The Manitoba Métis Federation says it plans to conduct its own investigation into a retired priest now charged with indecent assault at a residential school in the province.
In a news release on Wednesday, the federation said Father Arthur Masse also spent roughly 20 years at churches in the Red River Métis villages of Duck Bay and Camperville in western Manitoba.
Masse, now 92, was charged last week with indecent assault following a decade-long RCMP investigation into a sexual assault on a 10-year-old girl at the Fort Alexander residential school, northeast of Winnipeg, where he worked in the late 1960s.
RCMP did not identify that person, but in an interview with CBC, Victoria MacIntosh, now 63, said she was the 10-year-old abused by Masse at Fort Alexander.
Since he was charged, at least two more women have come forward with allegations of abuse at the hands of the same priest.
David Chartrand, the president of the Manitoba Métis Federation, said some in the western Manitoba Métis communities were shocked to hear of the arrest of Masse, a well-known priest in the area who presided over ceremonies and services, and gave private and group tutoring.
“It makes me feel somewhat concerned, for sure, without a question. Did something happen to my people, without us knowing?” Chartrand said Wednesday.
“And did that person, you know, have to go through what this victim is saying, hiding it for all these years? And if so, I want to know. I want to make sure that this person can seek justice if there is any incident.”
Masse was released with conditions last week and is scheduled to appear in court in Powerview on July 20 on the indecent assault charge.
Chartrand said the federation is planning to hire someone to lead its investigation and hopes to begin the process of talking to people who knew Masse as soon as possible.
“It’s going to be an urgent matter on our side. I know there’s a court case going ahead, but I still want to make sure,” he said.
“I don’t want people saying, ‘How come nobody talked to us, nobody heard our story? Why didn’t I have a chance to say something?’ I want to make sure that my people have a chance to say something.
“The truth’s there, and whatever we find we’ll reveal.”