In our movement to protect the vulnerable and heal the wounded, we
in SNAP are grateful for the contributions anyone makes in any way at
But we have a special place in our hearts for those who stepped up
in the early days, before the Boston Globe ground breaking expose and
the public awareness it spawned. And we have a special place in our
hearts for those non-survivors -the friends and family of victims- who not
only supported us individually but who went beyond and publicly
advocated for and helped other survivors too.
Claudette Gagnon was one such pioneer. She believed and backed
her son David. In 1992, she started, with Marcel Gagnon, our
first chapter in New England. She was the first parent anywhere to take
this initiative and accept this burden.
Within the first year of the
chapter's existance, over 30 members from across Maine and parts of
New Hampshire gathered monthly to support eachother and know that they
were not alone. She lobbied a local hospital to provide meeting space
for minimal charge. She enlisted a Social Worker to serve as support
person and group facilitator for the monthly meetings.
As early as 1991,
she began to publicly advocate for survivors through the media
to draw attention to this issue and the church's cover-up. She was not
afraid to take on the Diocese of Portland, Maine, and on numerous
occasions, publicly demanded the removal of Michael Doucette from
ministry. She demanded that the diocese provide funding for
counselling for survivors and for their family members.
She often would accompany survivors when they chose to confront the priest
that abused them, sometimes in public forums. On two separate
occasions, while she stood in solidarity with survivors as they publicly
confronted the abusers, she was threatened with arrest for public
mischief and disturbing the peace.
In the 1990s, even some
law-enforcement were not yet on our side. While many activists occasionally face the threat of arrest, in Claudette's case, this
threat was significant indeed as she fought her debilitating
Rheumatoid Arthritis which left her physically fragile and with significant
mobility challenges. Nonetheless, she displayed the courage of a
Titan and spoke the truth in her unique prophetic voice. She spent hours
supporting survivors by phone and in person and continued to
advocate for survivors and their families for years after her retirement from
active participation in SNAP.
Her inspiring legacy of support and
advocacy for survivors continued in her son's work as he became the
first National Coordinator for SNAP-Canada. He later became the
National Coordinator for the Canadian Healing Circle which has
successfully pushed the Canadian Gouvernement to hold a Truth and
Reconciliation Commission to address the issue of human rights abuse
by church officials through the much detested Residential School
Her spirit also continues in the inspiring leadership seen by the
brave women and men who have continued the work of SNAP in Maine and that of committed advocates for the victims of Maine's priests and Diocese, namely Cindy, Harvey, Marie and Paul. In 2004, both Claudette and Marcel were recognized
by Voice of the Faithful of York County, Maine for their significant ground-breaking
work in advocating for survivors in a time when the social climate
exacted high personal costs for standing up for a then very
We will always remember her with fondness, gratitude and respect.
May her memory inspire others to find within themselves the strength to
stand tall and speak loudly with their own voice of justice and
We are NOT ALONE !