Ottawa gambling priest sentenced to one year in jail


Credits: Darren Brown/Ottawa Sun/QMI Agency


OTTAWA — Father Joe Leclair was sentenced Wednesday to a year behind bars after a judge concluded house arrest wouldn’t be enough punishment for the charismatic priest turned “pathological gambler” who bilked his church.

Leclair, 57, pleaded guilty in January to fraud and theft of about $130,000 from Blessed Sacrament Parish -- although there was a total of $400,000 in unexplained deposits into his personal accounts from 2006 to 2010.

Journalists were booted from the courtroom so Leclair could have a private meeting with his supporters.

Earlier, Judge Jack Nadelle said he had more than 200 letters from Leclair supporters.

The popular priest clearly went beyond his duties, but he can’t benefit from the reputation that allowed him to fleece his church in the first place, Nadelle said.

“The fact that the accused was in a position of trust is the most aggravating factor,” Nadelle said. “Every time he took some money, he was committing a criminal offence.

“The accused did not stop his criminal activity. Even when caught or knowing he would be caught, he lied to his parishioners.”

In April 2011, with news of the allegations set to break, LeClair told parishioners from the pulpit that he had a gambling problem but the money he wagered was his own.

The charismatic priest stole from the collection plate, pocketed fees from marriage courses and padded expenses to repay cash advances at the Casino du Lac Leamy, often several in a day.

The city's archibishop said in January that Leclair had courageously admitted to his addictions and the church would support the talented priest in his recovery and desire to return to his ministry of 25 years.

Leclair, who boosted membership of the parish to 10,000, will also serve a year of probation.

Sun News Videos

Mink farming

Nova Scotia produces half of Canada's mink fur.

Feminist 'consent underwear' spark debate

Do consent underwear just change the conversation from 'rape culture' to 'slut culture'?

Afghanistan's upcoming election

With an election rapidly approaching, change is on its way to Afghanistan. Good or bad, the world is watching.

Ezra Levant’s The Source is the most provocative and thought-changing multimedia show in Canada.

This show is 100% focused on the political battles taking place across Canada, in the United States...even around the world.

Michael Coren brings you strong, balanced opinions to challenge conventional thinking.

Byline brings you the stories you won’t hear anywhere else while exploring points of view that are all too often ignored.