Family says Christian Brothers abuse led to death of loved one in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside

Family says Christian Brothers abuse led to death of loved one in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside

WARNING: This text comprises particulars of abuse, disordered consuming and suicidal ideation.

It’s been one 12 months since Paddy Munro held her son as he shivered, emaciated, in a hospital ready room. A full 12 months since he slipped out of the remark room and again to a dilapidated lodge on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. One 12 months for the reason that worst day of her life — when she acquired a cellphone name saying her son was useless.

Sean Munro fought to conquer his intrusive ideas for greater than 20 years, his household says. He struggled with obsessive-compulsive dysfunction, physique dysmorphia, alcoholism and extra. On the root of all of it, his mom says, was what occurred in a small workplace at a Vancouver non-public college within the Nineteen Eighties — with a instructor who they consider by no means ought to have been there.

“I wish to return and I wish to do extra,” Paddy says. “I want I might have performed extra.”

Sean Munro went to Vancouver Faculty in Grade 8. It was a protracted bus trip, about an hour every means, however he handed the time along with his twin brother, Aaron. The lads of their household had been Vancouver Faculty alumni, Irish Catholic to the core, and their mother and father felt it was the most effective transfer for his or her training.

Sean and Aaron had been inseparable as much as that time, indistinguishable even to their very own aunts. Grade 8 was the primary time they’d been break up aside and put in several homeroom lessons. Their mom was comfortable in regards to the likelihood for them to develop individually, to satisfy new individuals and have new experiences.

A couple of month into the varsity 12 months, nevertheless, Sean stopped coming house on time.

“We discovered that Sean had detentions,” Paddy says. “He was with Joe Burke.”

Joseph Burke, pictured right here on a soccer area at St. Thomas Extra Collegiate in Burnaby, B.C., was a former Christian Brother stationed at Mount Cashel Orphanage in St. John’s. (

Burke was, by all accounts, a towering determine at Vancouver Faculty. A burly man with crimson, curly hair, he was a former star of the varsity soccer crew. He joined the ranks of the Christian Brothers after commencement and returned as a instructor within the early Nineteen Eighties. 

The Christian Brothers weren’t ordained as monks, however they wore collars and robes, and took an oath of celibacy. They ran colleges and orphanages all over the world, and sometimes left a path of damaged boys, wounded religion and courtroom instances of their wake.

Vancouver was no completely different. Greater than 60 males are actually a part of a class-action lawsuit alleging they had been abused at Vancouver Faculty and close by St. Thomas Extra Collegiate by six Christian Brothers between 1975 and 2009.

All six males had been transferred to Vancouver from the Mount Cashel Orphanage in St. John’s — a spot that later turned synonymous with institutional baby abuse. 

Burke is a type of six. CBC Information has tried to contact Burke by e-mail and letter. He has not responded. The faculties haven’t denied abuse occurred, and have mentioned they need the allegations to be “investigated and resolved.”

Household helped in Burke’s defence

The Munro household had no indication something was happening. Their first clue got here two years after the boys graduated, when Vancouver Faculty despatched letters to alumni letting them know Burke was dealing with legal fees in Newfoundland associated to his time at Mount Cashel. The varsity was asking former college students and oldsters to help Burke in his defence. 

Paddy and her husband, John, individually questioned Sean about his detentions with Burke. 

“Sean denied and denied,” she says. “[He said] nothing ever occurred to him.”

After their inquiries got here up empty, the Munro household decided that also bothers them to at the present time. They selected to help Burke, Paddy says, donating air journey factors to assist him fly backwards and forwards to Newfoundland for his trial. 

“Wanting again on it, it’s simply terrible,” Paddy says with a sigh. 

In 1991, Burke was convicted on three counts of indecent assault and one depend of assault inflicting bodily hurt for his conduct on the Mount Cashel Orphanage in St. John’s. His convictions had been upheld by the Newfoundland and Labrador Courtroom of Appeals, earlier than many of the fees had been overturned by the Supreme Courtroom of Canada. In the long run, he was given a conditional discharge for one depend of assault inflicting bodily hurt.

