Ex-Anglican priest who molested Yukon boys in the '80s to serve another 3 years in prison

David Norton pictured in a 1983 photo from the Anglican Church Yukon diocese's archives. The caption describes Norton is a priest and an 'Indian Ministry Coordinator.' (Yukon Archives/Anglican Church, Diocese of Yukon Records, 94/78 #2415 - image credit)
David Norton pictured in a 1983 photo from the Anglican Church Yukon diocese's archives. The caption describes Norton is a priest and an 'Indian Ministry Coordinator.' (Yukon Archives/Anglican Church, Diocese of Yukon Records, 94/78 #2415 - image credit)

An ex-Anglican priest who molested two Yukon First Nations boys in the 1980s will spend an additional three years behind bars.

Yukon Territorial Court judge Michael Cozens sentenced David Norton in a Whitehorse courtroom Monday, strongly condemning the 77-year-old for abusing his position of power and trust.

Norton, who's in the midst of serving 13 years at the Bath Institution in Ontario for molesting boys in that province, was found guilty of six charges — a count of historic sexual assault, sexual interference and sexual assault against each Yukon victim — after a two-day trial in June.

He attended Monday's proceedings by phone.

Cozens gave Norton three-year sentences for both historic sexual assault charges, to be served concurrently. However, the Yukon sentence will be served consecutively with his sentences in Ontario, giving him a total of 16 years in prison.

The Crown, which had requested Norton get a 10-year sentence, entered a conditional stay on the remaining charges.

The defence had requested Norton get a sentence of nine to 18 months.

In his decision, which took an hour and a half to read, Cozens noted the similarities between Norton's crimes in Ontario and the Yukon — he developed relationships with young, vulnerable Indigenous boys while working as a priest, taking them on trips, giving them gifts and hosting sleepovers.

Norton would then touch the victims or himself in a sexual manner as they slept.

Norton abused the Yukon victims between 1983 and 1987, when he was the "Indian Ministries Coordinator" for the Anglican Church's Yukon diocese and in charge of St. Simon's Church in Whitehorse, commonly referred to as the Old Log Church, as well as St. Saviour's Church in Carcross.

Victims robbed of childhood innocence, judge says

At trial, the victims, whose names are protected by publication bans, said that they were between ages six and eight when the abuse began. They testified that they came from a poor family and quickly became close to Norton after their family began attending the Old Log Church, serving as altar boys, spending time with Norton outside of church and coming to see him as a "guardian."

The victims, along with other boys, would often sleep over with Norton in his room at the church. They testified there would often be arguments between the children about who would sleep next to Norton, with boys both wanting and not wanting to be next to him.

Cozens, in his decision, noted the "conflict between wanting to feel special but not wanting to pay the price."

Norton not only took away the victims' childhood innocence, Cozens said, but left them with a sense of abandonment and changed the course of their lives.

One of the victims testified he had felt "abandoned" after Norton left the Yukon, and later spent years struggling with addiction. Both victims also said they have difficulty trusting people and are highly protective of their own children.

"The concept of what may have been is beyond knowledge," Cozens said.

Besides the impact of the abuse, Cozens said aggravating factors in the case included the "egregious" breach of trust, the victims' ages and the multiple instances of abuse.

Cozens also noted the particular vulnerability of Indigenous children in the North and that Norton victimized children from an already-marginalized group.

While it was mitigating that Norton instructed his lawyer to not cross-examine the victims at trial, Cozens said that was tempered by the fact that the victims still had to testify, something that could have been avoided had Norton pleaded guilty to the charges.

Norton's lack of a criminal record at the time was also offset by the fact that he'd abused other children by that point but hadn't been caught yet, Cozens said. As well, he didn't find Norton's health conditions as a "highly persuasive" factor in reducing his sentence, and, looking at Norton's PhD in Indigenous studies, said reputation is often used as a cover for committing crimes.

Cozens acknowledged that the victims testified that they held no ill-will against Norton and wished him well, adding that he was "very impressed" by their demeanours and how they were "strikingly forgiving."

However, he said the victims' ability to follow a healing path did not diminish Norton's responsibility, nor the fact that after decades of trauma, they still had to take the "first step" in bringing the situation to light by going to police in 2017. Norton, Cozens said, could have admitted to the crimes when the "facade" of his life fell after he was convicted of abusing children in Ontario.

Norton will now finish serving all his sentences in 2034, though he'll be eligible for parole prior to that.

Cozens also ordered Norton to be added to the national sex offender registry for the next 10 years.