P.E.I. priest sentenced to one year in jail

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Father Joseph LeClair announced during Easter weekend masses that he will be leaving Blessing Sacrament Parish in Ottawa in this Guardian file photo. LeClair has been sentenced to one year in jail for stealing money from his own church.

One time popular priest Father Joseph LeClair, originally from Tignish, stole more than $130,000 from Ottawa area church

OTTAWA —  A Prince Edward Island priest who stole more than $130,000 from an Ottawa church, will be spending one year behind bars.

Father Joseph LeClair, of Tignish, Prince Edward Island, is the former pastor of Blessed Sacrament in the Glebe area of Ottawa.

The Ottawa Citizen is reporting that Ontario Court Justice Jack Nadelle delivered the decision in court Wednesday morning.

LeClair pleaded guilty on Jan. 20, 2014 to theft and fraud more than a year after the Ottawa Citizen raised concerns about financial irregularities at the church and LeClair’s gambling.

The newspaper discovered that LeClair had incurred $490,000 in personal credit card bills during the years 2009 and 2010.

More than $137,000 of those credit card charges were the result of advances taken at Casino du Lac-Leamy.

The Ottawa Citizen also discovered that Blessed Sacrament had few controls on the way in which church money was handled.

Ottawa police began an investigation into financial irregularities at the church after an audit was conducted by the firm, Deloitte and Touche.

The 11-month police investigation that covered the period from January 2006 to May 2011 ended in July 2012 when LeClair was charged with fraud, theft, money laundering and breach of trust.

LeClair’s lawyer, Matthew Webber, had argued his client should be given a conditional sentence of between 18 to 24 months.

Assistant Crown attorney Peter Napier had argued that LeClair committed the “highest level of breach of trust” when he stole money from Blessed Sacrament in a “large-scale fraud” that warrants jail time in the 18-month range.

LeClair’s brother is Neil LeClair, a former West Prince MLA and cabinet minister in Premier Robert Ghiz’s government.

In a statement issued in July 2012, Archbishop Terrence Prendergast called the news that LeClair had been charged a “sad day for our local church in Ottawa.”

“Many people, in our Catholic community and beyond, will be hurt and disappointed by this news. The events concerning Fr. LeClair which have come to light over the past year have obliged us to review our expectations of priests, as well as our care of them,” Prendergast wrote.

“We have been reminded that we priests are in a position of trust with respect to the people whom we pastor. That trust includes proper and transparent administration of money and other temporal goods given to us by parishioners and other donors. The events of the past year have also led our archdiocese to institute a new protocol for the financial administration of our parishes. The protocol calls for greater controls, accountability and review.”


(Meghan Hurley is a reporter for the Ottawa Citizen)



Organizations: Ottawa Citizen

Geographic location: Ottawa, Tignish, Prince Edward Island Glebe

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Recent comments

  • Billy
    March 20, 2014 - 22:21

    And you wonder why people are leaving the church in droves.........not me.......

  • Sandy
    March 20, 2014 - 10:14

    Bad reporting when one has to bring in the family members. Where does it stop. Who are the uncles, nephews, cousins? This is a cheap shot guilt by association bit of reporting. Stick to the subject and the facts please in the future.

  • Wolf in sheeps clothing
    March 20, 2014 - 07:10

    Be careful how you judge. Out of 10, 3 people will steal no matter what, 2 will steal when given the chance. 1 will steal out of addiction.... So we need to be careful how we post blame. I ask why the salt thrown in the wound about Neil, why because he is a public figure, "dirty shot" Leave the poor man alone he took a wrong road like many do mabeye even those that a.

  • John
    March 20, 2014 - 02:29

    I dont see the need for the Guardian to add the fact that Neil LeClair is his brother. Neil is no longer in politics and has nothing to do with this incident. Fr Joe is human and made a mistake, he is now paying for his mistake. The church fogives him, God forgives him and so can we!

  • what a joke
    March 19, 2014 - 21:51

    1 year for stealing over 130,000 dollars???? Because he is a priest??!?! wow, what a justice system we have. Good man or not, he stole alot of money, and deserves to pay for it. never being able to be a priest again may help/

    • to "what a joke"
      March 20, 2014 - 09:12

      Dear "joke" who made you judge and jury!

  • just wondering
    March 19, 2014 - 18:49

    why his brother was identified? Not sure why that was necessary!

  • upset
    March 19, 2014 - 18:36

    may the sails that the public and your family have inflated to extravagant levels remain DEFLATED........THEIF.....plain and simple

    • to "upset"
      March 20, 2014 - 23:57

      Unnecessary to 'haul up' the public and even someone's family; what's wrong with some people?

  • lifelong Catholic
    March 19, 2014 - 18:33

    Having been reared in an old-fashioned Catholic home, it has always been humbling for me to hear any priest ask me to pray for him. First of all, for me, priests were "another Christ", therefore perfectly holy, so I never felt worthy to pray for a priest. Never, that is, until in the recent past when I started following news items, so now I understand better so I am drawn to pray all I can for them, Rosaries and other devotions. St Peter always joins me in my prayers with his tears of repentance for how he has treated our Best --and only True- Friend .

  • Joefred
    March 19, 2014 - 15:22

    I hear far too often about how this priest was so good to the people in the parish that he warrants special consideration. Con men are always easy going and kind or else they wouldn't do very well in the systematic theft that this fraud generated. The Leclairs as a family in pei are not guilty but please stop spinning yarns about this mans compassion. One I'll advised occurrence maybe but this was calculated and cold blooded theft over years

  • don
    March 19, 2014 - 14:18

    does he still keep his job?

  • Suzanne
    March 19, 2014 - 13:32

    May God help this man to find the right path and to overcome his addiction. This is a reminder that it can happen to anyone, no matter what path they choose in life. I think the sentence is fair but agree with the earlier post about how you get more time for theft than child abuse. Does not make any sense.

  • Henry Sow
    March 19, 2014 - 13:28

    To err is human, to forgive is divine. Priests are human and can make mistakes like the rest of us. Fr. Joey comes from a good family background. I ponder as to why the Ottawa Citizen found need to note who a particular member of his family is.

  • tignishresident
    March 19, 2014 - 12:25

    I personally know father leclair and he is a wonderful man who made some very poor decisions as alot of others have done we can only hope he gets help for his addiction and that he allows his faith in god to help him in his journey

  • Sandy
    March 19, 2014 - 11:31

    Looks like a gambling addiction. Sadly many good people get hooked. Perhaps it was the lonely single life the church imposes on priests. I have seen many outside the priesthood get hooked on gambling and it is among the worst addictions..

  • Wow
    March 19, 2014 - 11:15

    Sad day is right! They get more time behind bars for stealing money than they do for abusing children! Sad sad day!

    • Joker J
      March 19, 2014 - 13:17

      Something tells me a non clergyman would have received more time for stealing $130K.