Sins of Our Fathers Revisited



This morning I heard on CBC radio that the Estabrooks sexual abuse class action suit against the City will proceed. Kenneth Estabrooks was a police officer between 1953 and 1975 when his career as a police officer ended following admissions to superiors he had sexually abused at least two boys.

So after he was found to be a sexual predator was he charged? Hell no, the City transferred him to the Saint John City Works Department where he continues to prey on the helpless. 2017-02-13_9-59-30It’s been estimated that Estabrooks  abused as many as 263 children. If the numbers prove to be true, the former Saint John police officer could become Canada’s worst sex offender. Why did it take an additional 16 years from when he retired from the City to be charged?

The following is an extract from an article I wrote ten years ago in 2007.


“Over the past several months I have tried to bring greater public awareness to symptoms, situations and issues that I believe have been and will continue to be serious obstacles to Saint John’s growth and health as a community. The facts speak for themselves:

– a declining population (from 90,000 to 67,000 over the past 20 years or so)

– the highest municipal tax rate in Atlantic Canada (excepting that of Sydney, N.S.)

– municipal departments that have grown while the population has shrunk

– the highest poverty rate of any city in Canada

– a decade or two of failed economic development strategies left on the shelf to collect dust while we launch into yet another strategy, inspiringly called “Vision 2015.

– a pension board that sues a Councillor for executing his duties as a Councillor

Need I say more?

My question is: how did we build this less-than-enviable list of statistics? Why have most other Canadian cities faced similar challenges, managed to meet challenges and enjoyed reasonable growth and measures of success?

Every city has a personality profile, or, if you prefer, its own particular culture. That culture is the sum total of the interaction of all its citizens, each having varying degrees of influence in shaping that culture. Saint John is a friendly city, and a very generous city; however, I believe at the same time there is a fairly great degree of fear, or apprehension, dis empowerment and apathy that permeates a significant percentage of the population.

Regrettably, over several decades our less aggressive or submissive cultural posture carries over to our municipal politics. We, the citizens and voting public of Saint John, have demanded far too little of our elected officials, who have in turn demanded too little of city management”.

So  folks, here we are ten years latter since I reflected on Saint Johns less than stellar status, what’s changed? How has the sins of our fathers, the lack of transparency and accountability, contributed to Saint John’s less than enviable current status? We now have a class action suit that has been growing like a cancer that puts the “body Saint John”at risk.

How many City Officials, Mayors and/or Councilors past and present  knew about Saint John’s dirty little secrets and said or did nothing? Not unlike cancer, did they think that by ignoring the lack of accountability, be it long term disability many times greater than the national average or this sexual abuse cancer, they would just go away?  How many innocent lives were and have been destroyed while those who could have put an end to Estabrooks reign of terror looked the other way?

The class action suit will undoubtedly be a bitter pill for the City and the taxpayers. What’s to be gained by writing about this dark period in Saint John’s history?

At the very least, hopefully, it will send a message to current and future City officials as well as Common Council that the citizens of Saint John will no longer accept status quo and the  lack of accountability and transparency at any level that has damaged our reputation and compromised our future.

Think about it.