Why did Scouts Canada allow Fred Miller to abuse children for years?
Over the years, Frederick Douglas Miller was an RCMP officer, head of Human Resources at the Sheritt Gordon metals refinery in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, worked in the Edmonton city police Crime Stoppers program, and an honoured senior official with Scouts Canada.
Fred Miller was also a sexual predator who abused children for more than 40 years.
Paula Simons, a reporter for the Edmonton Journal, summarized Miller's impact as follows: "Miller’s conduct was long hushed up by the Scouts, who showered him with honours and allowed him to abuse children, sometimes in plain sight of other volunteers, who were so cowed by Miller’s reputation, they stood by and did nothing."
Miller's behaviour first came to the attention of the RCMP in 1951 when allegations were raised about his abuse of two children. At the time, Miller had already served for about 10 years on the force. One of the allegations concerned a boy being lured into a police vehicle where he was abused. The RCMP could not collect enough evidence for a criminal conviction, but an internal RCMP service court found Miller guilty of "scandalous behaviour". He was sentenced to six months in the lock up at the RCMP headquarters and then discharged.
Later, the RCMP stated in court testimony that they had confidentially advised Scouts Canada at the time of their concerns regarding Miller's access to children, but were ignored.
In 1973 in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, Mrs. Barbara Ann Acton-Carlson, called the RCMP and the Boy Scouts to report Miller, whom she observed repeatedly to fondle children in a playground. She was told by the RCMP that Miller was an important person in town. The Boy Scouts told her to keep her allegations to herself because Miller as personnel and security manager of the largest employer in town was a very powerful man and in effect decided who had a job and who did not.
The next year, the RCMP finally did act on several other complaints and investigated Miller. Bill Goode, the head of the RCMP sex crimes investigations for Central Alberta, later testified that without any physical evidence, they were unable to prosecute Miller at that time. However he also said "There is no doubt that the children I interviewed were telling the truth, no doubt at all," Goode added "Out in Fort Saskatchewan, it was common knowledge that Miller was doing these things. But it was considered disgraceful, disgusting. It was strictly closet-talk."
Over the next 16 years, there were other allegations made about Miller's behaviour, all dismissed without any serious investigation being undertaken.
In 1990, Edmonton City Police informed Scouts Canada's regional office of their concerns about Miller being a pedophile. Investigating officer Larry Polansky later testified in court that Scouts Canada had refused to cooperate with the police in their investigation. According to other testimony at the same trial, an official of Scouts Canada said that Scouts had confronted Miller about the allegations, but accepted Miller's denial, because according to the Scouts, "Miller was an important man in the community". The Scouts thought so highly of Miller that they had awarded him several of their decorations over the years.
In the summer of 1991, two Scout volunteers observed Miller molesting a 5 year old boy in plain view at a weekend Scout camp. They did nothing to stop him. The volunteers did not file a formal report but did mention the incident to staff at the Scouts Canada offices. The organization took no action.
By 1993, Miller was the Regional Vice-President of Scouts Canada in charge of awards. He was awarded the Bar to the Silver Acorn, Scouts Canada's second-highest decoration for service to Scouting.
A month later, in July 1993, several adult Scout Leaders watched Miller molesting another 5 year old boy at another weekend Scout camp. Again, none of the present Scout leaders take any steps to stop the abuse. In fact, they still allow Miller to sleep in the same place with the little boy. However, on return from camp, the Scout Leader responsible for the camp as the Camp Chief filed a report with the regional office of Scouts Canada in Edmonton.
Scouts Canada fails to act, again
Scouts Canada once again had taken no action. The Scout office did not notify the police or even the boy's mother. When the Camp Chief tried to follow up on her report 2 weeks later and found out that no action had been taken by Scouts Canada staff, she took the matter into her own hands and made her complaint directly to the police. The two Scout Leaders who had reported the abuse 2 years earlier filed a letter with Scouts Canada complaining of the organization's inaction on their complaint. Still Scouts Canada did nothing and took no steps against Miller.
In October 1993, the RCMP formally notify Scouts Canada that they are investigating new allegations of child molesting against Miller. Incredibly, Scouts Canada still does absolutely nothing with respect to Miller's membership in Scouts.
When Miller was finally charged with molesting children, he made the decision to resign from Scouts Canada.
In the summer of 1995, Miller was found guilty of molesting 10 children between 1957 and 1993. He was sentenced to 2 years in prison. Miller appealed his sentence but the Court of Appeal doubled the sentence to 4 years.
Scouts Canada was complicit in this abuse. Scouts Canada had received numerous warnings, both formal and informal, about this predator over the span of almost 40 years. Yet in each and every instance, instead of limiting Miller's access to the children, Scouts Canada did nothing, except hang another medal on this predator's neck. Even at the end, it was Miller who resigned; he was not kicked out of Scouts Canada.
Scouts Canada found negligent
Even after this man's guilt had been proven in a criminal court, when sued for damages by the last victim's mother, Scouts Canada filed a Statement of Defence alleging that the abuse of the 5 year old boy was the boy's own fault and that of his parents had failed to provide proper supervision. It claimed the parents breached their duty by failing to take reasonable steps to protect their son from Miller. The statement of defence further claimed that Scouts Canada bear no responsibility at all for what had been done by one of their officials in one of their camps. The document made no mention of the fact that Scouts Canada had numerous warnings and opportunities to prevent this abuse from ever happening. The court did not buy Scouts Canada's defence. Scouts Canada was found liable.
How could this happen?
How could Scouts Canada allow a known child molester to victimize children for decades? Scouts Canada is made up of tight-knit cliques. It is not democratic and so accountability is not part of its culture. When a member of a clique is accused, it is far easier to dismiss the person reporting abuse as a trouble-maker than to take the complaint seriously. Despite claiming to have made changes, this culture remains and Scouts Canada continues to harbour people who have either abuse children or covered-up child abuse. They also persecute people who speak out on abuse, corruption, or other misconduct in Scouts Canada.
This article was compiled from news reports of the time, including the Edmonton Journal, Canadian Press NewsWire, The Expositor (Brantford), CBC News, and others.
Further reading: Paula Simons, Edmonton Journal, "Scouts Canada, KPMG and Child Abuse: The dark legacy of Fred Miller".