“It could clearly be within the public curiosity for an individual of his calibre to return to the educating occupation,” wrote James Gushue, Newfoundland and Labrador’s former chief justice, in his sentencing determination.

Burke returned to Vancouver with no legal file and continued educating.

“There was loads of help as a result of Vancouver Faculty was pushing it,” Paddy says. “It didn’t daybreak on us, this coming house late, as a result of Sean mentioned all the pieces was wonderful. There was nothing. It was no huge difficulty.”

A professional headshot of a young man in black and white.
Munro’s medical file exhibits he started to develop obsessive-compulsive dysfunction in Grade 8 and displayed signs of physique dysmorphia by Grade 10. (Submitted by Paddy Munro)

Across the identical time, Sean’s life took a pointy flip. He was consuming closely, and it was interfering along with his means to carry down a job. His behaviour went from regarding to stunning briefly order.

“One morning we awakened and we seemed within the yard and there was a noose there,” Paddy says. “That was Sean’s cry for assist.”

Aaron Munro remembers feeling a divide rising between him and his brother after they completed highschool.

“Up till that time, Sean and I had been extraordinarily shut, however all the time very comparable with ambitions, objectives and issues. However that every one went away,” Aaron says. “It’s all a product of what occurred in Grade 8.”

Aaron went on to change into an actual property agent, whereas Sean delved deeper into dependancy. His consuming was sophisticated by diabetes, and his physique dysmorphia took over. At one level he stood six toes tall and weighed 130 kilos.

This entire journey right here, 20 years of chasing my brother round Vancouver to try to deliver him again to life… it’s him attempting to flee this sample of not being ok.– Terri Munro

Over his final 23 years, Sean Munro went to therapy services 20 instances. CBC Information has reviewed his medical data — 1000’s of pages of written notes from psychiatrists and psychologists outlining every of his makes an attempt to get higher. Whereas the notes present he tackled his substance abuse head on, there are a number of references to childhood trauma, about which Sean refused to enter element. 

“He experiences that he has been ingesting alcohol to help with underlying psychological well being struggles,” one observe reads. “Significantly ongoing ruminative ideas of earlier tried experiences courting again to his childhood. He experiences that he was raised in a ‘Roman Catholic college’ and didn’t go into additional element however experiences that he was uncovered to traumatic occasions.”

“His OCD began in Grade 8,” one other observe reads. “He has had anorexia and bulimia resulting from his physique dysmorphia. He estimates he has been hospitalized psychiatrically beneath 10 instances for suicidal threats.”

“Affected person states he’s now prepared to deal with his trauma which he was not previously,” reads one of many newest experiences, from July 5, 2021. 

A stunning admission

Paddy Munro says her son carried his secret till about 4 years in the past. She was driving him to rehab when he requested her to tug over, she says.

“He mentioned, ‘Mother, after I was in class, Joe pulled my pants down and he was spanking me naked.’ After which he stopped. And I mentioned, ‘Sean, you may inform me. I’m your mother, I can hear this.’ And he mentioned, ‘No, that’s all.’”

He additionally opened as much as his sister, Terri, whereas he was detoxing at her home final 12 months, she mentioned. In response to her, he instructed her Burke stripped him from the waist down and beat him along with his naked fingers. 

CBC Information has interviewed two different males — one a former Mount Cashel resident, the opposite a former Vancouver Faculty pupil — who each instructed comparable accounts of being bare-bottom spanked by Burke. The Vancouver Faculty pupil, Colin Wilson, mentioned he was stored after college for detentions and repeatedly spanked whereas bare over the course of his Grade 9 12 months. Each males mentioned the alleged abuse left a lifelong influence.

Burke’s lone conviction from Mount Cashel was for beating a baby on the naked buttocks so exhausting he couldn’t sit for days.

Sean Munro’s household says his struggling was endless however he had a Herculean will to get higher. He’d get out of a therapy centre with objectives and guarantees, earlier than relapsing inside just a few weeks. His alcoholism and psychological well being points usually introduced him to the homeless inns and streets of Vancouver, the place his household would discover him and persuade him to return to therapy once more.

