A long-serving Scouts Canada employee now facing charges of historic child sex crimes was a member of the executive who served as spokesperson when the organization implemented policies to protect youth from sexual abuse, CBC News has learned.
John Rietveld, 67, of Ottawa was charged on June 16 with one count each of buggery and indecent assault on a male, as well as two counts each of sexual assault, sexual interference with someone under 16, and inviting sexual touching of someone under 16.
The organization confirmed Rietveld, who first started with Scouts Canada in 1975, worked as their national executive director of communications between 1987 and 1998.
In the 1990s, his name appeared in Ottawa Citizen, Vancouver Sun and Maclean’s stories about the organization’s efforts to prevent child abuse.
Those measures included the introduction of mandatory police background checks and training for volunteer screening.
“We rely on what we think is a fairly progressive screening program, one that other organizations are looking to as an example,” Rietveld is quoted as saying in a 1999 Vancouver Sun article, which detailed how Scouts Canada made every effort to create a safe environment.
Rietveld would then shift to become executive director of revenue development from 1999 to 2001, and then president and executive director of the Scouts Canada Foundation from 2002 to 2011.
Sexual assault allegations regarding boy and girl
The allegations against Rietveld refer to alleged incidents involving a boy between 1978 and 1980 in Niagara Falls, Ont., and Mississauga.
The incidents involving a girl allegedly took place between 2004 and 2005 in Perth, Ont., and Ottawa.
None of the allegations have been proven in court. The identities of both children are protected under a publication ban.
Following a 2011 CBC investigation of Scouts Canada, the organization issued a blanket apology for how it handled sexual assaults.
The resulting 2012 independent review, conducted by auditing firm KPMG, found there were 65 incidents where Scouts Canada did not inform police about allegations and another 64 where it wasn’t clear if police were informed.
Rietveld not flagged in 2012 review
The audit covered 486 records from 1947 to 2011 where adult scouting leaders were suspended or terminated on allegations of sexual misconduct against children and youth.
Scouts Canada said it shared all its files with police after the review.
“I can confirm that Mr. Rietveld’s name was not flagged in the KPMG review,” read a statement from Kayleigh Kanoza of Scouts Canada.
“The first we learned of concerns related to Mr. Rietveld was in 2018 when the Ottawa Police Service informed us that he was under investigation. Scouts Canada is deeply concerned by the charges against Mr. Rietveld and we will support the police investigation any way we can.”
Kanoza added that Rietveld “at no time during his tenure” worked on screening and safety matters and did not have access to files related to the protection of youth.
Scouts Canada implemented mandatory police record checks on staff and volunteers in 1997. It also requires a vulnerable sector check specifically for child-related offences.
The organization said it has a central team of safety professionals accountable for addressing safety matters across Canada and ensuring they are immediately reported to authorities.