BUREAU
A former foster parent has admitted sexually abusing two wards of the Catholic Children's Aid Society in a surprise guilty plea entered yesterday.
Paul Blackwell, 64, was convicted of one count of indecent assault and four counts of sexual assault on five different victims, including the two CCAS wards, between 1977 and 1992.
The victims were from 12 to 16 years old.
"It took a lot of courage for these people to come forward," said assistant Crown attorney Cara Sweeny. "For them it's good to see that the system works."
The trial had barely begun when Blackwell changed his not guilty plea. He was originally facing 22 charges.
None of his victims can be identified under a court-ordered publication ban.
But the Crown's first witness, a 43-year-old man, testified Monday he was first assaulted when the CCAS placed him in Blackwell's home as an emergency measure in 1977.
Despite the abuse, the man said Blackwell treated him well otherwise.
He said he quit school in Grade 10 to go to work for Blackwell's construction company.
"He's the father I never had," the man said yesterday as he continued testimony before Blackwell entered his guilty plea.
"You felt he treated you well," defence lawyer Louise Botham said.
"Yes," the man answered.
No explanation for the change in Blackwell's plea was given in court.
Justice Frances Kiteley said she will hold a sentencing hearing Friday.
"I think you have taken a very important step," she told Blackwell.
When Blackwell was arrested and charged in September 2004, a spokesman with CCAS said they had no reports of abuse.
The victim who testified Monday said he was also abused by his caseworker and at one point contemplated legal action against CCAS. Instead he went to the police.
"There may be more victims," Sweeny said outside court yesterday.
"If there are I would urge them to call Toronto Police 55 Division," she said.