“He resolved to consuming hand sanitizer and poison as a result of he couldn’t be along with his ideas,” Terri says. “This entire journey right here, 20 years of chasing my brother round Vancouver to try to deliver him again to life… it’s him attempting to flee this sample of not being ok.”

His final day

It got here to a head final October. Sean was out of contact for 2 weeks, staying at a single-room occupancy lodge on the Downtown Eastside. He’d spent 9 months ready for a room in a therapy centre, along with his dependancy and diabetes worsening by the day. On Oct. 16, 2022, his twin brother discovered him on the road. 

Aaron barely acknowledged his similar twin trying again at him. He purchased him a sandwich and acquired his mom a while to get there and intervene. She got here to his room to search out blood smeared on the soiled partitions and a shell of her son sitting on the mattress.

“I needed to lean down and put my fingers on his shoulders and say, ‘Sean, it’s your mother. It’s your mother right here.’ He was simply trying by me. He wasn’t recognizing me.”

Paddy satisfied her son to go to the hospital. Sitting within the entrance seat of the automobile, Sean turned to her accomplice within the again seat and thanked him for being there for his mom.

“He all the time had the grace and the like to say one thing like that,” Paddy sobs.

A family picture from the 1980s with a mom, two daughters and two sons.
Paddy Munro had two units of twins, with Sean and Aaron being the oldest. (Submitted by Paddy Munro)

She sat together with her son within the ready room. He instructed the triage nurse he was suicidal and deliberate to leap off a bridge in the event that they didn’t preserve him there. Paddy nonetheless regrets leaving when she thought he was being admitted to the hospital. Inside half-hour, she acquired a name from the lodge the place Sean was staying, letting her know he’d come again. 

Paddy spent the night time calling each company she knew that might intervene and assist Sean get instant therapy. No one got here by, she says.

Sean was discovered useless within the morning, a month shy of his forty seventh birthday. His household says he died of problems from alcohol consumption and diabetes.

“He all the time wished assist,” Paddy says. “He by no means wished to depart us. He wished to be with us.”

Household doesn’t get to hitch lawsuit

Sean Munro didn’t go away a will. He didn’t have an property. Which means he doesn’t get to partake within the class-action lawsuit towards Vancouver Faculty, which has been winding its means by British Columbia’s Supreme Courtroom since 2021. His household, nevertheless, totally help the lads who’ve stepped ahead with claims towards their alma mater and former academics. 

Vancouver Faculty declined an interview request however has indicated it want to settle the case by mediation, fairly than endure a trial that would probably take years to succeed in a decision.

Joe Fiorante, a lawyer for the scholars, says that course of must contain the varsity telling the reality about what it knew of the alleged abuse. Did the directors know these six academics had abused boys at Mount Cashel earlier than coming to Vancouver? Did they welcome them anyway?

“All it’s performed is take me additional away from my church,” Paddy says. “I consider in God however I really feel hate each time the Catholic church comes up.”

The Munro household needs to see accountability in no matter type it could take. One 12 months later, their grief remains to be as current as their love for Sean. His siblings say the anger is, too.

“Each time I consider him, it’s there,” Aaron says.

“He’s misplaced. He’s simply misplaced,” Terri provides. “And eager to get higher, and struggling and shedding, and never understanding how [to change], and saying, ‘Sorry I can’t get higher.’”

His mom does her finest to see previous the anger and guilt, and to recollect her son for his shining qualities. 

“Once I take a look at Sean, I don’t consider Joe Burke,” she says. “I simply see a soul, and a fantastic younger son who wished assist and all the time wished to do higher.”

Assist is offered for anybody who has been sexually assaulted. You possibly can entry disaster strains and native help providers by this Authorities of Canada web site or the Ending Violence Affiliation of Canada database. ​​For those who’re in instant hazard or worry to your security or that of others round you, please name 911. 

For those who or somebody you already know is struggling, right here’s the place to get assist:

For those who or somebody you already know is battling disordered consuming, right here’s the place to get assist:

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